Madrid’s Champions League Inevitability Turns Out to Be Very Real (2023)

PARIS — The numbers, and not for the first time in this remarkable run, favored the opposition.Liverpoolhad 24 shots and an expected goals of over two,Real Madridjust four shots and an xG of under one. But it was, of course, the Spanish giant that won the UEFA Champions League title on Saturday here in the French capital, its record 14th European success story, for that is how it has been throughout the knockout stage and triumphs against PSG, Chelsea, Manchester City and now Liverpool: Madrid is under pressure, Madrid holds out, Madrid scores just when it needs to. If this did not feel quite so incredible as what had happened in previous rounds, it was perhaps only because this sort of performance has become so familiar.

In this era, in which managers speak of tactical philosophies, it is the great pragmatist Carlo Ancelotti who becomes the first coach to win the Champions League four times following the 1–0 triumph at the Stade de France. He has only ever won five league titles (one in each of Europe’s Big Five leagues, for what it’s worth). There is something paradoxical about that, but it fits the nature of this season and of this Madrid team.

There is a self-belief about Madrid that seems to make its opponents quail. Once Liverpool had failed to score early, belief almost visibly drained from the English challenger. Passes began to go astray, shots flew wide and there was one absurd moment that seemed to have led to the opening goal as Alisson and Ibrahima Konaté apparently became incapable of the most basic acts and ended up lying on the ground, the ball bouncing between them before Karim Benzema fired in, only to be denied by an offside flag.

Madrid’s Champions League Inevitability Turns Out to Be Very Real (1)
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But still, the pattern was clear. Luka Modrić spoke afterwards of how he sensed Liverpool’s confidence waning. The coup de grace came just before the hour mark, with Vinícius Júnior arriving unmarked at the back post to turn in Federico Valverde’s cross. It was a fine cross and a fine run, but from a Liverpool point of view, the opening goal was far too straightforward. The danger as Madrid advanced and worked the ball to Valverde on the right was always Vinícius at the back post. Did Trent Alexander-Arnold not know he was there? Did he not suspect he might be? Was it just that Valverde’s low cross was so precise that there was nothing he could do? Either way, it looked dreadful as the ball skidded across the box and the young Brazilian was untended to turn the ball over the line.

The doubt about Alexander-Arnold—who was, as ever, a threat going forward—has always been his defensive qualities. Often it can seem like he takes the blame for balls being played behind him when really that has more to do with his team’s press. If he is not the best in one-on-one battles, it is forgivable because he is so good on the ball. But this just seemed to be a lack of defensive awareness.

And when Liverpool did begin to find some momentum in the second half, there was Thibaut Courtois, who twice denied Mohamed Salah with stunning saves as part of a record nine-save effort. It was to the big Belgian that Modrić ran to celebrate at the end of the game.

Madrid’s Champions League Inevitability Turns Out to Be Very Real (2)

But this was not, sadly, just a night to do with what happened on the pitch. This was another shameful night for UEFA, and another shameful night for French policing. Organization was inadequate to non-existent, with ticket and bag checks leading to bottlenecks. Police, inexplicably, refused to allow fans to walk on a road that had been closed to traffic, but blocked part of the pavement with vans, aggravating the problem.

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As the number of fans built up, it became increasingly difficult for them to see where they were supposed to go, or for those with tickets to get to the front to get through to the gates. The problems were largely at the northwestern corner of the stadium, where Liverpool fans entered, and it was noticeable half an hour before kickoff how much more full the Madrid end of the ground was.

At that point, policed waived the first control point easing access, which was probably the only decision it could take, but the bigger question was how the buildup had been allowed to occur in the first place. Major stadiums only exist to stage major events and yet again and again—Wembley Stadium for the Euro 2020 final, Olembe for the Africa Cup of Nations last-16 tie, and again here—they have proved incapable of doing so. There was chaos as well at the Europa League final in Seville last week, with the stadium running out of water with temperatures soaring into the 90s. It’s as though the pandemic has robbed organizers of the memory of how to arrange these games properly.

Madrid’s Champions League Inevitability Turns Out to Be Very Real (3)

Around 15 minutes before the scheduled kickoff there was an announcement that the match had been delayed. In Spanish the announcement blamed “security problems,” in English the “late arrival” of fans. Perhaps some did, but the truth is that problems had been obviously mounting for two to three hours before kickoff. Although some fans did climb fences and run through checkpoints, it was also clear this was an inexcusable failure in the part of the authorities. There was video footage of peaceful fans holding up tickets being pepper-sprayed by gendarmes from behind a locked gate.

French interior minister Gérald Darmanin claimed, "Thousands of British ‘supporters,’ without tickets or with counterfeit tickets, forced entry and sometimes assaulted the stewards." UEFA said Liverpool fans “who had purchased fake tickets which did not work” were responsible for blocking entrances, creating the bottlenecks.

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Perhaps there were fans there without genuine tickets, but that cannot come as a surprise. Every major event has to deal with that. If France cannot, it should not host major games, and Liverpool has requested an investigation into the prematch chaos. It is UEFA’s responsibility to put in pace an adequate ticketing service. And none of that excuses the brutal behavior of the gendarmerie, or the scandal of fans who paid hundreds of dollars for tickets and did not get in.

Journalists reporting on the chaos were themselves targeted. “I got bundled into a hut by a security guard,” said Steve Douglas of the Associated Press, “told to remove accreditation, and then forced to delete video footage of the crowd issues otherwise I wouldn't be allowed back in.”

Gary Lineker, the former England international who is now a television presenter, was one of those who struggled to get into the stadium. “I’m not sure it’s possible to have a more poorly organised event if you tried,” he tweeted. “Absolutely shambolic and dangerous.”

Madrid’s Champions League Inevitability Turns Out to Be Very Real (4)

And then after all that, with kickoff delayed by 36 minutes, UEFA still went ahead with its entirely pointless opening ceremony, Camila Cabello singing on the pitch surrounded by flamenco dancers who had been waiting for almost an hour for their moment. Forget safety, forget decency, forget football, let the show, this farrago of greed, go on.

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The Champions League continues to provoke mixed emotions. On the one hand, it is a dismal example of the financial stratification of European football. Madrid and Liverpool are two of the grandees of the game, so perhaps it doesn’t matter that this was the third time they have met in the final, but it does matter that there has been no finalist from outside Europe’s Big Five leagues (La Liga, Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1) since Porto in 2004.

But on the other, the latter stages of the Champions League almost certainly represent the greatest football that has ever been played. The concentration of talent at the biggest clubs allied to the attacking approach that characterizes almost all the modern elite have led over the past few years to a series of extremely dramatic games of extremely high quality. That is the challenge the Champions League presents: it is seductive and brilliant and yet it has destroyed football as the sport it used to be.

Madrid’s Champions League Inevitability Turns Out to Be Very Real (5)

And it will get worse. The group stage is far from perfect, an often grim slog before the real business begins, but it’s hard to see how the Swiss model, which will be introduced the season after next, will not be worse. So what do you do? Enjoy the spectacle and allow yourself to be swept along by the show? Or lament the betrayal of an ideal that, in all truth, had probably been soured long before the European Cup was instigated at a hotel four miles from the Stade de France?

That first season ended with a Madrid victory and so did this one. Liverpool, meanwhile, won the two domestic cups, lost the league by a point and lost this final. The FA Cup and the League Cup feels like scant reward for what was very nearly a perfect season. No goals in three finals perhaps suggests a greater problem for Liverpool; Jürgen Klopp’s record in finals, for such a successful coach, is not great.

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Madrid—not to mention Ancelotti—has no such problems. La Liga’s double winners had an aging squad and may havemissed out on signing Kylian Mbappé, the player they had decided was the one to take them into the future. But the club’s winning mentality—that inexplicable extra something that always seems to shine through on the Champions League stage even when the numbers, the matchup and all logic might dictate that it won’t be Madrid’s day—it remains as strong as ever.

More Soccer Coverage:

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  • Champions League Final Delayed Due to Crowd Control Issues
  • Why Benzema’s Champions League Final Goal Was Disallowed


Who is Real Madrid's Champions League captain? ›

Iker Casillas (Current Captain)

He was first called up to the first team on November 27, 1997, at age of 16 to face Rosenborg in Champions League. Since coming onto the pitch as a teenager, Iker Casillas has captured the heart of Spaniards. He is the skipper of the national side, as well as Real Madrid.

Has Real Madrid won 5 Champions League in a row? ›

Real Madrid has had the most success in the European Cup, winning the trophy for a record fourteen times. Real was the winner of the inaugural edition of the tournament and remains the only club to win the trophy five times in a row (the first five editions).

When was Real Madrid's last Champions League final loss? ›

Real appeared in (and won) the final in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2014 and now 2016, having last dropped a final in 1981, when the tournament was still known as the European Cup.

How many Champions League do Real Madrid? ›

UEFA Champions League most titles by club 2022. Real Madrid claimed the current title of the 2021/22 Champions League and is by far the most successful club in European Cup history, having taken home the prestigious trophy a total of 14 times.

Who is the king of Clasico? ›

During the nine years they played together in Spain, the two players scored a total of 922 goals, including 38 goals in El Clásico matches, 20 scored by Messi and 18 by Ronaldo. As of 2022, Ronaldo is the all-time top scorer in the UEFA Champions League, followed by Messi in the second place.

What are Real Madrid's fans called? ›

The names of a number of Real Madrid's official supporters' clubs - e.g. Orgullo Vikingo, Perú Vikingo, El Quijote Vikingo - also make reference to the club's nickname.

Who is the most successful UCL player? ›

5 players who have won the most number of Champions League trophies
  • #5 Dani Carvajal (5 titles) ...
  • #4 Marcelo (5 titles) ...
  • #3 Luka Modric (5 titles) ...
  • #2 Karim Benzema (5 titles) ...
  • #1 Cristiano Ronaldo (5 titles)
29 May 2022

Which player has won most UCL? ›

Which player has won the most Champions League titles? Spaniard Francisco "Paco" Gento has won a record six Champions League titles. The Real Madrid attacker's victories came when the competition was known as the European Cup and he was wearing the captain's armband for his final triumph in 1966.

What is Real Madrid biggest defeat? ›

Heaviest Defeats
1Mar 5, 19308:1
2Dec 31, 19507:1
3Dec 21, 19477:1
4Jun 9, 19996:0
1 more row

What is the biggest defeat in Real Madrid football history? ›

The team's 8-1 defeat against Espanyol in the 1929–30 season, when Primera Division was the top-tier league, is remembered as Real Madrid's biggest loss in history. The match took place on March 4, 1930, as part of the Primera Division's game week 14 and ended with Los Blancos losing 8-1.

What is Real Madrid biggest defeat in Champions League? ›

What is Real Madrid's biggest ever Champions League defeat in history? Los Blancos' biggest ever defeat in the Champions League format of the European Cup came in 2009 when Rafa Benitez's side truly humbled the Spanish giants at Anfield with goals from Fernando Torres, Andrea Dossena and a brace from Steven Gerrard.

Who has more UCL Real Madrid or Barca? ›

Barcelona vs Real Madrid: The trophy cabinets

Los Blancos have won 34 league championships — a Spanish record — and are eight ahead of the Blaugrana. They are also well clear when it comes to the Champions League, with 13 to Barca's five.

Who has more UCL titles Real Madrid or Barcelona? ›

Two giants of Spanish club football are European powerhouses with a very rich history. While the former has won La Liga a record 35 times, the latter has won it on 26 occasions. Real Madrid also has won 14 UEFA Champions League titles, which is another record. In comparison, FC Barcelona has five UCL trophies.

Who has more Champions League Real Madrid or Barcelona? ›

Barcelona vs Real Madrid: The trophy cabinets
CompetitionReal MadridBarcelona
La Liga3426
Copa del Rey1931
Supercopa de Espana1213
Champions League145
5 more rows
14 Oct 2022

Who has more Clasicos? ›

Who has won El Clásico the most? Overall, the statistics read as follows: Total wins for FC Barcelona: 97. Total wins for Real Madrid: 101.

Which club is bigger Real Madrid or Barcelona? ›

Real Madrid Tops Barcelona as World's Biggest Club, Per France Football. Spain's football powers have been crowned kings of the sport after Real Madrid were named the biggest club in the world followed closely by bitter rivals Barcelona.

What is Barcelona biggest loss? ›

Real Madrid 11-1 Barcelona (1943, Copa del Rey semi-final) This is the worst defeat for Barcelona against their arch-rivals Real Madrid. It was the most disappointing defeat for Barca after 1931's 12-1 defeat to Athletic Club. In 1943 Copa del Rey, Real and Barça faced each other in the semifinals.

Is Real Madrid the biggest club in the world? ›

La Liga giants Real Madrid have been named the biggest football club in the world in a new poll with over 34,000 votes. The Spanish outfit have won 34 La Liga titles and 13 Champions Leagues in their history, the most for either competition.

Who is Real Madrid's biggest rival? ›

Real's local competition is Atlético Madrid, but the club's biggest rivalry is with FC Barcelona.

How much does it cost to go to a Real Madrid game? ›

TicketSmarter has tickets available for all major matches on the current season schedule with prices ranging from $105.00 to $2930.00 and an average price per game of $392.71. Real Valladolid vs. Real Madrid CF tickets are on sale right now for the match that will be held on December 31st, 2022 at TBD.

Who is the best player in the world? › brings you our definitive list of the 10 best football players in the world in 2022.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd) ...
  • Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich) ...
  • Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) ...
  • Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) ...
  • Harry Kane (Tottenham) ...
  • Erling Haaland (Man City) ...
  • Kylian Mbappe (PSG) ...
  • Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Who is the best captain in UCL history? ›

Top 5 - Champions League Winning Captains
  • 5 - Didier Deschamps – Marseille (1993) Didier Deschamps is a legend of French football. ...
  • 4 - Matthias Sammer – Borussia Dortmund (1997) ...
  • 2 - Steven Gerrard – Liverpool (2005) ...
  • 1- Paolo Maldini – AC Milan (2003 & 2007)
30 Mar 2020

Who is better Messi or Ronaldo? ›

Ronaldo does boast more of FIFA's new 'The Best' awards and has been crowned UEFA Player of the Year on more occasions, but Messi has won more league Player of the Year accolades. Of course, it must be said that Ronaldo has won the Player of the Year award in England, Spain and Italy.

Who has more UCL trophy Messi or Ronaldo? ›

Cristiano Ronaldo won the UEFA champions league five times, on the other and, Lionel Messi won the UCL four times. Messi won all his UCL titles with Barcelona before playing for PSG, while Ronaldo won his first UCL title with Manchester United in 2007-2008, and the remaining four he won with Real Madrid.

Who has 5 Champions League titles? ›

A total of 22 European clubs have won the Champions League/European Cup, with Real Madrid lifting the trophy a record 14 times, while AC Milan (seven titles), Bayern Munich (six titles), Liverpool (six titles) and Barcelona (five titles) round out the top five.

Who has more trophies Messi or Ronaldo? ›

The player with the most Ballon d'Or trophies all-time is Lionel Messi who has won it seven times. Behind him is Messi's long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo with five Ballon d'Or awards.

Who has won 7 Champions League? ›

Spanish football giants and reigning champions Real Madrid are the most successful team with 14 titles followed by AC Milan with seven.

Who is better Barcelona or Real Madrid? ›

Is Real Madrid better than Barcelona? Currently Barcelona has a better 1vs1 performance index with 96. Real Madrid has 33 goals and Barcelona has a total of 33 goals. Our opinion is that currently Barcelona would win the match.

What is PSG biggest defeat? ›

The biggest away loss in PSG's history came in September of 1971 when they were defeated 6-0 by Nantes in a Ligue 1 fixture.

Who has more trophies than Real Madrid? ›


Who are Real Madrid's rivals? ›

Being one of the three founding members of La Liga that have never been relegated from the top division since its inception in 1929 (along with Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona), Real Madrid holds many long-standing rivalries, most notably El Clásico with Barcelona and El Derbi Madrileño with Atlético Madrid.

Is it true that Barca beat Real by 15 1? ›

In 1926, FC Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 15-1 on aggregate. Mate Vilo and 1,665 others like this.

What is Man City heaviest defeat? ›

Everton 4-0 Man City. Pep Guardiola's biggest defeat in league football EVER.

What's Ronaldo's biggest defeat? ›

Ronaldo's biggest losses
  • Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid, 29 November, 2010.
  • Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool, 24 October, 2021.
  • Atletico Madrid 4-0 Real Madrid, 7 February, 2015.
  • Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona, 21 November, 2015.
  • Brighton 4-0 Manchester United, 7 May, 2022.
  • Brentford 4-0 Manchester United, 13 August, 2022.
13 Aug 2022

What is the biggest loss in football history? ›

AS Adema 149–0 SO l'Emyrne was a football match played on 31 October 2002 between two teams in Toamasina, Madagascar. It holds the world record for the highest scoreline in a football match, recognised by The Guinness Book of Records.

What is Man Utd biggest defeat? ›

Liverpool 4-0 Manchester United

It was the first of four defeats that Manchester United suffered in their final six matches of the season and eventually finished sixth in the league with 58 points, their worst tally in the Premier League era.

When was the last time Barcelona won against Real Madrid? ›

Following their 4-0 victory in March 2022, Barcelona have the chance to win two successive games against Real Madrid in La Liga for the first time since March 2019 under Ernesto Valverde and could secure two wins in a row against their rivals without conceding for the first time since between November 2009 and November ...

Which English club has the most UCLS? ›

England have won 14 European Cup/Champions League titles in total, with Liverpool leading the way with six triumphs. Man Utd have three, Chelsea and Nottingham Forest have two, while Aston Villa have won it once.

Why El Clasico is the biggest derby? ›

The clue is in the name. Simply put, El Clasico is the classic football fixture. It's the game of Diego Maradona and Ferenc Puskas, of Johan Cruyff and Alfredo di Stefano, of Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo and of Pep Guardiola vs Jose Mourinho.

Is El Clasico the most watched game? ›

El Clásico, the most-watched club match in world football, set for Santiago Bernabéu.

Who has more El Clasico goals Messi or Ronaldo? ›

Who has scored the most Clasico goals?
PlayerClasico GamesGoals
Lionel Messi3826
Cristiano Ronaldo3018
24 Oct 2018

Who has more fans Real or Barca? ›

Which football clubs have the most social media followers?
1Real Madrid252.1 million
2Barcelona250.3 million
3Man Utd142 million
4Juventus104.1 million
6 more rows
13 Feb 2021

Is Barca better than Liverpool? ›

Is Barcelona better than Liverpool FC? Currently Barcelona has a better 1vs1 performance index with 95. Barcelona has 33 goals and Liverpool FC has a total of 25 goals. Our opinion is that currently Barcelona would win the match.

Who is Real Madrid's captain 2022? ›

7FWEden Hazard
8MFToni Kroos
9FWKarim Benzema (captain)
10MFLuka Modrić
8 more rows

Who is currently Real Madrid captain? ›

Under Madrid's four-captain structure, Benzema will be supported by current vice-captains Nacho and Luka Modric, with Dani Carvajal promoted to fourth captain based on the club's policy of handing the honour to the longest-serving players.

Who is Real Madrid's team captain? ›

Karim Benzema, who is the front-runner for the 2022 Ballon d'Or after his goalscoring exploits last season, is the latest legend to be appointed as Madrid captain – but how have his six immediate predecessors fared?

Who is the real captain of Real Madrid? ›

Real Madrid defeated Liverpool 1-0 to win its 14th Champions League title, and their captain, Marcelo Vieira, has lifted the trophy for the team for the last time.

Who is the best Real Madrid player 2022? ›

Karim Benzema was awarded the 2022 Ballon d'Or at a ceremony in Paris on Monday after a stellar 2021-22 season saw him lead Real Madrid to a Champions League and LaLiga double.

Who is the top scorer in Real Madrid 2022? ›

Top LaLiga 2021/22 goalscorers
  • º K. Benzema. Real Madrid. 2602' 0.84.
  • º Raúl De Tomás. Espanyol. 2928' 0.5.
  • º Vinicius Jr. Real Madrid. 2698' 0.49.
  • º Iago Aspas. Celta. 3095' 0.46.
  • º Juanmi. Real Betis. 2148' 0.48.
  • º E. Ünal. Getafe. 2811' 0.43.
  • º Joselu. Alavés. 3125' 0.38.
  • º Morales. Levante. 2724' 0.37.

Who is the captain in Real Madrid 2022 2023? ›

Real Madrid C.F Unstoppable

Can't Wait To See Luka Modric & D. Carvajal Wearing the captain armband. Luka Modric.

Who is Real Madrid best player ever? ›

Alfredo Di Stéfano, the best player of all time.

Who is Real Madrid best player now? ›

1. Karim Benzema, center forward, Real Madrid.

Who is the highest winner of El Clasico? ›

Who has won El Clásico the most?
  • Total wins for FC Barcelona: 97.
  • Total wins for Real Madrid: 101.
  • Draws: 52.
  • Goals for FC Barcelona: 409.
  • Goals for Real Madrid: 418.
  • Home wins for FC Barcelona: 62.
  • Home wins for Real Madrid: 65.

Who is Real Madrid legend? ›

Christiano Ronaldo

That made him top the list of Real Madrid legends of all time. Christiano was the first player to score 100 goals in the competition for a single club. He also won four titles of Champions league in five years.

Who is Real Madrid's best striker? ›

Cristiano Ronaldo - 1.027 goals per match

Real Madrid's all-time top goalscorer also boasts the best goals-per-match ratio.

Who is Real Madrid's all time leading scorer? ›

Is Ronaldo the top scorer of Real Madrid? Yes, he is regarded as the club's all-time leading scorer. He joined the club in 2009 and has 450 goals to his name.

Who is Real Madrid's Hunter? ›

Alex Hunter (character)
Alex Hunter
Created byEA Sports
Designed byMatthew Prior
Voiced byAdetomiwa Edun
Motion captureAdetomiwa Edun
10 more rows

Who is Real Madrid's most successful manager? ›

The most successful Real Madrid manager in terms of trophies won is Miguel Muñoz, who won nine La Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, two European Cup titles and one Intercontinental Cup in his 15-year reign as manager. He is also the club's longest-serving manager.

Was Ronaldo Real Madrid captain? ›

Cristiano Ronaldo one of four Real Madrid captains named.


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