Night In Lisbon
On Saturday night, Carlo Ancelotti was elevated into the pantheon of football legends, who could conquer anything. And following his every sermon are the modern day super-rich players from around the world, of nationalities as varied from Welsh to Argentinian.
In a night of intense drama at the picturesque Estadio da Luz, which literally means Stadium of the Light, the 54-year-old helped Real Madrid achieve their elusive tenth European title. Starting with an all-out attacking formation by fielding all three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale upfront, against an undefeated Atletico side in the competition, the Italian conveyed his message in the best possible way.
However, despite deploying his best men, he suffered from the ignominy of conceding the first goal to the rivals, a side marshalled by the astute Argentine, Diego Simeone. The whole 90 minutes of the game, Real Madrid played a chasing game. But their relentless pursuit finally bore fruit in the stoppage time as `sometimes` bad boy Sergio Ramos, who was more of an absorber than defender, took the giant leap to head home the equaliser. Then, the rest of the night belonged to them.
Ancelotti and his silence
What Ancelotti really did with his wards to keep the faith for the entire length of normal time was only a matter of conjecture. All the while, he was treading the sidelines ever carefully as if not to disturb the artificial grass from its bed. In his every glance, players on the field received a message of two, telling them to hang on, but more importantly instilling the belief that they can still win the match. That`s certainly not the way other managers go about doing their business of dictation – during the game or in practice sessions.
Probably, that`s how he laid the Decima foundation since his arrival from Paris – through a noble way of telling without saying.
After finishing third in the league, winning the continental trophy became the club`s main target with their president, Florentino Perez already expressing his obsession for the 10th title. Towards that end, they had spent a huge sum in replenishing the squad in the start of the season, which coincided with the arrival of the Italian. The fact that he was the 11th manager the club hired in 10 years after the departure of Vicente del Bosque in 2003 made many to assume that it`s only a temporary arrangement. But true to his reputation, Ancelotti soon made Santiago Bernabeu his home.
The 2013-14 season saw Real Madrid improving their overall winning percentage to over 77, breaking some barriers along the way and re-capturing the Copa del Rey trophy. However, their absolute triumph was to come in Lisbon, at the home of its main player Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese super-star had already scored a record breaking 16 goals in the current European campaign.
History, La Decima and some other records
After the final whistle, after an exhausting 120 minutes of play in Portugal, Ancelotti found himself emulating Bob Paisley by winning three European titles. Besides, the former Italy midfielder also joined the exclusive club of Jose Mourinho (Inter Milan and Porto), Jupp Heynckes (Real Madrid and Bayern Munich), Ernst Happel (Hamburger SV and Feyenoord Rotterdam) and Ottmar Hitzfeld (Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich) – winning the trophy with two different clubs.
Before arriving in Spain, the former Paris Saint-Germain coach had already lifted La Orejona (Big Ears) as the manager of AC Milan in 2003 and 2007.
For Los Merengues, it`s been all about history and the pride associated with it. The fame that they have earned “the greatest club” in the world is mainly based on these unprecedented number of European trophies. Having always associated with the aristocrats and academics, and the royal privilege accorded to the club by the ruling family of Spain, Real Madrid have enjoyed unparalleled support and unrivalled progress as a sporting institution since its inception.
Thanks to such endowments, they succeeded in achieving goals which other clubs could only have dreamt of. Once such part of their history was the European dominance, through sheer intimidation of money power and of course, better organisation in the early parts of the competition. That`s how they won the first five editions of the European competition.
However, with the growth of organisational football in Europe in the 1960s, their domination was ended with the raise of other mega-clubs in countries like Italy and Germany. In was in this vein that Real Madrid, once again, started focussing on signing star players, which will satisfy two things – winning titles and building the `Real` brand. And the galaxy of stars have never been assembled like they have done at the break of the millennium, aptly named the Galacticos.
After achieving their Decima dream, Real Madrid will start a new phase of Galacticos, replete with global stars and title winning managers, for yet another period of European rule.