With Ancelotti and Ronaldo, Real Madrid on course to achieve `La Decima` dream
Well, this could be the season for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid – arguably the most successful club in the game`s history, chasing an unprecedented La Decima, dismantled Schalke defence in their Round of 16 first leg tie.
The match at Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen witnessed the trio of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a brace each against the Germans. The final scoreline read 1-6, with former Real Madrid striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scoring the lone goal for the hosts.
Having already crowned the continental champions on nine previous occassions, Real Madrid`s obsession for that elusive 10th continental title has often been equated to modern day version of Holy Grail with huge money being pumped every every season and change of guard happening every now and then. Since that 2002 final at the historic Hampden Park against Bayer Leverkusen, in which the legendary Zinedine Zidane scored one of the greatest goals in the Champions League history to seal the title for the Galacticos, the Spanish giants have failed to conquer the continent. Despite signing a host of global superstars and celebrated coaches, the dream has so far eluded the Madrid based club for more than a decade.
Unlike the previous seasons, Real Madrid are on course for a treble this term. After starting the season on a poor note, Los Blancos are leading the La Liga table, have already qualified for the 2014 Copa del Rey final – to be played against arch-rivals Barcelona this April and can safely assume that they have also reached the quarter-finals of Champions League after the 6-1 first leg win in Germany. Winning a continental treble is not easy, to say the least, even for a club of Real Madrid`s stature. Even more so, fuelling such an anticipation in the belief that it will light up the footballing world, is fraught with danger.
Who better than Jose Mourinho can grasp the situation at the Santiago Bernabeu. Until his departure at the end of the last season, the Portuguese was seen conspiring for another continental trophy. The `Special One` did manage to reach three successive semi-finals of the competition with the team, but failed every time to reach the final. So the 12-year-long wait for the Madridistas continues, despite their constant proclamation that it`s theirs to forfeit. That`s how Mourinho was unveiled some three-years-ago, with his repertoire of footballing tactics and press-room antics. But his charm failed to work and he was soon left ruing.
Since the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid have only continued to surge ahead. After a horrendous start to the season, they have performed a perfect coup to lead La Liga, ahead of pacesetters Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. And on the cup front, they will once again play arch-rivals Barcelona for the trophy. With a team, as hungry as ever, Ancelotti can contrive to win some more trophies for himself, and more importantly, for the club. The Italian, who has won the Champions League with AC Milan twice before, would surely like to win it once again and become a legend like Liverpool`s Bob Paisley – the only manager to win it thrice. And also, the former Paris Saint-Germain boss can become only the fifth manager to win it with two clubs and join 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).
However, for Real Madrid to win trophies, they need Cristiano Ronaldo firing on all cylinders. Because, without the fire-power of Ronaldo — who is the leading scorer in both La Liga with 22 goals and Champions League with 11 goals — Real Madrid would have faltered in all fronts, including Copa del Rey. So the astute man-management and tactical nous of Ancelotti, in tandem with Cristiano`s on-field exploits, can turn Real Madrid`s fortunes. In fact, Los Blancos have endured a trophy-less season in 2012-13. Not to forget, Real Madrid have a strong supporting cast, in the form of Xabi Alonso, Angel di Maria, Isco, Luka Modric, Benzema and Bale to name a few.
It is widely regarded that Ancelotti`s arrival in Spain is lucky for Ronaldo, allowing the Portuguese superstar to win the coveted Ballon d`Or award for the second time in his career after four-long-years. Despite continuously playing at the highest level, Cristiano spent the last few years under the shadow of Lionel Messi. But this intervening winter, while Cristiano kept increasing his performance level for both country and club, Barcelona magician suffered from injuries and was sidelined, leaving the field to the Portuguese`s mercy.
Beyond Cristiano`s personal gain, the arrival of Ancelotti also witnessed Real Madrid conquering the German front. The Spanish club had a poor record against German clubs. In the past two seasons, they have lost their Champions League semi-finals to German clubs - Bayern Munich in 2012 and Borussia Dortmund in 2013. Their inefficiency against German opponents while playing in Bavaria was such that, in their last 11 visits, they lost nine times and drawing twice.
But Wednesday`s convincing win in Germany will surely give a new meaning to Real Madrid`s `decima` dream. With Ancelotti and Ronaldo doing the tricks, Madridistas can hope for a season laced with titles and celebrations.