Real Madrid’s season was filled with moments of pure joy and exhilaration. But, it has not been as perfect as Florentino Perez would have hoped for.
For any other club, winning the domestic league title fighting arguably the best club side ever, securing a record number of goals and points in the process, will be something to behold and all failures will be swept under the rug. But, Madrid is no ordinary club. Its a greedy club with a desire to win everything. So, a Champions League semi-final loss against Bayern Munich puts a stain on a stellar campaign that has been astounding in every other way.
La Liga – A record setting campaign
Arsenal, in its invincible season, secured 90 points. Barcelona, under Guardiola, in 2010 had 99. Mourinho’s Chelsea had 95 and the best in Serie A is 97 under Roberto Mancini. These are staggering figures and each team mentioned above is considered to be one of the finest teams assembled. Madrid have become the first team in club history to shatter the century barrier of points.
The number of points is a reflection of the consistency and relentlessness which have been the hallmarks of this campaign. Right from pre-season to the last league game, no game has been taken for granted. The perspiration to create their own style and identity has been visible throughout every game.
The intense pressing, efficient passing and the pace of attack has come for praise from all quarters as Madrid perfected the art of being destructive even with minimum possession. The core of the team has remained same from last year with no great changes made to the squad and this has helped the team immensely to build on an already great start last season.
The start to the season was brilliant with Real Madrid threatening to walk away with the league until Barcelona brought them crashing. With Barcelona experiencing a mini-implosion afterwards, Real dashed ahead with the talk of the pasilo becoming louder every passing day. And then, a 10 point lead became a 4 point one before the El Clásico.
In many ways, that El Clásico game defines Real Madrid’s performance through out the season. With a semi-high line of defense and intense pressing, Madrid came out trumps in a game in which the Catalans were thoroughly outplayed. And then, at San Mames, where no Spanish team has ever a Liga title, Real Madrid defeated Athletic Bilbao to mathematically seal their status as League Champions.
0 – Number of Liga games lost since Christmas
1 - Number of losses at home ( FC Barcelona)
2 – Total number of losses (Levante, FC Barcelona)
3 – Number of players who scored more than 20 league goals (Ronaldo, Higuain, Benzema)
4 – Number of draws throughout the season (Racing, Malaga, Villarreal, Valencia)
17 – Highest number of assists by an individual (Mesut Özil)
20 – Number of games won with more than 3 goal margin
32 – The total number of Liga titles now won by Real Madrid
46 – Highest number of goals by an individual (Ronaldo)
85 – Pass success percentage for the season
89 – Goal difference
100 – Total number of points secured
121 – Total number of goals scored
UEFA Champions League – Heart Break in Penalties
The story in UCL was identical to that of La Liga. Real Madrid swept opponents away until they faced Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Until then, the Spanish giants were undefeated in the entire campaign as they notched up goals and victories at will. A bad day in office for the defense led to Bayern scoring two goals giving them a deserving victory.
The return leg starting out in a brilliant fashion for Real as they scored two goals in the opening half an hour before effects of the El Clásico victory began to show in the second half. The zest was missing as both team played out a dull second half and extra time before Real Madrid crashed out in the penalty shoot out with Ronaldo, Kaká and Ramos missing their respective penalties.
To be brutally frank, Bayern were the only ‘big’ team Real Madrid faced throughout the campaign. And the manner of their defeat left a bitter taste. A stain on a glorious campaign. An imperfection in a nearly perfect campaign.
Copa Del Rey – A defeat that felt like a victory
Having won the Copa Del Rey last year, the pressure to win the trophy again was obviously less with more expectations on the League and UCL. Real Madrid played well in all the games but crashed out against Barcelona. Needing a victory to proceed to the semi-finals, Madrid dominated Barcelona at the Camp Nou with Barcelona just scraping though luckily with a draw. It was a loss that gave further confidence to the players and fans that Barcelona can be beaten at the Camp Nou and so, in a way, this loss felt like a victory boost before the league El Clásico.
José Mourinho – Personal Records and Foundations for the future
When José Mourinho was signed, it was certain that Real Madrid will win trophies. But, the manner was in doubt. After this season, where Mourinho’s name has been sung by fans across Bernabéu numerous times, there is little doubt about the quality and manner of football Real Madrid will display in the future under the Portuguese super star manager.
It helps that Mourinho is also a coach who is chasing personal milestones and this drives him to win every tournament. With this La Liga victory, Mourinho has become the first coach in football history to win the domestic league and cup in four major European countries – Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. But, another landmark of winning the UCL three times with three different clubs is still left to be achieved.
Also, the team assembled under Mourinho is still young and the foundations for success have been laid. The core will remain same for atleast an year enabling continuity and increasing understanding between players to achieve greater things in the future.
Now, with Pep Guardiola quitting, the pressure will be on Mourinho as everybody expects him to win. Mourinho is no stranger to pressure or expectations and will relish the challenge.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Best Player, Best Celebration
The statistics are beyond belief. With an unbelievable 46 goals and 12 assists in the league, 10 goals and 3 assists in UCL, 60 goals overall, Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance this season has been more complete. Willing to release the ball at the right time, holding it up for another player and tracking back in defense when necessary, Ronaldo is no more the selfish player he is often accused to be. His winning goal and celebration against Barcelona at the Camp Nou accounts for Real Madrid’s finest moment of the season.
Player of the year – Sami Khedira
The German international may be the least dazzling player in the first XI but his contribution this year has been invaluable. Complementing Alonso, and providing a solid presence in midfield, Khedira has been intelligent in making tackles, interceptions and even getting forward. In his absence, the team has lacked a proper shape.
Flop of the season – Nuri Sahin
A lot was expected from the German Player of the season when he signed. But, Nuri has not yet fulfilled his potential in the white shirt.
Most improved player of the season – Esteban Granero
Best Celebrations after a goal (Season) – Jose Callejón
Best Goal (Individual) – Karim Benzema’s van Basten-esque goal vs Osasuna
Best Goal (Team) – Against Ajax comprising brilliant one-touch football and a transition for defense to goal in less than 15 secs.
Best Signing – Raphael Varane
Dive of the season – Angel di Maria’s dive against Levante, which resulted in his own team mate, Sami Khedira, getting sent off.
Save of the season – Iker Casillas’ brilliant save against Sevilla.