As a non-Real Madrid fan, supporting Real Madrid always felt like cheating. If that sounds suspiciously like pure jealously, it’s because it is.
Imagine supporting a club that haven’t finished outside of the top three for the last 14 seasons. Imagine supporting a club who’ve won the last three Champions League trophies. Imagine supporting a club who can bully Man United into selling the best player in world football.
Being born a Madrid fan is winning the football lottery. It’s a life of victory, beautiful football and waving a white hanky when you only beat Sporting Gijon by four goals.
Except, right now, it’s not. Pardon my French but being a Madrid supporter is, in the context of being a Madrid fan, pretty s*** at the moment.
Los Blancos find themselves in a genuine battle to secure Champions League football next season.
Santiago Solari’s side are ten points behind league leaders Barcelona and currently sitting in fifth, with Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Alaves occupying the other Champions League slots.
Quique Setien’s vibrant Real Betis outfit are nipping at Madrid’s heels and have already improved their squad this January by securing a deal for Mexican wünderkid Diego Lainez.
The last time Madrid finished outside of the top four was the 1999/2000 season under John Toshack and Vincente del Bosque, although winning the Champions League secured European football for the following campaign.
At the time Madrid were at a crossroad.
Local talents Raul, Fernando Morientes, Guti, Iker Casillas were all aged 23 or younger, as were Nicolas Anelka and Clarence Seedorf.
The two Fernandos- Hierro and Redondo- were in their thirties and there was no ‘Galactico’ to whom the rest of the squad could turn when times got tough.
Madrid’s solution? Go and blow the transfer market open by taking Luis Figo from Barcelona. It was a deal that was as symbolic off the pitch as it was on it.
Madrid could sign whoever they wanted, and there wasn’t a club in world football who could reject the advances of Florentino Perez.
Del Bosque’s side, who had also been bolstered by the arrival of Claude Makelele from Celta Vigo, topped La Liga and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. Normality was restored.
The current Madrid side find themselves at a similar crossroad.
Gareth Bale’s body won’t allow him to fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit, while Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema are all the wrong side of thirty.
In Alvaro Odriozola, Dani Ceballos, Brahim Diaz, Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, Madrid have the foundations in place for the future.
But Perez will undoubtedly be keen to sprinkle some stardust amongst the squad next summer, which should worry every other club in world football.
In a sense, that’s one of the few silver linings from Madrid’s mediocre campaign. World record transfers tend to follow rain when you’re a Madrid supporter.
However there’s still a dark cloud hanging over the Bernabeu. It’s angry, famously volatile over France and shaped like Jose Mourinho.
Rumours linking Mourinho with the top job persist, and will only get stronger if Solari is unable to steer Madrid into the top three.
Given how Mourinho’s last tenure ended at Madrid, not to mention the upturn in Man United’s fortunes since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over at Old Trafford and reminded everyone what a smile looked like, you wouldn’t blame Los Blancos supporters for being sceptical.
If you’re a plastic Madrid fan, it might just be time to dig out a PSG shirt and start hero worshipping Neymar.
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