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Real – where glory is built with pride

With 14 Champions League titles, Real has long been synonymous with victory. But that is not enough, because they also have a culture of fighting against adversity.

In a year, Real suffered two “turns around”: one from his comrades who promised to establish the Super League and one from Kylian Mbappe. Without the Super League, Real lost the golden opportunity to increase the club’s revenue, in the context that the attraction of La Liga has decreased significantly after the departure of the club. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Without Mbappe, Real lost a key element to the plan to create a new empire. More importantly, they lose a lot of face and time, even if they accept to sacrifice several transfer windows to pool money for someone who never comes.

But at the end of the road, Real has the right to boast with the two most important titles: La Liga and the Champions League, even though the squad is among the most “popular” in history and the average age seems to be about to go.. receive a pension.

Mbappe will be the Ballon d’Or of the future, most say. But the future is… unknown. Because this season, no one deserves it more than Karim Benzema, Mbappe’s senior in the French team. When he learned that Mbappe decided to stay at PSG, Benzema was very calm. He said Real would still move on because “we are Real Madrid”. And a few days later, he himself became the latest captain in Real’s history to lift the prestigious Champions League Cup.

Real players lift the Champions League trophy after beating Liverpool 1-0 in the final on the evening of May 28.  Photo: Reuters

Real players lift the Champions League trophy after beating Liverpool 1-0 in the final on the evening of May 28. Image: Reuters

At Real, it is said that success does not come from superstars or flashy presidents, but from the proud spirit called Madridismo, the spirit molded by the splendor and ruin of a hundred years of history. An obvious element to that is a winning culture. Look at the number of Cups in Real’s traditional room, and especially the 14 Champions League titles that have made them the biggest brother of Europe, making UEFA angry no matter how angry they still can’t take action to punish the Super League incident.

But this club also has a fighting culture. Look at Benzema. With the captain’s armband in hand, he replaced Sergio Ramos as the leader as well as Ronaldo as the top scorer. He is the last star of “galaxy 2.0”, brought back by President Florentino Perez in 2009 to lay the foundation for his second reign at the Bernabeu, along with Kaka, Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso… After 13 years, only Benzema remained, using his talent and experience to guide the junior generation with Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga, Rodrygo or Vinicius Jr. After yesterday’s final, perhaps Real reinforced the point of view: when times change, if you can’t buy a star, create it yourself. Like Real created Benzema!

It will be difficult to answer the causal question: in the end, did Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Benzema or Thibaut Courtois rise to the top, should they return to Real or do they reach the top thanks to Real? Can Modric win the Ballon d’Or somewhere other than Real? Benzema has played well this season, but would the prospect of him winning the Ballon d’Or exist if he didn’t play for the Bernabeu? But one thing is clear that playing for Real is the best way for a player to unleash his full potential. A few days before the final, Carlo Ancelotti told the press: “I told Thibaut that sometimes on the training ground you have to let your strikers kick a few, so that they have confidence.” At that time, Thibaut replied: “It is not being able to concede a goal that gives them confidence.”

Indeed. Courtois had a perfect performance against Liverpool. He blocked all entrances to the goal and waited for the decisive moment from the far end. That’s how he helped Real hold on to the second leg against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Man City, in the belief that Real’s strikers would know how to create miracles. The more you push them, the more you doubt them, the more stubborn they are. Before the final, Michael Owen predicted Liverpool would beat Real 3-0. Defender Dani Carvajal said immediately: “Thank you for giving us the motivation.”

Courtois blocked Salah's finish near the end of the game.  Photo: AFP

Courtois blocked Salah’s finish near the end of the game. Image: AFP

Looking back at history, Real will always have a warrior spirit with them. You must not forget Ramos’ header in the third minute of injury time of the 2014 Champions League final, which then completely ended Atletico’s will in extra time. In the 2002 Champions League final, Real not only beat Leverkusen thanks to Zidane’s iconic volley but also by Iker Casillas’ miraculous saves in the final minutes. Or the 1998 final, playing against the strongest team in the world at that time, Juventus, Real scored with almost the only chance they had. That is Madridismo, when pomp is associated with sweat and blood. Real’s trio this season: Casemiro, Kroos and Modric is the clearest example. They are both artists and workers. And together they have held on to the biggest midfields in Europe, with the suffocating pressing style of Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool.

But the way to Real’s glory is not only the merits of the old bodyguard team. Real only has spectacular flips in the knock-out rounds thanks to the feet of young talents.

In recent years, Real has not pursued a specific football philosophy. When Zidane and Ancelotti need a substitution, sometimes they even… ask the player. Every time Real players hit the field, they will know how to connect with each other with the guidance of the logo on the chest. The very logo that Vinicius Jr kissed after scoring the only goal of the final. He ended a season of great progress thanks to Mbappe not arriving last summer. And now, he will replace Mbappe himself to do the present and the future of Real. An intriguing question thus arises: who do you think Mbappe and Vinicius will win the Ballon d’Or first?

The perfect combination of experience and youth between a generation of players like Benzema and Vini helped Real rise to glory this season.  Photo: Reuters

The perfect combination of experience and youth between a generation of players like Benzema and Vini helped Real rise to glory this season. Image: Reuters

Mbappe’s “turn of the car” is actually not the first time Real put all their hopes on a star but disillusioned. Neymar even went to the training ground after many years of being pursued by Real, but he ended up going to Barca. And look: in the nine years since Neymar broke the deal with Real to join Barca in 2013, Real have won three La Ligas, one King’s Cup, five Champions Leagues, four Club World Cups… Meanwhile, with the withdrawal of the wallet to buy and pay Neymar’s salary, Barca officially embarked on the creation of the galaxy and is now in debt, so much so that it can’t keep the icon of Lionel Messi, so he has to look at him. Paris as a teammate of… Mbappe.

After missing out on Neymar, Real also immediately switched to a strategy: buying people who were about to become Neymar. That’s why Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo are here. Real couldn’t buy Neymar, they created Neymar for themselves. Same with Mbappe. It is the flexibility, adaptability and not immersed in failure that helps Real form an upward mindset to continue to be the big brother of Europe. Before the final, Alexander Arnold held up six fingers for a photo, showing that Liverpool had won six Champions League titles and waited for a seventh title. At Real, perhaps no one has enough… 14 fingers to take pictures in response.

The legend of 14 C1/Champions League Cups started in 1956. Real beat Stade de Reims 4-3 despite being two goals behind after just 10 minutes. That match was held in… Paris. And now, again in Paris, people see them still floating in a hurricane season.

At the Bernabeu, there will be no space left by Mbappe. There is only space in the traditional room, to physically add trophies.

And Mbappe, were you in Paris yesterday?

Hoai Thuong

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