Had Gareth Bale not galloped half the length of the pitch to allow Los Blancos to lift the Copa del Rey, nor Sergio Ramos rose majestically to plant a header beyond Thibaut Courtois in Champions League final stoppage time, Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure at Santiago Bernabeu would have been seen as a failure. Perhaps progress, but still failure.
Setting out his own system and asking that certain individuals give more to the cause, Ancelotti has proven once again his credentials as one of the best Coaches in world football. Of course, it helps when you have financial clout and two of the most expensive forwards in the game in the shape of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale, but the Italian’s new system allowed for Madrid to not only be explosive on the counter and dominate teams, but also turn in flawless defensive master classes against the intimidating likes of Bayern Munich.
Sticking with a 4-3-3 for much of the course of the season, with Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria flourishing in the midfield trio courtesy of the balance given by the experienced presence of Xabi Alonso, Madrid have become one of the more efficient sides in Spain. Although they finished third, on the head-to-head record behind Barcelona, Ancelotti’s side had a realistic chance of winning the league up until a shock draw against Real Valladolid.
The phenomenal form of Sergio Ramos and Pepe gave foundations for the capital club to build upon, with the hard working likes of Dani Carvajal and Fabio Coentrao ensuring that Madrid’s attacking options had license to get forward and display their frightening capabilities. Karim Benzema, Cristiano and Bale registered 63 goals between them with the ‘BBC’ becoming something for all opposition to fear.
Adding to his skill set, Isco showed that there is more to his slight frame than wonderful technique and the ability to carve teams open as a No. 10, taking on more defensive responsibility and slotting in as a left-sided midfielder when Ancelotti opted to deploy two banks of four against top teams.
Raphael Varane continues to show glimpses of why he will be a top player in years to come, with his composure and first touch in the Champions League final belying his tender age. Though Alvaro Morata still isn’t firing on all cylinders, for such a good young striker to be so easily sidelined, it shows what quality Ancelotti has at his disposal.
Following Bale’s late winner against Barcelona in the Copa, with the Welshman also grabbing the second goal in the 4-1 extra-time victory over Atletico in the Champions League final, perhaps the vast sums spent trying to secure the club’s 10th European title may finally be classed as a worthwhile investment.
The domestic title may reside in Madrid once more, decorated with different colours than those to which it is more accustomed, but Los Blancos finally have their hands on a sought-after and elusive prize.