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Comment: This could be Real Madrid's greatest Champions League success

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti celebrates winning the UEFA Champions League Final at the Stade de France, Paris, on May 28, 2022. Picture: Adam Davy

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti celebrates winning the UEFA Champions League Final at the Stade de France, Paris, on May 28, 2022. Picture: Adam Davy

Published May 29, 2022


Johannesburg - This was not Real's best team ever but this Champions League success might be their best ever.

It’s hard to imagine that a year ago, Carlo Ancelotti was considered past his best days as a football tactician. He was on the books of mid-table English side Everton and seemingly on the wane as a tactician.

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Few would have predicted that a year later, the Italian would end up winning the La Liga and Champions League double with Real Madrid after being appointed manager of Los Blancos for a second stint.

Ancelotti has also since become the first coach to win all of Europe's top five leagues (England, Italy, France, Germany and Spain) as well as four Champions League crowns.

ALSO READ: They scored a goal and we didn’t - Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp after Champions League heartbreak

In the process, Ancelotti proved beyond any doubt that he is a modern day managerial great. While the Italian has always had a decorated trophy cabinet, one of the criticisms regularly levelled against him is that the bulk of his successes came with already world-class sides namely AC Milan, Chelsea, Paris-Saint Germain, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

What makes this season’s Champions League and La Liga title success special for Madrid is that this was far from their best side. A good argument can be made that this is technically one of their weaker sides in modern times. Ancelotti orchestrated his team’s success by clever tactics and organising their play according to their strengths and weaknesses.

Incredibly, Madrid lost a game in every one of their knockout ties and still made it through and won the competition. They did not dominate their way to success, but it was that extra bit of tactical savviness from Ancelotti over his counterparts, with more technically gifted sides that got them over the line.

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Madrid went into their knockout ties against PSG, Chelsea, Manchester City and even the final against Liverpool as underdogs and still won. One does not beat all of these teams consecutively with luck.

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While Madrid have Thibaut Courtois’ masterclass performance in the final against Liverpool to thank for their victory, it must also be said that Reds boss Jurgen Klopp made a mistake of pressing too highly in the opening 30 minutes of the game. It was also noticeable that the Liverpool defence was dropping a bit too deep for their own good as a result of Madrid’s counter-threat. Had they not done so, they would have surely had more opportunities to score.

Diogo Jota also was aggressive in dribbling when he came on and Klopp may have further erred by not picking him above Luis Diaz.

Ancelotti’s biggest strength this season was working according to the limitations of his players. This Madrid team did not play as attractive football as Madrid teams of years gone by, but they were an incredibly difficult team to score against while also requiring very few opportunities to score.

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