Jorge Valdano was an accomplished striker for Real Madrid but has morphed into the all-seeing ideologue of the club in retirement.
The 1986 World Cup winner with Argentina perfectly summed up the ethos of the club he played for and managed when he explained: “Real Madrid is a football club that has defined its social relevance through its results. Real Madrid is as great as the number of titles it has won.”
What literary and political pretension Los Blancos may lack compared to other clubs – notably their fierce rivals from Catalonia – they more than make up for in trinkets and trophies. No piece of silverware is more precious to Madrid than the Champions League.
Since the competition’s inception in the 1950s as the European Cup, Real Madrid have been more successful on the continent than any other club in history. But how successful exactly?
Vinicius Junior’s solitary goal against Liverpool in Paris won Real Madrid the 2022 Champions League title, the club’s 14th and perhaps most impressive European crown.
Coming from behind against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City in successive knockout rounds, Carlo Ancelotti avoided any extra drama in the final against Liverpool – in fairness, he’s had plenty of that in the past.
Madrid’s European success is hardly a new phenomenon. Los Blancos won the first five iterations of the competition between 1956 and 1960, with the legendary figure of Alfredo Di Stefano orchestrating the side and a glittering roll call of icons popping up along the way as the original galacticos.
Ahead of the 1960 final against Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park, club president Santiago Bernabeu – after whom the modern stadium is named – told his players: “Man has five senses and five fingers on each hand…you have four European Cups.” Di Stefano scored a hat-trick while Ferenc Puskas plundered four goals in a 7-3 thrashing which some still regard as the club’s greatest moment.
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The first team to ever knock Real Madrid out of the competition they owned from day one was arch-rivals Barcelona, getting the better of Los Blancos in the 1961 semi-finals before losing the showpiece to Benfica. Paco Gento was the only survivor from the original triumph a decade earlier when Madrid claimed their sixth title in 1966 at the expense of Partizan Belgrade.
Incredibly, it would take 32 years before a Real Madrid captain hoisted the big-eared trophy aloft again. Pedja Mijatovic scored the only goal of the…