2013 UEFA Champions League: Real Madrid
Founded in 1902 as Madrid Football Club, the club’s origins go back to the turn of the 20th century, when soccer was introduced to Madrid by faculty and students of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (free learning institute). In the early years the club struggled to make its mark in Spanish football, where at the time Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao dominated. Santiago Bernabéu—perhaps the single-most important individual in club history—came in 1909 among Madrid’s junior ranks and helped erect the club’s first stadium, the O’Donnel Stadium. The “Real” title of the club was bestowed in 1920 by King Alfonso XIII, recognizing the club’s role in founding the football tournament that eventually became the Copa del Rey (the king’s cup).
From the 1920s onward, the club was bent on being Spain’s most prestigious club through big-name signings, which accelerated professionalism in the Spanish league at that time. It would be three seasons before the club would win the first of two back to back titles. But it really wasn’t until Santiago Bernabeú was president that an era of dominance by Los Meregenues was ushered in. He brokered a deal for a stadium in Madrid’s richest district, today’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium. He also presided over major signings, such as Argentinean international Alfredo di Stéfano and Hungarian International Ferenc Puskás.
Following their European Cup triumph in 1966 over Partizan Belgrade, the next 29 years (“the Wilderness Years”) would see a club striving to regain the chemistry that had earlier made in unbeatable. Those “glory days” returned in the late 1990s with a win over Juventus in the 1998 Champions League. The victory marked the “Los Galacticos” phase of the club, as Madrid inked stars the likes of Zinédine Zidane, Luis Figo, and David Beckham.
Since the beginning of the Champions League format, the club has won three European Cups. And although FIFA had declared them at one point “The Best Club of the 20th Century”, the pressure to stay at the top has resulted in a succession of coaches. Back to back titles came in 2007 and 2008, but the club has recently had to play second string to a powerful Barcelona squad lead by the likes of Leo Messi and Andrés Iniesta. Of course to gain the one-up on their bitter rival, Madrid, by paying $90 million for Brazilian international Kaká from AC Milan and $128 million for Portuguese international Christiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. The club recently won La Liga in the 2011-12 season under present coach José Mourinho, and having Christiano Ronaldo becoming the fastest to reach 100 goals in La Liga history, with 101 goals in 92 games, surpassing Puskás’ record of 100 goals in 105 games.
- Stadium Location: Paseo de la Castellana, Chamartín District, Madrid
- Stadium Name: Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
- Capacity: 85,454
- Intercontinental Cup: 3 (1960, 1998, 2002)
- European Club/UEFA Champions League: 9 (1955-56, 1956-57, 1957-58, 1958-59, 1959-60, 1965-66, 1997-98, 1999-2000, 2001-02)
- UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 2 (1970-1971, 1982-1983)
- UEFA Super Cup: 1 (2002)
Winners (32): 1931–32, 1932–33, 1953–54, 1954–55, 1956–57, 1957–58, 1960–61, 1961–62, 1962–63, 1963–64, 1964–65, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1971–72, 1974–75, 1975–76, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1988–89, 1989–90, 1994–95, 1996–97, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2011–12
Copa del Rey
Winners (18): 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1917, 1934, 1936, 1946, 1947, 1961–62, 1969–70, 1973–74, 1974–75, 1979–80, 1981–82, 1988–89, 1992–93, 2010–11
Runners-up (19): 1903, 1916, 1918, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1933, 1940, 1943, 1958, 1959–60, 1960–61, 1968, 1978–79, 1982–83, 1989–90, 1991–92, 2001–02, 2003–04
Supercopa de España
Winners (9): 1988, 1989*, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2012
Runners-up (4): 1982, 1995, 2007, 2011
(* Won Copa del Rey and La Liga)
Copa Eva Duarte (Predecessor to the Supercopa de España)
Winners (1): 1947
Copa de la Liga
Winners (1): 1985
Runners-up (1): 1983
Current Players to Know:
Iker Casillas (Goalkeeper, Captain). Currently Spain’s most capped player with 143 appearances for Spain since 2000.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Forward). Acquired by the club in 2009 from Manchester United (becoming the most expensive footballer in history), this Portuguese international’s playing as of late has been plagued by drama of him being “unhappy” with the club. When actually focused on a game and injury free, he, together with Leo Messi, has been regarded as the best modern-day soccer player. Fast and tricky, he will take on any defender.
Kaká (attacking midfielder). Quick and composed as a player, this Brazilian international helped Madrid win La Liga in 2011 with a record 100 points.
Gonzalo Higuaín (Forward, co-captain). With 22 goals scored for Madrid in the 2011-12 season, the Argentinean international is known for his speed and great striking ability.
Sergio Ramos (defender, co-captain). A key element of defense for both the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, Ramos gained his first cap at age 18. Primarily a central defender, he’s equally adept as a right back.
Xabi Alonso (Midfielder) With 106 international appearances for Spain since 2002, Alonso is known for his passing ability and is considered one of the best passers in the world.
Angel Di Maria (Winger)
The Argentinean international is also a key component of his national team squad. Despite tough matches in the 2011-12 La Liga season, it is hoped that he can reignite the same passion among fans that made him famous at his previous club, Benfica.
Mesut Özil (Attacking midfielder). Nominated for the Balo D’Or in 2010, Özil has grace and creativity as an attacking midfielder; this German international has often been compared to Zinedane Zidane.
Past Players to Know:
As the most successful Spanish club, it comes as no surprise that many a superstar has played with Los Merengues (the nickname in Spanish for the team—literally the Merengues, or “Whites”) Here are past players that made history with this club:
- Santiago Bernabéu Yeste: With 341 goals scored for the club between 1912 and 1931, he became club president in 1945 and transformed Real Madrid into the most successful club in Spanish football.
- Alfredo Di Stéfano. This Argentinean international allowed the club to dominate the European Champions cup in the 1950s and is widely considered among the greatest footballers of all time.
- Raúl Gonzalez Blanco (Raúl). Having spent 16 years (1994-2010) with the club, he is the club’s all time top goal scorer with 323 goals in 741 appearances.
- Ferenc Puskás. Another one of the all-time great footballers, the Hungarian international enabled the club to gain 5 La Liga titles between 1958 and 1966.
- Zinédine Zidane. The French international scored the most goals in his professional career with the club (37 goals in 155 appearances), helped the team win La Liga in the 2002-03 season, and was selected in 2004 as the best European Footballer of the past 50 years according to UEFA’s Fiftieth Anniversary Golden Jubilee Poll.
- Luis Figo. The arrival of the Portuguese international heralded the arrival of the “Galacticos” era at Real Madrid. He helped Madrid win two La Liga championships (2001 and 2003) and one Champions League Championship (2001-02)
- David Beckham. Madrid was Beck’s club before the Galaxy. With Beckham, Madrid won one La Liga title (2006-07 season)
Manchester United vs Real Madrid
First Leg: February 13, 2013
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid - 2:45 ET
Second Leg: March 5, 2013
Old Trafford, Manchester - 2:45 ET