Real restraint Madrid giants still the team to beat
Real Madrid are going for a hat-trick of European Cups, having been the first club of the Champions League era to successfully defend their trophy. Real begin at home to Apoel Nicosia next Wednesday. Even at 4-1, before a ball is kicked in a nine-month competition, the odds look tempting.
Rewind one month and Real’s superiority over Manchester United in the Super Cup was ominous. For once, there has been no new galactico this summer – though Mbappe’s signature would have been welcomed – and in fact Real have made a profit in the transfer market. The sale of Alvaro Morata to Chelsea accounts for much of it.
Presumably – understandably – part of the reason is economic: Real Madrid have been lavish year upon year. But – also understandably – manager Zinedine Zidane is content with the squad he has. At a time when Barcelona are shaky, and with a Nou Camp hierarchy seemingly desperate for a new galactico of their own, Zidane has assessed his brilliant, formidable starting XI, the club’s youth system and released talents of the scale of Morata and James Rodriguez (on loan). This is the sort of homegrown, mature and patient policy which Real Madrid were accused of lacking during Barca’s La Masia era.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez can stand this on its head in any transfer window of course, but if he is willing to trust Zidane, then Real are the team to beat.
They have also been drawn with Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham. One imagines Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric and the rest will be quite keen to demonstrate their prowess at Wembley against Spurs in November. It is their kind of stage.