After a shaky start to the current league campaign, Spanish giants and reigning European Champions Real Madrid have returned to the summit of the La Liga.
While there are those who have attributed their current league position to luck, I would strongly disagree. The league table never lies and usually, it is the best team who stay on top of the rest of the pile.
The Los Blancos had defeated the Catalans in a one sided match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium 3-1 on October 25. A combination of results the following week (a 0-4 away win at Granada coupled with Barcelona’s loss at home to Luis Enrique’s former charges, Celta Vigo) saw Real rise to the top of the La Liga table.
Their detractors will be saying that their win against Barcelona was a fluke and that Lionel Messi could have buried the game in the first half itself. Well, guess what, it did not happen.
The multiple Ballon d’Or winner fluffed his lines and was a helpless onlooker as the superior team on the evening clearly outplayed them on all departments. The power and pace with which Real played that night had been too much to handle for the opposition on the night.
The match had been played without incident as well, which clearly points to the fact that Real do not consider the enemy superior to them anymore. That had not been the case when Jose Mourinho was the coach while Pep Guardiola had been overseeing a period of unprecedented success at Barca.
It had been pretty clear that the royal whites were playing catchup at the time. Else, Mourinho’s ego would not have been hurt as much and relations between the two sides would not have hit a rock bottom.
Mourinho is a man who could not accept the fact that his team were second best and he knew that he could not do anything to change this. Thus, he stoked the animosity which has always otherwise existed between the two sides and this ultimately resulted in his departure from the club.
It now appears that the tables have turned and it is the Catalans who are now having to play catch-up. The side from the capital are clearly on the ascendancy while the other team are struggling to stay close to their traditional rivals.
All that it took for this sea change in was a successful Champions League campaign under Carlo Ancelotti last season.
What followed the realisation of the Decima was yet another extremely active transfer season, as Florentino Perez splashed the cash on the likes of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.
The board had their hands forced by the UEFA financial fair play rules in the sale of Angel Di Maria to Manchester United for an estimated 60 million pounds.
However, it can be argued that as had been the case with the departure of Mesut Ozil to Arsenal last summer, Di Maria’s move will probably not hit them hard.
Their debt situation means that Real Madrid are not in a great position financially and it is something that the board will be concerned about at this juncture. In fact, it is the huge debt which proved to be prohibitive when Perez first wanted to redevelop the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
However, it has been announced this past week that Real have entered into a 350 million pound agreement with a company owned by the Abu Dhabi royal family (Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour) in order to redevelop the Bernabeu.
It had been thought that their transfer dealings would see them land in financial trouble. However, this is one area where Perez remains an astute operator.
Even though they have bought expensive players and sold a couple of players on the cheap, the value of the playing squad is now worth more than ever before.
The market values of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have consistently increased since their moves to the club. The former is going strong at 29 as he looks certain to scoop his second FIFA player of the year award in consecutive years.
Add to this the presence of James, Kroos, Jese Rodriguez, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and company and what you would have is a list of some of the most highly valued players in world football. More importantly, their values are sky rocketing on a weekly basis.
Also, on field performances have not been effected as much as one would have thought. In fact, the club have employed a much more free flowing system this season after having sold Xabi Alonso to Bayern Munich which has been entertaining to say the least.
Against Barcelona, there was not one holding midfielder in the starting lineup with Modric, Isco, and Kroos all starting the game as Real played a direct all attacking game which proved to be too much to handle for a feeble Barcelona backline.
What is even more impressive about this side is that they play like a team in spite of the fact that they are a side which boasts some huge egos in terms of the players that they have.
The present Real Madrid team would seem to be strong contenders to go on and win the La Liga in Ancelotti’s second season in charge while the former AC Milan legend tries to plan yet another assault on the Champions League.
At a club such as Real, the hunger and the desire for success, especially in the European Cup is something that is never satiated.
The need to win more and more trophies is something that drives this football club and with the current crop of players that ply their trade at the club, it would not be too surprising to see them lift the undecima at the Olympiastadion in Berlin come 6 June 2015.