Real Madrid aim to add to Champions League legend before Mbappe arrival

Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti
Madrid manager Carlo AncelottiAFP
Whether they admit it or not, there is no doubt Real Madrid consider themselves favourites to beat Borussia Dortmund on Saturday and win a record-extending 15th Champions League trophy.

Not only because the German side are shock finalists, but simply because the kings of Europe would feel the same way regardless of the opposition.

Another triumph on the biggest stage would be the perfect showcase of their power and prestige to superstar striker Kylian Mbappe, set to join from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.

Madrid play with a belief that they will prevail, but also with the humility to know that to do so requires flexibility in the 'how'.

They demonstrated as much in the quarter-finals against champions Manchester City, keeping their backs to the wall and squeezing through on penalties.

They delivered a trademark last-gasp sucker-punch on Bayern Munich to reach the final after falling behind, with substitute Joselu netting a late brace for Carlo Ancelotti's team.

That is precisely when comeback experts Madrid strike - just when opponents start to believe that they can't do it, that they are finally defeated, that they are out.

"We're not thinking about whether we're favourites, but about playing against a team that deserves it too," Madrid coach Ancelotti told reporters Monday.

"We know that we will have to suffer and fight like in all finals."

Madrid have established an astonishing European hegemony, with five triumphs in the last decade.

The next closest side to Los Blancos in overall victories is AC Milan with seven, the most recent of those 17 years ago.

Ancelotti pointed out one of the principal reasons for Madrid's dominance - the club's president.

"Here there is a captain and he's called Florentino Perez," said the Italian earlier in May. "The rest of us are sailors."

The chief has been the constant in Madrid's most recent era of success, although their love affair with the European Cup started long before his reign.

The competition began in the 1950s, when Santiago Bernabeu was the club's chief, and Madrid took to it like a duck to water.

They won the first five editions of the tournament, between 1956 and 1960.

"Madrid's history is born in the 50s, in this competition," said Ancelotti.

"It's a competition where you concentrate more, you are more focused."

Madrid added a sixth in 1966 but had to wait more than 30 years for the seventh, achieved in 1998 after beating Juventus.

The eighth soon followed, in 2000 with a comfortable victory over Valencia, shortly before Perez became Madrid's president.

Stars and silverware

The construction magnate led Madrid into the Galactico era, with Zinedine Zidane's superb volley the highlight of the 2002 final, their ninth victory.

It established Madrid as the world's most glamorous club, allowing them to continue attracting the biggest star names in the game.

While the early 2000s era was underwhelming in terms of trophies, it laid the groundwork for Madrid's future success.

With Perez reappointed as president in 2009, Ancelotti and Zidane, turned coach, drove them on to many more glories, with star forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale vital components.

They achieved 'La Decima' - the deeply craved 10th - in 2014 against rivals Atletico Madrid, the first of their recent string of successes.

Ronaldo became the top scorer in Champions League history with Madrid, his own appetite matching the club's hunger for glory.

Their new stars are Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior, young players keen to write their own names in the club's history books and continue Madrid's legacy of dominance.

Vinicius scored the winner in Madrid's most recent success, edging Liverpool 1-0 in the 2022 final in Paris.

Perez is always looking forward, plotting how Madrid can keep expanding their dynasty.

The club's renovated Santiago Bernabeu stadium will provide bountiful streams of revenue, while Madrid have been rejuvenating their squad.

Mbappe message

The next star arrival is expected to be PSG striker Mbappe, arguably the world's most devastating forward.

Victory in London against Dortmund would be a well-timed flexing of muscles before Mbappe's move is sealed.

It would make obvious to the French forward that he is not needed to turn them into the greatest club in the world - they already are.

With some concerns among supporters over how well Mbappe will potentially gel with his team-mates, demonstrating the club's might would set a perfect tone.

Mbappe tried and failed to bring a first, badly coveted Champions League trophy to Paris over the past seven years.

To arrive at an institution lifting their 15th would certainly keep any ego in check.


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