Founded in 1902, Real Madrid Club de Futebol has been one of the superpowers in European football since the middle of the last century. Indeed, they were awarded the honour of “Best club of the 20th century by FIFA, an award for their huge domestic success and also for their domination of Europe. Real Madrid was not always named thus and the “Real” (or “Royal”) part of the name was only added after the club received a blessing from King Alfonso XIII in 1920. The club play in a white strip and they are commonly known as “Los Merengues” (the whites). The club’s home is at the Santiago Bernebéu stadium in Madrid, it is one of Europe’s finest and holds over 80,000 fans and is now also a huge tourist attraction in the city. Since the start of the Spanish national league in 1928, Madrid have never been relegated from the top division.
The start of the clubs success really came under the Franco regime – he saw the club as an excellent propaganda vehicle and poured resource into the club to try to make them a dominating force in Spain and beyond. It is from this point that one of the greatest rivalries in football was born with Catalan club Barcelona. The suppression of the Catalan language and culture by Franco’s regime immediately put Barcelona in opposition to Madrid, the team who seemed to represent the dictator’s regime and some unsavoury match fixing incidents further soured relationships and made the rivalry all the more fierce.
Probably Madrid’s finest period came between 1955 and 1960 when they won an unprecedented five European Cup’s in a row. This really put the club on the map as a dominant force in Europe and no club has matched the feat since. Probably the finest display came in the 1960 final where they demolished their German opposition, Eintracht Frankfurt, 7-3. Real have since gone on to win the trophy four more times and this total of 9 is better than any other team. Amongst Real Madrid’s domestic honours are a massive 29 league titles and 17 Spanish cup triumphs, equally unrivalled by any team in Spain.
In recent years Madrid have been extremely successful also, famed for the having the resource to buy the most high profile signings, it has seemed like no price tag is too big for Real Madrid. In 2000 they brought in Luis Figo from rivals Barcelona for EUR60million, the following year saw French wonder Zinedine Zidane arrive from Juventus for a world record fee of EUR71million. Further high profile signings were made in 2002 and 2003 when Ronaldo and England captain David Beckham were brought in by the club to further strengthen the squad of stars. This policy of buying the best players has earned Real Madrid the new nickname of “Los Galacticos”.
The last few seasons however has seen a minor downturn for the fortunes of the club – three seasons since their last league victory and four since their last European triumph are not going to please many fans of the club. Huge pressure is put on the manager and the last couple of years has seen a fairly quick turnover of staff; this isn’t a club that is used to losing so when the results don’t come it is usually the manager who catches the bullet. Last season they saw the title go to rivals Barcelona and their European run came to an end against Juventus in the quarter finals – results that aren’t acceptable at the Bernebéu and they’ll be looking to improve on them this season and bring home some silverware.