[OP-ED]: Real Madrid finishes a very happy year
When in the first days of 2016, president Florentino Pérez sacked manager Rafa Benítez, the man he hired to turn things around in his team, very few expected this year to be the best in Real Madrid’s recent times. The easy going of former French Real star Zinedine Zidane (chosen by Florentino as the replacement) achieved much more than Benítez’s hard coaching methods. Players answered and 360 days later Madrid has at its trophy room the 11th European Cup and a new World Cup of Clubs. Real’s star player Cristiano Ronaldo also won his fourth Golden Ball, which ended up being a huge team success.
Some people still question Real Madrid’s game. But results wise no doubts can be raised. The Whites are playing courageously again. This way they have won many games down and earned several points down the stretch. Sergio Ramos’ consecutive headers at Barcelona and against Deportivo de La Coruña at home are clear examples. Another was the great comeback performed at Japan during the World Cup of Clubs. In a huge performance by Ronaldo, Real first tied the contest and then won it in overtime. Does it ring a bell? Yes, very similar to the two latest final wins achieved by Madrid at the Champions League.
The big win in Japan rapidly got Real Madrid back at the peak of planet football. It also allowed the Spaniards to remain unbeaten in two more official outings (América and Kashima Antlers). After dropping the road game played in Germany on April the 6th at Wolfsburg, Real has not lost again. Its unbeaten streak has reached 37 games, two short of FC Barcelona’s 39 from last season (Madrid broke it at Barça’s Nou Camp) and six away from Europe’s all-time record (43) established by Juvents in 2011 and 2012 when the Italian powerhouse was coached by current Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
In only 12 months the story has turned around 180 degrees in Spanish soccer. If 2015 finished with Barça in the heights and Madrid struggling, things have changed completely. In the Champions League, both clubs remain alive. In La Liga, despite having played one game less, the Whites have a three-point advantage over their hated opponents. They also have big expectations for the next month with the chance of increasing its unbeaten streak to set another record.
Spaniards celebrate New Year’s Eve by eating 12 grapes as 12 bell rings to receive the New Year. There is no doubt Florentino, Cristiano and Zidane did not have any trouble swallowing any of the grapes as the bells rang welcoming this 2016-year that is very close to the end.