The moments that defined Real Madrid La Liga title win
Real Madrid is the champion of Spain again. A 2-1 win over Villareal assured that the La Liga crown was going to Spain’s capital club. Benzema proved the hero as he has been all season. He scored a brace with both goals coming at either half to confirm the title.
On the day Real Madrid won the title, Barcelona suffered a disappointing 2-1 home loss to Osasuna. This result coupled with Madrid win ensured that Madrid wins the title with a game to spare.
For all Messi’s heroics, he could not drag Barcelona to win the title for the fourth time in a row. He currently sits atop the La Liga goals and assists chart, with 22 goals and 20 assists. He has been phenomenal and consistent but the same cannot be said about his teammates. They let him down with their inconsistent displays.
Barcelona started the season with both on-field and off-field crises. The midseason sacking of Ernesto Valverde and appointment of former Real Betis coach Quique Setien took everybody by surprise. For all his love for attacking football, Setien is relatively unknown and inexperienced at the top level. He admitted his surprise at being contacted by Barcelona while working on his farm.
Also, Barcelona signings in recent seasons have rarely worked as planned. Big money signing from Dortmund, Dembele spends almost the whole season injured. Barcelona has also been looking for a way to cut their losses and sell Coutinho after he failed to impress following his big-money move from Liverpool. Antoine Greizmann would be regretting his move to Barcelona from Atletico Madrid. He looks lost in the Barcelona team and has failed to link up effectively with Messi on the pitch. He has only 9 La Liga goals this term.
The injury to Suarez during the season forced Barcelona to make an emergency off transfer window signing of Braithwaite from Leganes. This is to reduce the goal scoring burden off Messi. He has been effective when called upon but not spectacular.
Madrid’s success story is quite different. Zidane resigned in 2018 after leading Madrid to three consecutive Champions League crown. Madrid appointed and sacked two coaches – Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari due to poor performances. Florentino Perez reappointed Zidane in March. His coming back did not automatically change results either. They lost both the Copa del Rey and La Liga title to Barcelona. Ajax eliminated them from the Champions League. It was not looking bright for Zidane.
At the beginning of the 2019/20 season, Perez decided to strengthen his squad. This is to ensure they are capable of challenging Barcelona for the league title. He sanctioned €300 million marquee signings of Eden Hazard from Chelsea, Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt, and Ferland Mendy from Lyon. However, the signings did not provide the immediate impact needed. Hazard struggled with fitness and form all season. Jovic did not do enough to convince Zidane that he can start ahead of Benzema. Only Mendy impressed.
Madrid started the season with poor pre-season performance losing 7-3 against Atletico Madrid. At the start of the La Liga campaign, they were inconsistent drawing two of their first four games. An embarrassing 3-0 loss to PSG in the first match of the Champions League followed. Neymar and Mbappe did not play that day. Zidane was under incredible pressure.
But the old rearguard stood tall and changed the course of the season for Madrid. Madrid went on a 10-game winning streak since the restart of the league in June after Covid-19 break. They were the meanest defense in Spain this season conceding only 23 goals so far. Diego Simeone’s defensive Atletico Madrid side that has conceded 26 goals. They only lost 3 games all season.
Instrumental to their success this season is both the form of both Benzema and club captain, Sergio Ramos. Both players contributed heavily at both ends of the pitch to keep Madrid going all season. Benzema enjoyed a stellar season. The 32-year-old Frenchman has scored 26 goals in all competition this season, with 21 coming in La Liga.
Ramos, on the other end of the pitch, has been Real Madrid’s inspirational leader and captain. He marshals the defense effectively and also chips in crucial goals during some matches. He has 12 goals this season with 10 in La Liga. How many defenders can boast of such numbers? It is very difficult to see such a complete defender in today’s game
There has been complaints from some quarters in Spain accusing VAR and match officials of ruling in favor of Real Madrid. But this should not distract us from the fact that Madrid is deserving of their title. Barcelona needs to put its house in order to challenge next season.