MADRID, Spain — Dotted outside the Alfredo di Stéfano stadium, where Real Madrid Femenino play their biggest games, are replica Champions League trophies. Each facsimile of the cup rests on a plinth commemorating the year and city where the men’s team won each of their 14 European crowns. This makes for an imposing promenade around the perimeter as you make your way to the stands, paying this tribute to the men’s team that has been so strong over the decades in Europe’s premier club competition.
As Real lifted their 13th Champions League trophy in May 2018, the club had no women’s team or plans to create one, but the promotion of CD TACÓN, a young Madrid side, proved to be Real’s catalyst. . Officially playing under the Real Madrid badge only from the 2020-21 season, the club had already tried to invest and strengthen the team during their last season as TACÓN.
As with many teams finding themselves in the top tier for the first time, their team was fragmented between those who could compete for silverware and those who struggled to keep up. Even in just three-and-a-half years, the personnel have changed considerably, with the notable departures of former manager David Aznar and their first signing, Sweden international Kosovare Asllani. However, for a team that has only just begun to crawl at international level, Madrid are enjoying their second season in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and already look like a side apart from the one that made their debut last year.
There’s a sense of deja vu and destiny for The Whites when you watch their way through the early stages of the Champions League, first facing and knocking out Manchester City in the qualifying rounds before being drawn into a group with Paris Saint-Germain. Last year, as they made their European debut and struggled to find their best football under Aznar, the team received one of the less grueling draws.
Apart from a PSG side still singing in attack, they faced Icelandic side Breiðablik and Ukrainian side Zhytlobud Kharkiv, leaving the simple proposition to beat the teams they knew they could. And indeed they did, although their reward was a quarter-final encounter with Barcelona which, while thrilling and historic, ultimately spelled the end of their adventure.
This season, The Whites have had a tougher task in the Champions League, again facing not just PSG, but Chelsea as well as Albanian champions Vllaznia. With Vllaznia expected to finish bottom – a judgment somewhat bolstered by their 8-0 loss to Chelsea on Wednesday – the fight for knockout qualification is on. However, with PSG looking more transient than their Spanish counterparts and lacking a clear and honest goal threat with their talismanic number nine, Marie-Antoinette Katoto, injured for most of the season, Madrid have the chance to gain some strength. ‘advance.
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When the pair faced off for the first time this season last Wednesday, the two could have claimed all three points in Madrid, although a lack of clinical finishing prevented the game from scoring. Yet while PSG lacked a clear centre-forward to grab the balls placed by The ParisiansReal were just without their finishing boots.
In addition to the usual comings and goings from one season to another, The Whites have shown huge improvement under Aznar’s successor Alberto Toril – he’s certainly not the best coach in Europe, but he understands how to prepare his players quite well. Indeed, when PSG faced off in Madrid last season, the team was still working under a coach who didn’t know how to organize his squad to maximize their capabilities. this season, things are very different.
It’s not just about their player-friendly system either, but their ability to become one of the most recognizable clubs in world football.
Real has the ability to rely on its name to strengthen its workforce. Indeed, summer signing Caroline Weir has spoken of idolizing Zinedine Zidane when she was younger, as well as her very first kit being a real one when she was still in primary school. The Madrid squad is littered with stars who supported the club when they were growing up, lured by the prospect of playing for a side they couldn’t turn down, an intangible that translates into the club’s ability to sign players that many can not.
Indeed, this ability to sign some of the best players on the continent has seen them overtake most Spanish sides, not just rivals outside of La Liga F, weakening their competition. However, while some signings like Weir and the inspirational Athenea del Castillo have been tricky, Real have been guilty of simply trying to sign good players without having the bigger picture in mind of how they are doing. fit together. (If you follow the men’s team, that was also the problem with their long-announced “Galacticos” policy.)
For example, anyone who has followed Real Sociedad for the past five years could tell you that Nahikari García was a key part of their team and has attacking ability in spades, but in a team that had also just signed Esther González. , who has scored 30 league goals. goals the previous year, the two are struggling to gel. The good news for the Madridistas is that over time the team has continued to take on a clear form and the signings made over the summer make sense of what Toril is trying to do. This means they enter the field with increasing skill as well as ability (and gravy).
Unlike this time last year, Real don’t have to fear PSG, and while that’s partly down to what happened in Paris, their own growth can’t be overlooked in their quest to European glory. So during The Whites have yet to qualify for the final rounds of the Champions League, their rapid growth – combined with Florentino Pérez’s determination to have a women’s side as competitive as the highly successful men’s side – suggests that it is only a matter of time before the women’s side also have their own Champions League trophy away from the Alfredo di Stéfano.