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Real Madrid wants lost glory

Four successes in that half-decade, and three in a row, established Real Madrid at the pinnacle of Europe, even if Barcelona continued to reign supreme in Spain.

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SERGIO Ramos is among the players who left Real Madrid. / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID, Spain (AFP) — After winning the Champions League three years in a row, Real Madrid has gone three years without getting close, the task now belonging to Carlo Ancelotti to put the club back where it believes it belongs.

Madrid reached the semifinals last season but was resoundingly beaten by Chelsea, whose 3-1 win on aggregate would have been more emphatic had it not missed a cluster of chances in the second leg.

Before that, Madrid was outclassed by Manchester City and outplayed by Ajax, a pair of deflating exits in the Last 16 serving as a painful reality check after the giddy years between 2014 and 2018.

Four successes in that half-decade, and three in a row, established Real Madrid at the pinnacle of Europe, even if Barcelona continued to reign supreme in Spain.

But an iconic generation grew older and many have now departed, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane — the spine of the team — all gone.

Zinedine Zidane, the coach, left too at the end of last season.

His replacement, Ancelotti, has a difficult job reclaiming La Liga from Atletico Madrid, who have themselves retained all of its key players and been boosted by the return of Antoine Griezmann.
But the task of reclaiming the Champions League appears even more formidable, when set against the trajectories of English rivals like Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, and in France, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

United, City and Chelsea spent around 400 million euros ($472 million) combined in the summer transfer window as Ronaldo, Varane, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Romelu Lukaku bolstered already-glittering squads at the top of the Premier League.

PSG gladly swept up Ramos and Lionel Messi, La Liga’s two remaining grandees, to go with Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Madrid, meanwhile, made a profit of around 20 million euros, deals for Eduardo Camavinga and David Alaba more than offset by the sales of Varane and Martin Odegaard.

And while PSG’s determination to keep Kylian Mbappe for at least the final year of his contract was tested by Florentino Perez, many suspect Madrid’s president was not too unhappy to wait nine months, when he can sign the France World Cup winner for free.

Ancelotti’s job now is to manage the year in between, the season without Mbappe to lead the next era and with the ageing leftovers of the last one — even if Luka Modric and Karim Benzema might arguably grace all the starting line-ups of Europe’s elite.

There are talented youngsters too, like Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo in attack and Miguel Gutierrez at left-back. The 18-year-old Camavinga showed in his debut on Sunday — when he scored just six minutes after coming on — he could contribute sooner than many think.

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