REUTERS

Kings of Europe... again

Real Madrid's fifth Champions League title in nine seasons further cements the club's legendary status and that of many of their players

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

You know a team deserves immortal status when fans can name all eleven players decades later.

This 2022 Real Madrid Champions League winners will go down as one of the all-time great lineups and will be simple to reel off in any pub quiz.

Carlos Ancelotti inherited a disjointed set of players, made a quick assessment, and soon put the jigsaw together.

Thibaut Courtois was the central piece. A model of consistency, dominant and decisive. A goalkeeper who won many La Liga points for the club and made more saves than any other goalkeeper in the Champions League. The rest of Europe only cottoned on to his status as the best in the world this season when he proved to be unbeatable against Liverpool.

It's remarkable that a decade-long partnership between Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane could be replaced with little fuss. David Alaba arrived as a seasoned winner from Bayern Munich and quickly established an understanding with Eder Militao. Alaba's positional sense compensated for the occasionally irrational but always exciting Brazilian.

They were flanked by two very differing full backs. Dani Carvajal always appeared to be playing to his absolute maximum, while Ferland Mendy breezed through games and gave the impression there's many good years ahead of him.

The midfield trio is legendary. Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric are the Real Madrid equivalent of Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta. Realistically it shouldn't work as two of the three are in their mid-thirties. Speed of mind often beats speed of feet.

The attack at the end of the season bore little resemblance to the line leaders at the beginning of the campaign. Ancelotti was willing to give Gareth Bale, Isco and Eden Hazard an opportunity. None of those big-name players lived up to their reputations and drifted into the shadows. It was masterly management as the Italian could say, "I gave you a chance, and you didn't grasp it."

It is hard to believe now that Vinicius Junior wasn't a first choice. His three goals in the opening two games as a substitute won him a promotion he was never to lose. Alongside Karim Benzema, he formed the most feared partnership in Spanish football.

The only weekly question surrounded who would take the eleventh spot. Marco Asensio had a run, Rodrygo proved that he has all the credentials to become a fixture in the Real team for the next decade. When it came to the final, Fede Valverde was given the shirt. His energy and ability to cover a multitude of positions earned him the Man of the Match award with so many experts in Paris.

The domestic and European titles couldn't have been secured without top class back-up. Nacho Fernández and Lucas Vázquez have amassed a cabinet full of medals, by showing willingness to play wherever required, whenever required. Eduardo Camavinga was the only investment, and the teenager was allowed to develop at his own pace. When his head became a little hot, Ancelotti would take him out of the action. The more he matured, the more minutes he enjoyed.

This team is legendary. Beating Inter Milan, Chelsea, PSG, Manchester City and Liverpool wins them that undisputed, immortal status.