Ancelotti and Júnior. SUR
Real Madrid defy age and logic

Real Madrid defy age and logic

They'll arrive having written the 'How To Win The Champions League' manual

Rob Palmer Commentator, ESPN

Friday, 17 March 2023, 12:51


Forget the Emmy-winning story of how the veteran Chicago Bulls team won one final NBA championship – Real Madrid are about to top 'The Last Dance'.

Not everyone recognises the greatness we are witnessing as Carlo Ancelotti's team defy age and logic to make a charge for the club's 15th European title.

At the time of writing, the bookies make them third-favourites but I'm backing them to retain the crown.

It's crazy really! The team should have been broken up a couple of years ago based on the number of miles on the clock, yet this collection of individuals is built for the Champions League.

The demands of week-in, week-out endeavours in La Liga is catching up with the golden oldies and so Ancelotti needs to manage their minutes. The team is built to peak once every couple of midweeks when top-level football resembles chess on a green baize. It's more about thinking and calculation. Real Madrid are the masters of this.

Luka Modrić is proving to still be the best midfielder in the world, even at the age of thirty-seven. Karim Benzema is a couple of years younger and living up to his Ballon d'Or reputation. These are just two of the seven players over the age of 30 in the starting line-up who beat Liverpool this week.

Given the age of the main players, this shouldn't be possible. The Modrić-Toni Kroos- Casemiro axis was finally broken up, but it was the junior member of the trio who was sold to Manchester United.

Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga are the heirs, but have to fight for a single spot alongside Modric and Kroos. They are institutions at the institution.

Cleverly, Ancelotti is transitioning the club. Tchouaméni and Camavinga are being teased into the team; Uruguayan Fede Valverde is now a prominent player.

Vinícius Júnior is on the verge of attaining galáctico status. In fact, his manager claims he's already a legend for scoring the winner in last season's Champions League final. It does seem like he's been around for ages; but only last year, he became the youngest scorer in a final since Lionel Messi.

Viní Jr isn't in the class of Messi or his predecessor Cristiano Ronaldo, but that is the secret to his success, they are a team. It's a collective that is bigger than one single player.

I've praised him enough in this column so let's quote Jurgen Klopp: "Carlo is the most relaxed manager I've met in my life. His man management is on a completely different level to anyone."

It's like the Real Madrid team is a listed building and he's rebuilding it brick-by-brick rather than a demolition.

I've submitted this article before the draw for the quarters and semi. It doesn't matter who they face, Real Madrid will arrive having written the instruction manual on "How to win the Champions League".

We are in the midst of greatness. Step aside Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Denis Rodman – these are the stars of 'One Last Dance: The Sequel'.

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