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Real Madrid's swan song

Real Madrid's swan song

Carlo Ancelotti squeezed the last bit of life out of some of the club's most accomplished players

Rob Palmer

Friday, 19 May 2023, 12:34

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Sadly, it's time for the Super Band to break up. The gig in Manchester was the final tour performance of the legendary group.

Real Madrid were out of tune - they lacked harmony, failed to hit any notes, didn't have the moves, and no longer have the energy to perform at the highest of levels.

It's no embarrassment to lose to Manchester City; almost everyone loses to Pep Guardiola's team in 2023. It's an achievement to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League and keep the outcome in the balance until the second leg. Real lost to a team that is heading for an enviable treble and is arguably up there with the best of all-time.

The "Bernabeu Old Boys" have won the FIFA Club World Championship, European Super Cup and Copa del Rey so the season hasn't been an embarrassment. It's just that this week has brought with it some harsh realities.

Barcelona's young guns are celebrating winning La Liga with weeks to spare and Manchester City skipped around them at the Etihad Stadium. There was significance to Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos and Dani Carvajal all being substituted. None of the veterans can last the pace at the highest level, certainly not to the exceptional standards they've set over the years.

An inquest isn't needed. We all knew this was "The Last Dance" well before City waltzed around them. Carlo Ancelotti squeezed the last bit of life out of some of the club's most accomplished players. It has been a transitional season, with the run in the Champions League masking the fact that the team is going through an overhaul.

There's no need to panic as most departments just need a little refresh. It's clear that Modric and Kroos can no longer last a 50 game season, nor a 90 minute match at the highest intensity. It has been a campaign when they have passed the baton to Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga. The signing of Jude Bellingham would complete a midfield that is set for the next decade. Fede Valverde and Marco Asensio provide first-class back-up.

In the offensive department, the Brazilian pair Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo have matured into international class footballers. There's still life in Benzema but no longer a reliance. It's obvious that there needs to be an alternative to the 35-year-old Frenchman.

Real have three of the best defenders in the world in Eder Militao, Antonio Rudiger and David Alaba. The issue is who flanks them. Dani Carvajal needs replacing at right back as he isn't built for the marathon seasons and the club can cash in on Ferland Mendy. You'd think they've been working on this issue behind the scenes?

The big question surrounds coach Ancelotti. The official word is that he's honouring a contract. The unofficial word is that the Brazil national team would like him as their leader. There's no obvious replacement, especially as Mauricio Pochettino appears to have committed himself to Chelsea.

The manager isn't the problem; in fact, he's been the inspiration. He's kept egos in check and pulled together a mixture of players who aren't quite ripe yet alongside those who have passed their sell-by date. He's exceeded expectations.

He's won every trophy in his second-coming in Madrid. He's lasted longer than most at the world's most demanding club and has set new records. It may just be the right time to leave the concrete jungle of the Spanish capital and relocate for some managerial days in the sun on the beaches of Brazil.

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