Madrid claim a record-breaking 35th Spanish league title

MADRID – In a dominating season for Real Madrid, it was fitting that they didn't even need their best players to win the Spanish league. (Author: Gardener)

SpanishMADRID – In a dominating season for Real Madrid, it was fitting that they didn't even need their best players to win the Spanish league. With their backups ahead of the Champions League semi-finals, Madrid clinched a record-breaking 35th league title with a comfortable 4-0 home win over Espanyol on Saturday. Players and coaches continued to celebrate with the crowd at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium long after the game was over, and then marched to the team's usual party ground at Cibeles Square, but there wasn't much time to celebrate. On Wednesday, Madrid return to the Bernabéu to host Manchester City in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals. Madrid lost 3-4 in their first game in England. "We know we have an important game ahead of us but today we have to celebrate," said veteran Brazilian Marcelo, who reached a milestone with his 24th career title with Madrid, the highest in the club's history. "We have to enjoy it, that could help us on Wednesday," said Carlo Ancelotti, who became the first coach to win Europe's top five leagues. Several thousand fans filled Cibeles Square to greet the champions, who radiated a mixture of league title cheering and motivation for Wednesday's game. The crowd cheered loudly as Marcelo draped the Cibeles statue with Madrid's flag and scarf. Rodrygo scored twice and Marco Asensio and substitute Karim Benzema added to give Madrid their second league title in three seasons and their third in six years. "That's how you win leagues," said Madrid midfielder Casemiro. "We've done a great job all season and have been consistent from the start." Madrid have nine more league titles than Barcelona. Benzema, Vinícius and Toni Kroos came on in the second half and Benzema's 26th goal as leaders in the league made the 81st. Marcelo started at left-back, surpassing the 23 titles won by the great Francisco "Paco" Gento, who died this year aged 88. The 33-year-old Brazilian equalized Gento when Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup in January a few days before Gento's death. Marcelo gave compatriot Rodrygo the pass from near the penalty spot in the 33rd minute to score the opener. Rodrygo added to the lead 10 minutes later and Marco Asensio scored the third goal in the 55th minute. Tennis star Rafael Nadal kicked off the ceremonial kick-off at the Bernabéu and it wasn't long before the crowd started chanting "campeones, campeones". It was a well-deserved title as Madrid got off to a good start, repelling every run from their challengers. The only question now is whether Atlético Madrid will agree to give their city rivals a 'guard of honor' before the sides meet at Atlético's Wanda Metropolitano Stadium next Sunday. Defending champions Atlético Madrid lost 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao and lost ground in a close fight for Champions League spots. Diego Simeone's team stayed in fourth place, two points ahead of third-placed Barcelona and four points ahead of fifth-placed Real Betis, who visit Getafe on Monday. Atlético have won just one of their last six games in all competitions, losing three and drawing two. Villarreal's hopes of securing a place in Europe next season were dashed after the 2-1 defeat at Alavés. Villarreal will try to come back from a 2-0 first-leg defeat by Liverpool in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday. Valencia lost to Real Betis in the Copa del Rey final.


Dominant Real Madrid win record-breaking 35th LaLiga title

The win also made her Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti the first manager to win titles in each of Europe's top five leagues - England, Spain, La Liga. Carlo Ancelotti. real Madrid (Author: Gardener)

35thMadrid: Real Madrid clinched a record-breaking 35th LaLiga title on Saturday after two first-half goals from Rodrygo resulted in a 4-0 win over midfielder Espanyol in front of cheering home fans at the packed Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The win also made her Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti the first manager to win titles in each of Europe's top five leagues - England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Rodrygo's brace gave Real a 2-0 lead at the break before Marco Asensio struck the third after 55 minutes and La Liga top scorer Karim Benzema sealed the points in the 81st minute. Captain Benzema lifted the trophy after coming on from the bench late in the second half when Ancelotti rested several starters while Real host Manchester City from a 4-3 deficit in Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg. Real have 81 points with four games to go. They are 17 points clear of second-placed Sevilla and 18 ahead of Barcelona, ​​who have a game in hand and needed a point against Espanyol to clinch the title with almost a month to go. It was a record-breaking day for defender Marcelo, who won his 24th silver medal with Real and overtook Gento as the player with the most trophies in the club's 120-year history. "It's a huge joy," an emotional Marcelo told reporters in what looks set to be the last of the 33-year-old's 16 seasons with the Spanish club. "We won as early as possible and everyone needs to celebrate that," added Marcelo as the players look ahead to next week's clash with Manchester City. "Today we have to celebrate but we have an important game ahead of us. Ancelotti believes the celebrations can help lift the spirits of the players to fight back against Pep Guardiola's side. Today we have to celebrate, not talk . Real Madrid passed on Saturday." Despite goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, midfield inspiration Luka Modric and Casemiro playing as a defender, Espanyol were the only three regulars to start, Espanyol weaked the show with two brilliant goals: he got a nice one in the 33rd minute Pass from Marcelo and shot past goalkeeper Diego Lopez with a magnificent shot into the far corner, just before the break he won the ball in the Espanyol half, scuffed the ball into the goal on his right foot and shot a low shot into the left corner, scoring wrong-footed the keeper, Asensio extended the lead after the break with a shot from close range, then it was Benzema's turn to find space around the area to fire from Rodrygo's cross into the bottom corner. It was the Frenchman's 26th goal in 30 league games this season. It was a show of dominance that earned Real the deserved title in a historically dominant season.


Soccer-dominant Real Madrid win record-breaking 35th LaLiga title

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid clinched a record-breaking 35th LaLiga title on Saturday after two first-half goals from Rodrygo carried them to a 4-0 win over midfielder Espanyol in front of cheering home fans at the packed Santiago Bernabeu had stadium. The win also made her Italian coach, Carlo Ancelotti, the first manager to... Read more (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridMADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid clinched a record-breaking 35th LaLiga title on Saturday after two first-half goals from Rodrygo carried them to a 4-0 win over midfielder Espanyol in front of cheering home fans at the packed Santiago Bernabeu had stadium. The win also made her Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti the first manager to win titles in each of Europe's top five leagues - England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France. Rodrygo's brace gave Real a 2-0 lead at the break before Marco Asensio struck the third after 55 minutes and La Liga top scorer Karim Benzema sealed the points in the 81st minute. Captain Benzema lifted the trophy after coming on from the bench late in the second half when Ancelotti rested several starters while Real host Manchester City from a 4-3 deficit in Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg. Real have 81 points with four games to go. They are 17 points clear of second-placed Sevilla and 18 ahead of Barcelona, ​​who have a game in hand and needed a point against Espanyol to clinch the title with almost a month to go. It was a record-breaking day for defender Marcelo, who won his 24th silver with Real, overtaking Gento as the player with the most trophies in the club's 120-year history. "It's a huge joy," an emotional Marcelo told reporters in what looks set to be the last of the 33-year-old's 16 seasons with the Spanish club. "We won as early as possible and that's the job of everyone who needs to be celebrated," added Marcelo, with the players looking ahead to next week's clash with Manchester City. "Today we have to celebrate, but we have an important game ahead of us. Ancelotti believes the celebrations can help lift players' spirits to fight back against Pep Guardiola's side. "A celebration like this can bring extra energy to the dressing room, it can be good motivation to face such a difficult task against a great team," said Ancelotti. On Saturday, Real Madrid saw off lowly Espanyol, although goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, midfield inspiration Luka Modric and defender Casemiro were the only three regulars to start. Espanyol rarely bothered Real's second-rate side, with in-form Brazilian striker Rodrygo stealing the show from the home side by scoring two brilliant goals. In the 33rd minute, he received a beautiful pass from Marcelo and shot past goalkeeper Diego Lopez with a superb shot into the far corner. He won the ball in the Espanyol half just before half-time, shuffled the ball onto his right foot and hit a low shot into the left corner, missing the keeper. Asensio extended their lead after the break with a shot from close range and then it was Benzema's turn, who found space in the box to fire in the bottom corner from a Rodrygo cross. It was the Frenchman's 26th goal in 30 league games this season. It was a show of dominance that earned Real a well-deserved title in a historically dominant season.


Ancelotti is the first manager to have won all of Europe's top 5 leagues

Carlo Ancelotti has broken new ground as the first manager to win LaLiga, Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 titles. That's how he did it. (Author: Gardener)

AncelottiReal Madrid were crowned LaLiga champions for the 35th time after beating Espanyol 4-0 at the Bernabeu as the most successful side in Spanish football added the 2021-22 title to their roster. With the result, coach Carlo Ancelotti also broke new ground by becoming the first manager in history to win championships in all five of Europe's top leagues. The 62-year-old Italian had already made history earlier this month when he reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in a fourth different decade as a coach - a total that rises to five when you factor in his career as a player - and now has he further cemented his status as one of the true greats of European football. An interesting facet of Ancelotti's achievement is that as a coach he has only won each of the five major European championships once and as such cannot claim to have the most overall title wins among his peers (more on that later). ). - Switch to: Other coaches who have won titles in the top five leagues - ESPN+ guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more (U. Ancelotti's side - who, under his stewardship, claimed the first of two Champions League crowns season -- managed to win the league by an impressive 11 points over second-placed Roma, who scored three more goals and conceded five fewer than Milan Ancelotti was appointed manager of Chelsea in July 2009, the day after His long association with Milan ended after he achieved a stunning third-place finish in Serie A. In the end, the Blues edged rivals Manchester United by a single point with an 8-0 win over Wigan Athletic and also provided a new one League record for goals scored in a single season (103) Ancelotti led the club to their first ever double six days later by beating Portsmouth in the FA Cup final, abe r his tenure only lasted until the end of the following season. Ancelotti spent less than 18 months in charge at Paris Saint-Germain from December 2011 to May 2013 and still found time to clinch the Ligue 1 title in his first and only full season at the helm. He replaced the ousted Antoine Kombouare and finished second to Montpellier in his first months at the Parc des Princes before going one better in 2012/13 to secure their first league title under Qatar's leadership with two games to go. After a two-year tenure at Real Madrid during which he won his third Champions League title and Real's long-awaited tenth, Ancelotti was appointed Bayern Munich manager for the 2016/17 season. He replaced Pep Guardiola, who left after winning three titles in as many seasons in Germany. However, he only made it through September of the following season when he was sacked after a 3-0 loss to ex-club PSG in the Champions League. Ancelotti won 'La Decima' during his first spell at the Bernabeu in 2013-2015 but lost in his two championship races to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. However, he was given a chance at redemption when he was poached from Everton and reappointed by Los Blancos to replace Zinedine Zidane in June 2021, and just 10 months later he earned it. The 4-0 win against Espanyol secured Real's first LaLiga crown since 2019/20 and only their third in the last decade. While Ancelotti is on his own in terms of titles in various major European leagues, there are a few other hugely successful managers who are still active in the game and could potentially match or surpass his pan-continental record before retiring:


Ronaldo could return to Real Madrid this summer

Cristiano Rolando's outstanding form for a struggling Manchester United could see him consider a move back to Real Madrid. Transfer Talk has the latest. (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridTransfer Talk brings you the latest in rumours, rumours, comings and goings and of course deals done! Real Madrid plan to sign Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, The Mirror reveals. The 37-year-old forward has recently been linked with a departure from Old Trafford as Erik ten Hag plans a squad reshuffle and with Manchester United unlikely to qualify for the Champions League they could now lose Ronaldo despite his contract running out until 2023. The former Los Blancos star has remained in impressive form this season with 23 goals in 35 games and it is reported that he has not gone unnoticed by the Santiago Bernabeu hierarchy. Ronaldo has attracted the attention of club officials who are now trying to set up a La Liga return for the Portugal international, who did the same move in June 2009 for a then-world-record fee of £80million. Carlo Ancelotti's side were crowned champions on Saturday as Real Madrid clinched the LaLiga title after a comfortable 4-0 win over Espanyol and it looks like they are already preparing to take the crown next time keep season. - Marcotti: Death of super agent Raiola leaves a hole in the modern game The 23-year-old has caught the attention of clubs across Europe this season with his form, which has scored 17 goals in 29 games, and it seems one Signature competition with many moves being weighed for new striker options Hag is aiming to make Tyrell Malacia his first signing in the summer, reports The Mirror. The Ajax Amsterdam manager will join Manchester United at the end of the season and having already scouted the 22-year-old Feyenoord left-back, it looks like he will try to lure him into the Premier League. It is reported that a £20million fee is being asked to secure his services. Benfica are looking to sign 25-year-old winger David Neres, reveals Nicolo Schira. Neres is reportedly keen to join the Liga NOS side after joining Shakhtar Donetsk in January before the season was cut short by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Before the turn of the year, he started just five times for Ajax and scored four times from the bench in a further 16 appearances. Barcelona want to take advantage of Kenan Yildiz's contract situation, Mundo Deportivo report. The 16-year-old midfielder's contract with FC Bayern Munich expires in the summer and although the Bundesliga club are looking to sign him on a new contract, it now looks like the Blaugrana will try to secure him on a free transfer when his contract expires. - AC Milan are on the verge of a move for Renato Sanches, write Calciomercato. The Serie A team have been negotiating a deal for the 24-year-old midfielder with Lille since January after making a late attempt to sign him during the winter transfer window. After initial progress on personal terms has slowed, it is now reported that the Portugal international wants to join San Siro and will accept a lower salary than his representatives demanded in January.


Real Madrid win a record 35th La Liga title as Ancelotti makes history

Carlo Ancelotti has now won La Liga, Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A titles after guiding Madrid to a record 35th national championship. (Author: Gardener)

La LigaThe La Liga title race drama was long over, but now it's official: Real Madrid are kings of Spain again. Real Madrid have won the La Liga championship for the 35th time, clinching the title four games from time after Saturday's 4-0 win over Atlético Madrid and Barcelona are still suffering from the financial crisis that caused the club to collapse Losing Lionel Messi to PSG, Real are back at the top. The title is the club's second in three seasons and ensures the trophy stays in the Spanish capital after two years for Barcelona in 2018-19. This was achieved in large part through Karim Benzema's forward play. The 34-year-old Frenchman has aged beautifully, leads La Liga with 25 goals (he will snatch Messi's streak of five consecutive domestic goalscoring titles) and has scored 41 goals in 41 games in all competitions this season. His exploits in the Champions League were particularly profound, leading the competition with 14 goals - six of them from hat-tricks in a row against PSG and Chelsea. Real Madrid are still hoping to extend their record of European titles (13 titles) but must overcome a 4-3 aggregate deficit against Manchester City on Wednesday in Madrid after last week's incredible semi-final first leg in England. Vinicius Junior's breakout campaign has provided plenty of support in attack, with the dynamic 21-year-old Brazilian second at the club on 14 league goals. Ancelotti himself broke new ground with this title. It's his first La Liga title in his second stint at Madrid, and now he's triumphing as a manager in all of Europe's 'top five' leagues, having won the Premier League (Chelsea), Serie A (AC Milan) and the Has won Ligue 1 (PSG) and Bundesliga (Bayern Munich) titles at previous coaching stations. Of the three league defeats, one was a humiliating 4-0 home loss to Barcelona in March's El Clásico (a game Benzema missed). And while it's close to the Champions League final, its European campaign has been pretty uneven. There was the infamous Champions League group stage home defeat by Moldova's Sheriff Tiraspol in September, and they lost three of their five knockout games en route to the semi-final second leg. Nonetheless, it was a title-winning season at home in Saudi Arabia (where Madrid beat Barcelona in extra time in the semi-finals and then beat Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final) and could well be in Paris if Ancelotti is with the team can Pep Guardiola's middle of the Turn the week upside down at the Bernabéu and return to the Champions League final. Despite PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino's comments this week that both he and Kylian Mbappé would remain in the French capital next season, the star striker has made no secret of his desire to play for Real Madrid and all the signs indicated he would soon sign there on a free transfer this summer. Mbappé's contract with PSG expires after this season. As for other key decisions the club will face, Croatian star Luka Modrić is reportedly set to agree another one-year deal to stay there, while Gareth Bale, Isco and Marcelo are all on expiring contracts as well. C. United), while Isco is reportedly in the mix to join Real Betis. Whatever the formation of the squad this summer, one thing is certain: next season will start with the title defense in Spain.


Ancelotti is in a class of his own as Real Madrid win their 35th La Liga title

Real Madrid secured their 35th LaLiga title with a 4-0 home win over Espanyol on Saturday as Carlo Ancelotti became the first manager to win all five major European leagues. (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridFor the best experience, please upgrade to a modern browser. For the best experience, please upgrade to a modern browser. To order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients, or customers, visit Real Madrid secured their 35th LaLiga title with a 4-0 home win over Espanyol on Saturday as Carlo Ancelotti became the first manager to win all five major European leagues. Needing just a point in their last five games, Madrid scored twice through Rodrygo in the first half at the Santiago Bernabeu before goals from Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema completed the win. "It's my first time winning a title at the Bernabeu, the atmosphere is really special," Ancelotti told Movistar Plus. "If I cried (at the final whistle) it was because I was happy." Ancelotti returned to Madrid last summer to take over from Zinedine Zidane for a second spell after leaving Everton. The Italian has also won the Premier League with Chelsea, Serie A with AC Milan, Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain and Bundesliga with Bayern Munich. Given they've been at the top since November, it came as no surprise that Madrid won a league they've dominated for months, but slumps in form from Barcelona and Sevilla offered the chance for an early crowning achievement. Madrid are 17 points clear of second-placed Sevilla with four games to go. Barcelona have a game in hand but are 18 points behind. With La Liga wrapped up, Madrid can turn their full attention to the second leg of the semifinals at home to Manchester City on Wednesday if they need to reverse a 4-3 defeat from the opening game to advance to another European final. "Winning La Liga is something special," midfielder Luka Modric told Real Madrid TV as he paid tribute to fans who were unable to watch the club win the title due to the Covid-19 pandemic. "We played a great game, the atmosphere was amazing and we hope to do it again this Wednesday." It is the earliest time Madrid have won the trophy since they won it with four games to go in 1989/90. "It's the first time we've won so many games before the end, which means a lot. We've had an incredible season and now we want to celebrate that a bit," said Modric. Ancelotti rested Benzema and Vinicius Junior from the start for the Espanyol visit and Rodrygo capitalized on his chance with two goals late in the first half. He combined with fellow Brazilian Marcelo to put Madrid ahead in the 33rd minute when he headed into the far corner to score only his second league goal of the season. Mariano Diaz made a rare attacking start, then won the ball deep in Espanyol territory and Rodrygo rolled past goalkeeper Diego Lopez in a second with a clean finish. Eduardo Camavinga played in Asensio to score a third for Madrid in the 55th minute, while Modric then made way for Toni Kroos and Benzema replaced Casemiro on the hour. Benzema scored his 42nd goal in as many games in all competitions this season, sealing a stunning triumph for Madrid on a historic day for Ancelotti. Villarreal suffered a 2-1 defeat at bottom side Alaves three days before the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Liverpool. Atletico Madrid could risk missing out on their return to Europe's top club competition after losing 2-0 to Athletic Bilbao. Copa del Rey winners Real Betis can reduce the gap to fourth-placed Atletico to a single point if they win at Getafe on Monday, while Barca host Mallorca on Sunday. Visit for more information. Ancelotti in a class of his own as Real Madrid win their 35th La Liga title Ancelotti in a class of their own as Real Madrid win their 35th La Liga title


Thousands of Real Madrid fans celebrate the championship title with the team

Some 150,000 cheering Real Madrid fans flocked to the city's central Cibeles Fountain on Saturday to join the players in celebrating their record-breaking 35th LaLiga title, clinched in a 4-0 home win against Espanyol. (Author: Gardener)

Real MadridMADRID, April 30 (Reuters) - About 150,000 cheering Real Madrid fans flocked to the city's central Cibeles fountain on Saturday to join the players in celebrating their record-breaking 35th LaLiga title, which came in a 4-0 home win against Espanyol was won . Almost an hour before the end of Saturday's game, which Real won with two spurring goals from Rodrygo in the first half, fans gathered around the central landmark where the club usually celebrates its victories. Traffic restrictions were already introduced on Friday, while a stage was built around the fountain where the players, in an open-topped bus, traditionally join the fans coming from the Santiago Bernabeu to continue the party. It's the first time Real supporters have had the chance to gather for a celebration without masks following the COVID-19 pandemic, as the club's last league title of 2020 fell in the middle of lockdown. It was a record-breaking day for the Brazilian defender, who won his 24th silver medal with Real to overtake Gento as the player with the most trophies in the club's 120-year history. He helped Benzema lift the trophy and led the team around the stadium as the players and coaches celebrated with their families on the pitch for more than an hour while thousands of fans stayed in the stands to share the moment. The players arrived at Cibeles two hours after the game and Marcelo took on the traditional task of 'crowning' the statue of the Greek goddess in what looks likely to be the last of the 33-year-old's 16 seasons with the Spanish club. He placed a Real Madrid scarf around the statue's head and a white flag with the club crest across her chest as his teammates and fans raised their hands and waved to the rhythm to "We Are The Champions" played out loud. Real's normally low-key Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti was one of the livelier during the celebrations at the stadium and at Cibeles, concluding his speech to the fans with a rallying cry: "Let's go against Man City!", a reference to their Champions League semi-finals, second leg on Wednesday. This game was the reason the party ended early by Spanish standards as the players left just after 9pm local time. Ancelotti had rested several regulars while Real hosted the second leg 4-3 down in just a few days. Club president Florentino Perez was delighted with the title and praised his team. Ancelotti told reporters he believes partying is "great for the mental aspect," but stressed Sunday is a working day. Tonight we all celebrate together. Tomorrow we train and on Wednesday we have another important game," Ancelotti added. The only Real Madrid player to miss the celebrations was Welsh striker Gareth Bale, who has rarely played this season due to injury as fans and local media have attacked him.He was greeted by loud boos earlier this month as he played his first competitive game at home at the Bernabeu in more than two years in Real's 2-0 win over Getafe I can't attend the celebrations tonight due to a bad back spasm but really proud of the team for winning the title!


The brilliant Benzema leads Real Madrid to the league title

Real Madrid's triumphant 2021-22 LaLiga season will be remembered for the exploits of striker Karim Benzema. (Author: Gardener)

BenzemaMADRID, April 30 (Reuters) - Real Madrid's triumphant 2021-22 LaLiga season will be remembered for the exploits of striker Karim Benzema. The marauding France international scored his 26th goal in 30 league games on Saturday, sealing Real's 4-0 home win over Espanyol that secured their 35th Spanish league title with four games remaining, extending the record. It was a stellar season that took some time for the 34-year-old French forward, who took his place as the undisputed leader and most influential player in a team in need of a talisman following the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo four years ago. Benzema became a deadly striker without losing his ability to backtrack and build moves from deeper positions. He has scored 35% of Real's 73 goals in LaLiga so far this season and also has 11 assists. Without Ronaldo, he was Real's attacking benchmark and top scorer in all competitions with 30 goals and 11 assists in 2018-19; 27 and 11 in 2019-20; and 30 plus nine in 2020-21. But he really excelled this season, with a career-best 42 goals in 42 games in all competitions, more than double any top player in Spain. In LaLiga, Benzema scored game-winning goals in 18 games and helped Real secure 43 of their 81 points by either scoring the goal or securing the wins. He overtook the great Alfredo Di Stefano (308) in Real's list of all-time top scorers earlier this season and is three goals ahead of Raul (323) in second place, while Ronaldo (450) sits at the top. In 13 seasons with Real, Benzema has won four Champions League and LaLiga titles, four Club World Cups, three European Super Cups, two Royal Cups and four Spanish Super Cups. The 'Cat' moniker stuck with Benzema, who now shines for Real and his country after returning to the French team last year after a six-year absence. But he is now back for club and country. It's becoming increasingly difficult not to campaign for Benzema to finally be voted the best player in the world. He scored a hat-trick that saw Real hold off Paris St Germain 3-1 and advance to the Champions League quarter-finals 3-2 on aggregate, followed by another treble win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and the crucial goal in a stunning Night the Londoners at the Bernabeu, who took his team to the semifinals. After scoring twice in the first leg of the semifinals in Manchester, Benzema overtook Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski to become this year's Champions League top scorer with 14 goals in 10 games. It was Benzema's season - and it's not over yet.


How Real Madrid retook La Liga

A remarkable season, inspiring key players, tactical adjustments and a weaker than usual La Liga helped Real Madrid to clinch the title (Author: Gardener)

La LigaThe Estadio Santiago Bernabeu rocked when Karim Benzema scored the fourth goal in Saturday's straight 4-0 win against Espanyol as all the hard work in a season in which Carlo Ancelotti's side dominated all others in Spain was rewarded . Minutes later, the stadium was celebrating Madrid's 35th La Liga title as a mix of older minds and younger legs danced on the pitch with the trophy, and veteran coach Carlo Ancelotti amid the celebrations. On his return to Madrid last summer, the veteran Italian relied on a small core, veterans including Benzema, Luka Modric and Thibaut Courtois, new signing David Alaba and younger Brazilian trio Vinicius Junior, Eder Militao and Rodrygo Goes. He also showed a belief in getting rid of the long-time players who haven't kept up their faith and physical level - Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Isco all played little part in the title success. Not everyone agrees with all of Ancelotti's decisions, both inside and outside the Bernabeu dressing room and boardroom. Even after his side had built a seemingly unassailable lead by mid-season, there were still some critics inside and outside the club, particularly after March's embarrassing 4-0 smash against Barcelona in the Clasico. Ancelotti took full responsibility for that loss and his side won every one of their next five La Liga games, including Saturday's 4-0 at home to Espanyol that sealed the title with four games left. This isn't a classic Madrid squad - but they rose to every challenge. Sevilla were their closest challenger, beaten by late goals in every tie at the Bernabeu and Sanchez Pizjuan. Barca and Atletico were also both put in their place as Madrid more or less sealed the title by Christmas. Ancelotti's side could play in a variety of ways - defend deep and counterattack, hold the ball for long or step on the front foot and attack, and in general they've done more than enough to truly deserve the title. "They didn't have moments of brilliant football as regularly," says a dressing room source. "They are a very solid, very consistent team and have done their job in every game. They played some good games, with individual blitzes from Benzema and Vinicius.” Some outside the Bernabeu might grumble that this wasn't classic La Liga either. Barca really struggled without their late talisman Lionel Messi while Atletico's bid to defend their title never got off the ground. The fact that this title is not really worthy of celebration was refuted on Saturday by the joy on the pitch and in the stands. They still have to prepare for Wednesday's Champions League semifinals against Manchester City, but it's been 15 years since Madrid clinched a title at the Bernabeu and their players and fans were definitely ready to celebrate the occasion. Ancelotti was also delighted to become the first manager ever to win the title in each of Europe's five leagues, following successes in Italy with Milan (2003-04), England with Chelsea (09-10) and France with PSG (12th March). -13) and in Germany with Bayern Munich (16-17). The veteran Italian has at times been dubbed more of a cup specialist, but to take over a club that did poorly last summer and assemble a side so quickly to win the title so easily is a remarkable achievement. "Ancelotti deserves a big chunk of credit," says another source close to a veteran player. "The club didn't sign any superstars, but he reorganized the team and showed all his experience." When Zinedine Zidane stepped down as Real Madrid coach at the end of last season, Madrid were unprepared, despite the Frenchman's plenty of public warnings himself. Then Everton manager Ancelotti wasn't among the first substitutes analyzed - Mauricio Pochettino, Max Allegri, Antonio Conte and Roberto Martinez were considered first, as was the idea of ​​promoting former player Raul Gonzalez from the Castilla youth team, but out other reasons none worked . It was more than a week before Perez asked general manager Jose Angel Sanchez to call Merseyside and invite in a manager they decided to sack just 12 months after winning the 2014 Champions League. It wasn't because they realized the Italian was a perfect tactical fit for Madrid's current squad. He was clearly delighted to be returning to a city he had come to love during his early days and also escaping the debacle he saw coming at Everton. While Zidane had said publicly that Perez wasn't ready to shake up an aging squad, upon arrival Ancelotti made it clear he was happy to work with what he had. "I know the squad very well, a lot of experienced players that I know and also promising young players, plus those coming back from loans," said Ancelotti during his presentation. "We have the players to win trophies." Ancelotti also knew he had to work in a different financial reality than in his first term in 2013-15. Within weeks, Raphael Varane and Martin Odegaard were sold to the Premier League to raise funds, while Perez tried everything to win his 'obsession' Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain. Ancelotti was happy to see David Alaba again, whom he knew from their time together at Bayern Munich. Italian fitness coach Antonio Pintus, who had led Zidane's side to three consecutive Champions League wins, had been personally reinstated by Perez to improve the team's fitness, intensity and injury record. Goalkeeping coach Luis Llopis, who worked at the Bernabeu from 2015 to 2018, also returned. Neither was Ancelotti's personal choice, but he did ensure his own son Davide got a permanent spot as his No. 2. 32-year-old Francesco Mauri, son of Ancelotti's assistant during his first tenure at Realbank Giovanni Mauri, was also hired as senior assistant. The new manager ticket was a mix of veterans and young up-and-coming talent, just like the roster. When he settled back into Madrid's Valdebebas training facility last July, Ancelotti was relaxed. He quickly re-established relationships with players, staff and reporters he knew from his first tenure, and joked that everything was more or less the same as when he left seven years ago. In a pre-season punctuated by European Championships, Olympics and nagging injuries, there was little time for group preparation. Many squad members also knew they were for sale as Perez tried to raise enough money to tempt Mbappe. In the end, Bale, Hazard, Luka Jovic, Dani Ceballos and Marcelo all stayed, and Ancelotti worked to bring a team together - particularly building the confidence of everyone he counted on throughout the season. During his first spell at the Bernabeu, Ancelotti's most used word during his media work was 'balance' as he needed the rest of his team to provide a counterbalance to his galactic attackers. Now he continued to use the word "intensity" - the roster no longer had multiple Superstars at the peak of their careers, so they all needed to work harder and be more focused. Looking rationally at the challenges he faced, the national championship was the most obvious thing attainable. "The priority has been to put together a strong and solid team capable of winning La Liga, which can then grow to challenge for the Champions League," a source told The Athletic in August. The opening day of La Liga on August 14 had a real back-to-the-future feel, with both Bale and Hazard in the starting XI for the trip to Alaves. Madrid won a very open game 4-1, with Benzema scoring two goals and Vinicius adding the fourth from the bench. Week two was a 3-3 draw at a Levante team that would struggle all year. It was immediately clear that this Madrid side can score goals, but they also have serious defensive problems. Renovations at the Bernabeu meant Madrid were only reunited with their fans in the fourth week. After Celta's slapstick defense allowed Santi Mina to score, Benzema scored a hat-trick in the 5-2 win. With traditional rivals Barcelona and defending champions Atletico Madrid stumbling almost immediately, Madrid were able to pick up the pace early on. Even as Ancelotti continued to work on how to get his team and squad in the best shape by trying different formations and lineups. The defeat to Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League and to Espanyol in La Liga within four days at the end of September brought the first serious criticism of the new season. "Madrid didn't look very prepared, there were holes in their defence," said a source close to a Los Blancos player the day after the 2-1 defeat at Espanyol. "Madrid are top of La Liga but they're not playing very well." Ancelotti admitted losing sleep thinking about how to get the mix he wanted to continue creating chances but without them sacrificing order in the background. The solution was to return to the 4-3-3 with Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in the centre, which the team had used most of the previous seasons. That meant giving up the planned front game with a high defensive line and pressing in the opposing half. Instead, the team would sit deeper, not asking their older midfielders to run as much and leaving Vinicius spaces upstairs to exploit. Not for the first time in his career, Ancelotti showed that he could react to circumstances and take practical steps rather than clinging to an ideology. These tactical tweaks meant that Hazard, Bale, Isco, Marcelo and everyone else, unable or unwilling to put in the required intensity and effort, made little sense. The new approach quickly proved its worth in the first La Liga Clasico of the season at the end of October, when the 2-1 result didn't fully reflect Madrid's clear advantage. "We played an intelligent game," said Ancelotti that afternoon at the Camp Nou. That sparked a streak of seven consecutive La Liga wins - including victories over perceived title rivals Sevilla, Real Sociedad and Atletico. Julen Lopetegui's well-organised Sevilla was the biggest test but was beaten 2-1 by an absolute screamer from Vinicius Junior at the Bernabeu in late November. This was followed by a string of other notable goals from the 21-year-old against Levante and Elche. A player whose lack of a final product had frustrated everyone suddenly emerged as a true world-class talent. "I can't explain the move in Vini, it's a mystery," a source close to the dressing room told The Athletic in October. "Even Ancelotti himself was surprised." The youngster's form had ebbed and flowed over the months, but as the season progressed his finishing became top-notch. The real star of the show, however, was Benzema, who recorded 13 goals and seven assists in his first 16 La Liga games of the season. As he approached his 34th birthday, he was constantly involved in the game and consistently made crucial contributions. "Benzema gets the whole team playing," said a source close to an admiring teammate. The purple spot in the autumn when Madrid took the decisive lead in the title race propelled him to perhaps the best level of his entire career. The team's other key player was at the other end of the field. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois also played phenomenally, with excellent reflex saves crucial in victories against Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao. But the team's overall form and pace of work meant few opponents could capitalize on it. "I liked how we were defensive," said Ancelotti in early December. "The deep defensive block suits us, we don't have any midfielders to defend in open spaces. You win by scoring goals.” But Madrid were eight points adrift of the leaders during the winter break. There need not have been any immediate concern; It was only their second La Liga defeat this season and they were still five points clear of Sevilla, while Barca and Atletico were far behind. But it brought up ghosts of past seasons, including under Ancelotti in 2013-14 and 2014-15 when the team ran out of breath in the second half of their La Liga campaigns. Alarm bells went off a few weeks later when Madrid were 2-0 down at the Bernabeu against relegated Elche and time was almost up. Luka Modric's penalty and then Militao's header in added time saved a point and calmed nerves. The biggest lesson from that game was Hazard, who made a rare start and confirmed he was no longer at the required level of competition. Ancelotti continued to trust only a relatively small core of players. For some critics, not rotating at all ran the risk of whipping older players like Modric, Benzema and Kroos too hard and running out of gas in the really crucial games. After Benzema's late goal gave Madrid a 1-0 win at Rayo Vallecano in late February, it was pointed out that despite such an expensively assembled squad, only one side in La Liga had given less playing time for substitutes. There were occasional incidents throughout the season where players expressed dissatisfaction with Ancelotti's selection. Dani Ceballos was publicly upset that he was only given a few minutes in a Copa del Rey game at third-tier Alcoyano in January. Bale was spotted laughing for the camera as Hazard warmed up but was not used in the Copa defeat at Athletic Bilbao a few weeks later. Even Kroos made his dissatisfaction clear when he was substituted off in the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Chelsea. Gareth Bale laughs at Eden Hazard after Hazard was sent on the bench in the 2nd half even though he's been warming up for 30 minutes 😔 Bale, Hazard, Isco, Marcelo, Mariano Diaz, Jesus Vallejo and the €60m Center forward Luka Jovic was not punished for anything in particular. The manager just didn't think they were able to help the team. The manager tried to motivate Hazard to work harder with public comments and gave Bale a chance with a start at Villarreal in February, but neither player responded with the required performances. "Carlo never ejects anyone when they're not on the team, it's up to those players themselves," a knowledgeable source told The Athletic mid-season. The Champions League first-leg defeat at Paris Saint-Germain in mid-February also sparked another debate among pundits close to the Bernabeu hierarchy. The tactical system that Ancelotti had already committed to in October, the low block and fast counterattack, was not exciting enough for everyone. "Maybe we would like to have more possession, but that's the coach's plan and we're satisfied," said Modric in December and didn't sound 100% convincing. However, this has been countered by the argument that Ancelotti tailored his plan to get the best out of the experienced players in his squad. "The way Carlo designed the tactical form of the team means the older players don't have to put in a lot of physical effort," a source said at the time. The low-block/high-block debate continued even as Ancelotti's side built a seemingly unassailable lead at the top of the La Liga table. There was also the thought that the team would over-rely on single brilliant moments with Benzema's amazing goalscoring form and Courtois' regular phenomenal saves. "It looks like Madrid are playing badly but they are 12 points clear in La Liga," said an amused source close to the dressing room in early March. The normally unflappable Ancelotti was so upset that he launched an unusually emotional defense during the press conference ahead of the second leg against PSG in early March. "Everyone can have their opinion on how our season is going," said Ancelotti, pouncing on a question he felt was unfair to him and his side. “People say we win games but without enough possession. I'm convinced we're going to have a good season and hopefully we can improve in the last few months.” With Sevilla also stumbling, it became clear to everyone that Madrid had more or less already won the title. Ancelotti's team needed to ensure they continued to earn points to keep their distance, but were aware that blowing the title now would be an historic embarrassment. "If they lose this La Liga they will be held responsible, they know that for sure," a source close to a longtime Madrid player said in mid-February. Between the two games against PSG, Ancelotti adjusted tactics again, asking his players to press higher, go up the pitch and push opponents back. Before heading to Paris, Madrid played 11 games in 44 days across four competitions, including an energy-sapping trip to Saudi Arabia to win the Spanish Supercopa. In the 22 days between the two Champions League round of 16 games, they have only played three times, all La Liga games. They won all three, scored eight goals and conceded just once, including an impressive 4-1 at home to Real Sociedad. "The team has improved a lot physically," said Ancelotti at the time. "We've been working really hard on it these weeks." Analysis by The Athletic shows that any idea of ​​Madrid as a pure counterattack team would be wrong - they make more passes per sequence than any other team in La Liga and are 18th of the 20 teams , because they play directly. Rather, Ancelotti and his team tend to adapt to different moments of the season and different opponents, figuring out what works best for each game. The comeback win over PSG has only added to the energy reserves and optimism surrounding the Bernabeu ahead of mid-March's La Liga Clasico against Barcelona. Madrid were scrambled in defense as new Barca coach Xavi got his tactical game plan spot on but Ancelotti's half-time change only made things worse. Then came what is probably the most important press conference of the 2021-22 La Liga season and Ancelotti once again put his own ego aside and delivered the message the team needed. "I didn't approach the game well," he told reporters. It hurts us a lot, but we have to move on and prepare for the coming weeks. Sources close to veteran players said after that game that the side lacked the necessary spark and motivation; there was no fear of what could go wrong. Everyone agreed that Ancelotti's public and private reaction to the debacle helped ensure that the Clasico defeat didn't bring their season to a complete halt. "In a dressing room like Real Madrid you can't start blaming your players or the fans," said a source close to a longtime player. The Clasico was followed by an international break during which Ancelotti contracted COVID-19. That meant his son Davide was in charge of the following La Liga game at Celta Vigo. Courtois was man of the match while Benzema missed a penalty at 1-1 before having another chance to convert from the penalty spot. The last real hope of their challenges came when Madrid visited Seville mid-April in the middle of their Champions League quarter-final game against Chelsea. But another thrilling comeback came in the 91st minute when Benzema headed in to make it 3-2. With that, the Frenchman has scored 25 LaLiga goals, most of them master strikes from narrow areas. "Everyone is waiting for Madrid to slip, but this team doesn't slip because they have heart, they have character and they have personality. ' Ancelotti said in the pressroom as his players celebrated nearby inside the stadium. Such strong finishes and late goals, which are equally important in La Liga and Europe, brought satisfaction to those at the Bernabeu who were particularly concerned about the team's physical fitness. A sign of how important this is for the club hierarchy came when fitness coach Pintus was called in for a rare interview with Real Madrid TV in mid-April. "The players deserve the recognition because they have a very good mentality and a strong heart and motivation to never stop believing in it until the end of the games," Pintus said. "The mentality makes the difference - the players have this ability to endure the very hard work that we put on them, how we push them to be at their peak to the end." There is no doubt that the work of Pintus has brought the team up to speed over the last few months. But it's also true that key players Benzema, Modric, Alaba and Casemiro missed all games due to muscle injuries and Ancelotti had to manage their workload carefully. "Madrid are ending the season very well," says a source, "but they've been playing at the limit and getting injured. Those absences have given other players opportunities to play a big part in winning the title. Fede Valverde only started in two La Liga games between early October and early February but the Uruguayan returned to form and fitness just in time. Camavinga has been substituted at half-time four times in his first nine La Liga starts but Ancelotti worked to capitalize on his youthful enthusiasm and the team has benefited from that. Ceballos' first La Liga start came in Week 33 when he excelled as a much-rotated team took another big step towards the title in form with a 3-1 win at Osasuna. A roster that's nowhere near as strong or as balanced as it was five or six years ago is focused on consistently winning games week in and week out throughout the season. Ancelotti and the team's great dressing room leaders have not allowed anyone to feel overconfident with their leadership or get distracted by their big midweek events in Europe. "The players don't experience the same roller coaster ride as the fans or the media," says a source close to a key first-team player. "They keep a very consistent line all season," says another dressing room source. "We didn't lose our heads after hammering Barcelona," Ancelotti said a few weeks after that game. Another important factor was the lack of a real challenge. After April's Clasico, many at the Camp Nou, right down to President Joan Laporta, spoke about their chances of reeling in Madrid. Defending champion Atlético was never in the race at all. Sevilla were the only team up for a challenge until a streak of just two wins in 10 La Liga games put them back in contention for the top four. "It's a pretty mediocre La Liga, the least competitive in a number of years," says a source. "But Barca and Atletico, who can't keep up, don't take anything away from Madrid's performance." In the last few months and weeks, many Blancos fans and pundits had looked at the game calendar and decided when they would like to celebrate the title win. Barcelona's recent defeats have pushed that date forward - and into a more awkward position between Madrid's UCL semi-finals against Manchester City. This week's focus has been entirely on that clash, especially after Tuesday's stunning first leg at the Etihad left the clash completely open ahead of Wednesday's return at the Bernabeu. All this made Saturday's La Liga game at home against Espanyol a strange event. A source close to Los Blancos' dressing room joked during the week that it would be better to lose as the players couldn't properly celebrate the title win under the circumstances. Ancelotti has none of it. It felt like the partying had already started in the streets surrounding the Bernabeu in the hours leading up to kick-off, as happy fans enjoyed the sunshine. Ancelotti definitely had City in mind, with a starting XI that only included Courtois, Casemiro and Modric of his most trusted players. Jesus Vallejo started as a central defender for the first time this season, while Mariano Diaz made his first La Liga start since October. However, there was no sign of Bale as the Welshman was eliminated from the squad on the eve of the game with a minor back problem. Modric seemed keen to clear things up early and set up two easy chances that Mariano missed. Rodrygo was much more sober as he completed a clean team move just after the half hour. A standing ovation was given to Modric as he rested and to Benzema as he continued running. Then there was hearty applause as Courtois made a couple of practiced saves - and the team's three most important players were recognized on the day. The end goal of the game was also fitting, as Vinicus and Benzema got back together as they had done so many times in the campaign. "We're going to Cibeles," chanted the happy fans, and the city council had been preparing the statue in the city center for a first title-winning party since 2017, with COVID keeping them away after Madrid's last title in 2020. Pique's good friend, Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales, presented the trophy to captains Benzema and Marcelo, who will leave this summer after winning 24 trophies, more than any other player in the club's history. After more fireworks and jigs on the pitch, the players boarded a bus to Cibeles to celebrate with their fans. However, there would be no late-night cocktails this time around as they were also due to train at Valdebebas on Sunday in preparation for their next friendly against City. “Winning the title so early is the result of hard work and sacrifice from everyone. We need to celebrate with our fans now as we couldn't last time. We have a big game ahead of us but there's nothing wrong with having some fun first.” For Madrid, their coach and that core of experienced players, there's always a new challenge around the corner. But that doesn't mean this La Liga title will be any less hard-earned or any less sweet than the previous ones.