The morning of March 6th should have been a glorious daybreak for all involved with Real Madrid. The date on the calendar last Wednesday marked the club’s 117th anniversary and came following the second leg of Los Blancos’ Champions League last-16 tie with Ajax, where they welcomed an unfancied Dutch side who needed to score at least twice in the Bernabeu and led the visitors 2-1 on aggregate.
After a testing week that had seen Real lose two home El Clasicos – a 3-0 defeat to Barcelona in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final followed by a 1-0 reverse to their bitter rivals in the league – returning to the Champions League, a competition they have dominated in recent years, was supposed to be the perfect tonic for Santiago Solari’s men.
Instead, it became the perfect illustration of how steeply the club has declined in recent months.
Ajax pulled off a shocking 4-1 win in the Chamartín district to qualify 5-3 on aggregate and defy all the odds, in the process inflicting Real’s first Champions League defeat since the 2015 semi-finals. Popular bookmakers like William Hill were offering as much as 6/1 for Ajax to qualify, while a 4-1 score-line before the match was as far as 80/1 with bookie Ladbrokes.
A Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real had won three UCL titles back-to-back coming into this season – papering over the fact that for much of the last decade they had played second fiddle to Barcelona in La Liga – but with their Portuguese talisman now plying his trade for Juventus, and with captain Sergio Ramos suspended, against a talented young Ajax side Los Blancos were dismantled.
For the club long considered the biggest in world football, their reality is now very harsh indeed.
Sitting 3rd in La Liga, 12 points behind Barcelona and five behind city rivals Atletico. Betting sites across the world including online casino New Zealand are offering as much as 100/1 for Madrid to finish top and they are staring at the prospect of what many will consider a trophyless season, something they have not suffered since 2010.
That was Ronaldo’s first season at the club, but in their first season since his departure this squad clearly needs considerable overhaul. It should be safe now to say that Solari will exit in the summer if not before, just over four months after replacing Julen Lopetegui in October.
British and American casinos are currently offering a number of free bets and promotions on who’ll be the next permanent manager at Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho is the 11/10 favourite with Bet Victor, whilst a return to the hot-seat for Zinedine Zidane is now priced at 11/4 with the same bookie. Massimiliano Allegri and Mauricio Pochettino are considered to be good value with each at around 10/1 with Bet365 to get the job.
The likes of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio have all failed to fill Ronaldo’s boots. Bale looks certain for the exit door in the summer, possibly with a return to the Premier League, while last year’s Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric is 33-years-old and surely fast approaching the end of his physical peak. Club captain Ramos also turns thirty-three before the end of this month.
Florentino Perez’s cheque book may need to be unleashed like it never has before to rebuild this side, but in the climate of today Real are not the only big spenders in Europe. Heavily bankrolled PSG and Manchester City can compete for every Galactico, meaning that the days in which Real Madrid could win every price war are long gone.
With that in mind, could their current struggles be a sign of what may be for years to come?