One of the biggest clichés in sports journalism is ‘Wanting it More’. No teams plays in the Champions League final and wants it less than their opponent. But a matter of need and perception? We have a difference there, and although this might turn out to be Altetico Madrid’s first ever title in the competition, winning the Decima seems to mean so much more to Real Madrid.
This season, regardless of the result on Saturday night at the Estadio da Luz, is a historic one for Atletico Madrid. Not that this club hasn’t won championships before, but the difference between the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly and the rest of the league, including Atletico Madrid, has never been greater: Around five times or more in terms of budget. Those odds aren’t beatable on a normal basis.
So after nine consecutive seasons of either Barcelona or Real Madrid winning the titles, we have a different La Liga champion. Without buying anyone too outrageous in terms of spending, but with team cohesion, the right tactics and a combative spirit from Diego Simeone that has made Atletico Madrid close to unbeatable in big matches, and with the discipline on defense that seems to have been their greatest strength this season.
This has been a weird season for Real Madrid. Finishing third in the La Liga, but so far no one has cried out for Ancelotti to resign. Usually, not winning anything doesn’t sit well with Real Madrid fans. But there was that Copa Del Rey against Barcelona in the final that elevated Gareth Bale to superstar status, and there’s La Decima. The chance to finally win that 10th title after 12 years of waiting, without even making the final.
Maybe if Real Madrid lose in Lisbon we’ll see a different reaction. Suddenly, the spin and outlook on this season looks different. Ancelotti won’t seem like such a great manager anymore. Cristiano Ronaldo will be criticized for some of his performances in big matches, and someone will remember that Real Madrid have won only one league title in six seasons, something that hasn’t happened since the early 1990’s with the 1995 title coming after four straight from Barcelona and another one in 1996 by Atletico.
Diego Simeone isn’t going to feel any sort of criticism if the title doesn’t come. He’ll be just as revered for championing this club into heights they’ve forgotten about, generating emotion and sights we haven’t seen in years on the usually less successful side of Madrid. Real Madrid? This is everything to them, and the image of an entire season hinges on whether or not they beat Alteitoc Madrid in the final and win a 10th Champions League – European Cup trophy.