MADRID — Replica Champions League trophies dot the outside of the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, where Real Madrid Femenino plays their big games. Each icon on the trophy sits on a plinth commemorating the year and city in which the men’s team won each of their 14 European crowns. It makes A tough walk around the perimeter As you walk into the stands, this tribute to the men’s team has been the stalwart of Europe’s premier club competition for decades.
While Real were winning their 13th Champions League trophy in May 2018, the club had no plans to form a women’s team or one, but the promotion of Madrid-based youth team CD Tacón proved to be a catalyst for Real. . The club, who will only officially play under the Real logo from the 2020-21 season, had already made efforts to invest and strengthen the squad in their final season as Taccone.
Like many teams in the top flight for the first time, their squad was split between those who could compete for silverware and those who would struggle to keep up. Even in three-and-a-half years, the personnel has changed significantly, with the notable departure of former coach David Aznar and their first marquee signing, Swedish international Kosovare Aslani. However, for a team that has only just begun to crawl at international level, Madrid are enjoying their second season in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and already look a different team to the one that made their debut last year.
There is a sense of déjà vu and destiny Las Blancas When you look at their journey through the early stages of the Champions League, they first face Manchester City in the qualifying round before being drawn in a group with Paris Saint-Germain. Last year, when they were making their European debut and struggling to find their better football under Aznar, the team were handed a less grueling draw.
Apart from PSG, who were still singing in attack, they faced Icelandic side Breiðablik and Ukrainian side Zhytlobud Kharkiv, leaving a straightforward proposition to beat teams they know they can do. Indeed they did, although their reward was a quarter-final meeting with Barcelona that was both impressive and historic, ultimately spelling the end of their adventure.
Las Blancas have been given a more difficult task in the Champions League this season, facing not only PSG again, but Chelsea as well as Albanian champions Vllaznia. With Vllaznia expected to finish last — the verdict was somewhat strengthened by their 8-0 loss against Chelsea on Wednesday — the final stages of qualifying for the knockout rounds are underway. However, PSG look more transitional than their Spanish counterparts, and with their talismanic number nine Marie-Antoinette Catoto lacking a clear and honest goal, Madrid have the chance to advance after being injured for much of the season.
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When the pair clashed for the first time this season last Wednesday, a lack of clinical finishing kept the game scoreless, but both could have claimed the three points in Madrid. But despite PSG’s lack of a clear centre-forward to go to placed balls Les ParisiennesReal were without their final boots.
Aside from the usual comings and goings from one season to the next, Las Blancas have shown great improvement under Aznar’s successor, Alberto Torril — he’s certainly not the best coach in Europe, but he understands how to set up his players. Indeed, when PSG clashed with Madrid last season, the team was still working under a coach who did not know how to prepare his team to maximize their potential; This season, things are very different.
It’s not just about their way of fitting players, but about them eventually becoming one of the most recognizable clubs in world football.
Real have the ability to lean on their name when it comes to strengthening their squad. Indeed, summer signing Caroline Weir has spoken of idolizing Zinedine Zidane when she was young, and her first kit was a real one when she was in primary school. Madrid’s squad is full of stars who supported the club when they were growing up, drawn by the prospect of playing for a team they couldn’t turn down, an intangible that enabled the club to sign so many players.
Indeed, that ability to sign some of the continent’s better players has seen them leapfrog many sides in Spain, not just rivals outside of Liga F, weakening their competition in the process. However, some signings such as Weir and the inspirational Athena del Castillo have been absurd, and Real have been guilty of trying to sign good players without having a big picture of how they fit together in mind. (If you follow the boy band, that was the issue with their long-proclaimed “Galacticos” policy.)
For example, anyone who has followed Real Sociedad over the past five years can tell you that Nahikari García was a key part of their team and has attacking potential, but in a team that has also signed Esther González, who scored 30 league goals. Goals from the previous year, the two are struggling to gel. The good news for Madridistas is that, over time, the squad has continued to take a clear shape and the signings made in the summer make sense in what Toril is trying to do. That means they take to the field with more skill as well as ability (and sass).
Unlike this time last year, Real have nothing to fear from PSG and can’t ignore their own growth in their quest for European glory, albeit in part because of what happened in Paris. So, while Las Blancas have yet to qualify for the Champions League final, their rapid rise — combined with Florentino Perez’s determination to make a women’s side as competitive as a highly successful men’s team — suggests just that. Outside of Alfredo Di Stefano, it’s only a matter of time before the women’s side have a Champions League trophy of their own.