Saturday 11/28/20

Madrid hails hardest league title as marathon season ends in glory

“This is the best day of my professional career,” said coach Zinedine Zidane.
Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa.
Real Madrid's head coach Zinedine Zidane. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa.

Never has a season lasted so long, and rarely has a title triumph meant so much.

The emotional scenes at the end of Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Villarreal on Thursday spoke volumes for just how much the club wanted the 34th title it secured.

“This is the best day of my professional career,” said coach Zinedine Zidane. “The Champions League is the Champions League but La Liga is 38 games and it is so hard to win.”

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was just as emotional calling for the club’s top scorer Karim Benzema to be given the France Football Golden Ball.

“Benzema should be the Ballon d’Or,” said Madrid’s president. “I have not seen any player have as good a year as him.”

Benzema has scored 21 goals for the season and is just two behind La Liga top scorer Lionel Messi.

He has certainly led the charge for the title – the first major trophy Real have lifted since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure at the start of last season.

But defensive stability has also played a huge part in this success.

Real conceded 46 goals last season. With one game left this season they have let-in just 22.

There have been 19 clean sheets and no team has scored more than two against them.

Zamora prize

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is on course to win the Zamora prize for the fewest goals conceded in the season – no Madrid keeper has done that since Iker Casillas in 2008.

And Sergio Ramos has been excellent in front of him. He was every bit as overwhelmed on Thursday night as his coach and president.

Holding up five fingers for the five leagues that he has won he declared that he wants to stay at the club until he retires.

“I’m sure there will be no problem [with a new contract],” he said. “I want to retire at this club. I will stay for as long as the president wants me to.”

Perez indicated after the game that Ramos will indeed play out his days at the club. "He has to stay here until he retires," he said.

Thursday was always going to be a special day for Perez as it marked 20 years since he first became president of the club.

He had won five Champions Leagues in his time in charge but only four leagues.

Eden Hazard

Now Zidane has made that five and five, and he has done it without too much help from Madrid’s most expensive signing from last summer Eden Hazard.

The expensive acquisition from Chelsea has only scored once in 16 matches but with Benzema backed up by a free-scoring midfield that included 34-year-old Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro, the former Chelsea man's tough first season did not matter.

The same players will have to go again next season after Perez admitted post-Villarreal win: “There will be no big signings. The situation [post-coronavirus] is very bad and you cannot expect players to take pay-cuts and then for there to be a big signing.”

For now that will not bother Real Madrid supporters. “Unforgettable” Marca titled its front page on Friday.

That was true of the extended season, and it was true of the gritty manner in which Madrid carved out a perfect ten wins from 10 games post-lockdown to ensure they finished top of the pile.

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