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Even before the season began, Real Madrid were being hyped as potential treble contenders and by looking at their squad and the special man sat on the bench, it would be foolish not to believe that they had a genuine chance at ending the Barca era.
The intensity at which Real Madrid ended their 2011-2012 season was not carried forward into the new season and they immediately stumbled in the race for the La Liga title. Two losses and a draw from the first five match days was a horrible start for the team as they fell back behind rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and soon started to play catch-up from thereon.
Criticism and the “blame game” began to emerge in the Madrid camp as conspiracy theories were being published by the Spanish media, things which only added to the team’s declining moral. Most of the media criticism of Mourinho was based on his decision to bench club captain Iker Casillas; a decision which seemed quite logical given Iker’s poor performances and crucial mistakes, albeit a very upsetting decision for all Iker fans.
The Champions League told a completely different story, this year we have perhaps witnessed the most passionate and driven European campaign exhibited by Real Madrid ever since the 2002 title. By surviving the “Group of Death” and then going on to conquer Manchester as well as Galatasaray, the team was now set for a third semi final in three years.
But the title dream ended painfully with a crushing super hat trick for Lewandowski followed by a very close remontada at the Bernabeu. Real Madrid were out of the Champions League again but with heads held high after fighting for the last second against a more organized and more in-sync Dortmund side that did deserve to go to Wembley.
The league race was already lost due to the shameful start to the season, but something which perhaps softens the blow of losing the title is completely destroying the fear factor which Madrid had towards the Catalans after overpowering them in the Camp Nou and in the Bernabeu. The team showed a great spirit and fight at times, but the dressing room drama and inconsistencies in defense and attack cost Madrid too many points and the Champions League final.
Nevertheless, a great opportunity to salvage the season was presented to the team as they took on Atletico in the Copa final. However, salt was rubbed further into Madrid’s wounds as they missed chance after glorious chance and star man Cristiano was sent off, handing the title to the red and white side of Madrid.
This is a season to forget for Madrid and Mourinho after they take on different paths next season. Improvements must be made and dead weight has to be cut off. Promising canteranos such as Nacho, Morata and Jese Rodriguez should be given a promotion and a few big names must be signed. The Iker/Lopez dilemma has been a major factor in this year’s failure and a smart solution is the new manager’s first task.
For all Madridistas, next season will hopefully be the “La Decima” season.
Written by Ali Nasrallah
Follow Ali on Twitter @AliNasrallah
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