Real Madrid and the blueprint for European success
Real Madrid’s Coach Carlo Ancelotti has won the Champions League for five times
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Real Madrid and the blueprint for European success

Football aficionados anticipated that Real Madrid were favourites to win the UEFA Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium last Saturday. 

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The German side had defied the odds to reach the final, just as Madrid managed to progress in dramatic fashion against strong opposition from Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

As is their character, Carlo Ancelotti's men still managed to grind out a 2-0 victory despite being outmuscled in many duels and run ragged by a tactical Dortmund side.

Clinical second-half strikes by Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Jr. ensured that Los Blancos won a record-extending 15th Champions League title in one of football's most hallowed arenas.

For followers of football, Madrid's dominance should not come as a surprise because they have mastered how to win the world's most prized club competition. 

Winning Europe's biggest competition is in their DNA, and they have developed a blueprint for winning the Champions League, backed by a strong appetite for continental success without taking their eye off the Spanish La Liga title.

As the most lucrative club competition, excelling in the Champions League has more than sporting significance for participating clubs. 

It is a project Madrid have mastered, and for their victory last Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti's team will earn $92 million (€85.14 million), which could rise to $150 million, thanks to UEFA’s generous reward system that favours consistently successful teams and includes their share of broadcast revenues from the competition.

This year, UEFA is sharing prize money of $2.2 billion (€2.032 billion) among all 32 participating teams, with the European football body distributing 55% of this amount ($1.2 billion) based on team performance. 

Each of the 32 clubs that qualify for the group stage receives a group stage allocation of €15.64 million, and each team will be paid €2.8 million per win. In Madrid’s case, for winning all six matches, it is another €16.8 million.

Qualification for the round of 16 earns €9.6 million, the quarter-finals €10.6 million, the semi-finals €12.5 million, and the final €15.5 million per club. 

The Champions League winners also receive an additional €4.5 million.

There is an additional 30%, roughly $650 million, that is allocated based on UEFA club coefficient rankings, based on the clubs’ results over the past five seasons in UEFA competitions, including the Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Europa Conference League.

For European clubs, and in the particular case of Madrid, there are very strong financial reasons to excel in the Champions League even when their pride is hurt by losing the domestic league.

Los Blancos have been a dominant force in the Champions League since the inception of the tournament as the European Cup in 1955. 

In fact, Real Madrid remain the only team to win five consecutive editions of the European Cup, having won it between 1955 and 1960.

They have now claimed six Champions League titles in the last 10 years—only three other clubs (AC Milan, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool) can claim to have won as many European Cups in their entire history. This is what sporting dominance looks like.

Football and sport in general derive their excitement and passionate following from the thrill of competition and the uncertainty of results. 

For neutrals, football has an extra layer of excitement when underdogs break the hegemony of teams with a stranglehold on competitions, such as Bayer Leverkusen's amazing title run which ended Bayern Munich's 11-year hold on the German Bundesliga.

However, for Europe's other elite clubs, Madrid's record looks ever more difficult to match, let alone break, given their strategic approach to the Champions League backed by strong financial muscle.

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Madrid's dominance can be traced to strong leadership over the years, and the club's president Florentino Pérez provides the direction that makes them very competitive year in and year out. 

The European champions' identity and competitiveness are deeply rooted in a rich history and culture, with the club's ethos of "winning at all costs" as the driving force that permeates every level of the organization. 

It is a mentality that is well-ingrained in players at all levels of the club's structure and has fostered a competitive spirit from their age-group sides to the senior team.

Throughout its history, the Spanish giants have attracted some of the finest talents to ever kick the globular leather, from iconic names like Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskás, and Santiago Bernabéu (after whom the club's ultra-modern stadium is named) to modern-day football gods like Brazilian Ronaldo, Luís Figo, Raúl González, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

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However, their dominance over the last decade has been attributed to the visionary leadership of Pérez.

Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, has been instrumental in shaping the club's modern era. His tenure has seen the club lift the Champions League trophy six times under his leadership.

Florentino's approach to building a successful team has evolved significantly over the years. 

Initially known for his "Galácticos" strategy, which involved signing high-profile superstars like Luís Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and David Beckham, Pérez shifted gears after returning to the presidency in 2009.

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Florentino's vision of dominance extended beyond mere star signings. He has a deep understanding of the importance of a sustainable model that balances big-name acquisitions with nurturing young talent at the club's academy who become an integral part of the team. 

This model existed during the famous 'Galácticos' era when the club assembled the finest talents, such as Ronaldo of Brazil, Figo, Gallic genius Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, among others, who enjoyed a period of dominance.

Even when the club acquired a marquee star like Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for a world-record fee in 2009, there were investments in younger talents, including French striker Karim Benzema and Brazilian defender Marcelo, who became integral parts of the team and extended their European dominance over the last decade.

In recent years, players like Carvajal, Nacho, Lucas Vázquez, and Joselu have all emerged from the youth team to become key members of the title-winning side.

Recent strategic signings like Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo, both acquired as teenagers, point to smart succession planning by Real as they make room for the exit of iconic stars like Ronaldo and Benzema, two of their most successful stars of the last decade.

The expensive acquisition of English youngster Jude Bellingham, the club's star player of the season, and French forward Kylian Mbappe, points to the club's determination to strengthen the playing body for extended dominance.

Intricately linked to assembling the best players on earth is the club's strategy of employing the best coaches to effectively hone their talents to achieve success. 

With strong financial muscle and an enviable heritage, Madrid is the dream destination for the world's best tacticians, including the likes of José Mourinho, Zidane, and Ancelotti. 

Even though controversial Portuguese Mourinho failed to lead the club to Champions League success, handing the club to Zidane without a solid track record in coaching proved a masterstroke as the Frenchman led the club to historic back-to-back Champions League success three years running until the experienced Italian tactician Ancelotti took over two years ago.

Ancelotti certainly is a master of the game and knows how to win big trophies, having previously guided AC Milan to two Champions League titles, as well as a FIFA Club World Cup title.

Former Nigeria coach José Peseiro hailed Ancelotti’s impact on Madrid, extolling his player management skills as a key ingredient in the successes he has chalked up as a coach.

“It’s not about having the best squad but how they manage it. The mystique and order in the team, along with a fantastic game plan, make all the difference. Ancelotti builds teams to win; he has the motivation, responsibility, and qualities of a great coach.”

“Teams don’t win just because they have great coaches or players. They win because they have a strong investment system and a structure that motivates and gives credibility,” he added.

Madrid and European success have always been intrinsically connected. There is concern that the acquisition of Mbappe points to rebuilding for a long reign, especially as the club's best players are all in their prime, and last Saturday's victory in London could well signal the start of another decade of continental dominance by the Spanish giants.

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