Club legend Sergio Ramos encapsulates what most folks believe what Real Madrid stands for, and that is, “When you put on this shirt, you know that you’ve arrived at the very top. There is no greater honor". This post is not here to argue the definition of honor. But it does properly reflect that Real Madrid, in the heights of club football, titles, legends, and overall history, does stand on top in the world, let alone Europe and Spain.
And if we need the quickest summary to defend this, all we need to do is drop the following: In domestic competition, Real Madrid has won 66 major trophies; a record 35 La Liga titles, 19 Copa del Reys, and 12 Supercopa de España; In European football, Real Madrid have won a record 20 trophies, being a record 14 European Cups/UEFA Champions League titles, two UEFA Cups (Europa Leagues) and four UEFA Super Cups. In worldwide competitions, they have achieved a record seven Club World Championships. In short, they are the all time title champions and the standard.
But what folks often forget is the illustrious history that comes with Real Madrid. Los Merengues, known for their kit dressed in all white, was inspired by the English Corinthian FC London team. Legend has it, that Real Madrid took up their white kits after the beautiful way the London based team played.
For Real Madrid, the best way to get right into their history is splitting it by eras via the major presidents, Galacticos, and a Vultures Cohort.
Santiago Bernabeu Era
Between 1943-1978, that is dubbed as the Santiago Bernabeu era, which of course the grand stadium is named after. Major accomplishments during this time was the complete rebuild of the team and facilities after the Spanish Civil War. During this time "La Fabrica" (the Real Madrid Youth Academy) was founded, which is considered to be one of the best in the world. Six European Cups (now Champions Leagues) were won during this era. And then of course, he became the pioneer in signing the World Class Player with other world class players (the unofficial influence of the Galacticos). This happened when he was able to sign Alfredo Di Stefano. With other great notable players being Gento, Puskas, Juanito, Camacho, Molowny, Muñoz, Santamaria, Kopa, Rial, Santillana, Pirri, Amancio, y del Bosque.
Quinta del Buitre and The Best of The Fabrica
Upon the exit of the Bernabeu era, we entered what is known as the Quinta del Buitre and The Best of the Fabrica Era. The Quinta del Buitre loosely translates to the Vulture's Cohort, and that is the nickname given to Emilio Butragueño, as his cohort consisted of Manolo Sanchís, Martín Vázquez, Míchel and Miguel Pardeza. All of which were graduates of La Fabrica!
This crew although did not win what we now consider the Champions League Cup, was very successful, winning the clubs two UEFA Europa League titles, five straight La Liga titles, one spanish cup, and three Supercopas. And as the cohort started to soon come to end as the early 90s approached, let's remember this is the time club legend Fernando Hierro began to join the club.
In the early 90s, Barcelona which we know is the archest of arch rivals, followed Real Madrid's five consecutive league championships with four consecutive of their own. In 1995, Real Madrid recouped the championship, where we started to hear the rumblings of a more mature Hierro and a budding superstar in Raul. All of which were either in the bench or making their way up the youth system at that time.
So in 1998, with the up and coming Spanish stars, the signing of the great Roberto Carlos, the signing of Morientes, and a more mature Redondo, Real Madrid defeats Juventus in the final of the Champions League, after thirty-two years without lifting the European Cup/Champions League title. Then in 1999-2000, Vicente Del Bosque's first year at the helm, with now veterans of Hierro, Redondo, Roberto Carlos, and Raul plus the rise of Morientes, Guti, and the great Iker Casillas, Real Madrid wins their 8th Champions League title. That same summer, we enter the Florentino Perez/Galactico Era.
Galacticos and Florentino Perez Round One
There are many documentaries and stories that do a good job in depicting the Galactico era. Florentino Perez (first reign of presidency from 2000-2006) essentially promised Luis Figo, from BARCELONA, in exchange for the presidency. And if he failed to bring Figo, he would have renounced his victory. As history shows us, Figo was signed. And then what followed for every major summer, were Galactico signings that included Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo (Brazilian), David Beckham and Fabio Cannavaro. There was Champions League (9th at the time for the club) and an Intercontinental Cup victories in 2002. Followed by a 2003 La Liga Title. But that success was short lived, as the exit of Hierro and Makalele soon followed. Then the club will face continual underwhelming results for the following years to come, relatively speaking, as they would bolster the iconic teams of "Zidanes and Pavones": a concept that adopts superstar players like Zinedine Zidan with lower cost players who came up from the academy like Francisco Pavon.
And as signings like Michael Owen, Julio Baptista, Robinho, and Sergio Ramos took place from 2004-2006, the club attempted to catapult itself back to success. But with continued eliminations from Champions League and Cup Titles, the first reign of Florentino Perez came to an end on the 27th of February, of 2006. So, did the Galactico era.
Now before moving on to the Ramon Calderon era, depending on how you view success, this Real Madrid period from 2000-2006 is hotly debated. Florentino Perez adopted a 270M euro debt bill and old facilities. All of which, predominately through his Galactico strategy, he was able to reduce the debt bill and improve facilities. He made iconic signings headlined by Zidane and Ronaldo, which did help deliver "La Novena" (9th Champions League Title). And even towards the end of his first reign, he would solidify one of the club's most historic and best signings in Sergio Ramos. But again, everyone can't stop and ask themselves, what could have been? And what should have been? But what was, was not what we all expected.
The Short Lived Ramon Calderon Era
Ramon Calderon was elected president July 2nd of 2006. It started well as Real Madrid won La Liga title in 2007 and 2008. His polemic tenure from 2006-2009 is met with both victories, policy improvements, but ironically enough, he resigned from certain political pressures towards the end of his tenure. Which then lead to a very prosperous era, in which we are still presently in being the Second Reign of Florentino Perez's presidency.
Florentino Perez Round Two
The 1st of June of 2009 Florentino Perez was named president once again. And he hit the ground running with the Galactico strategy, signing both Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. This also coincides with having three of the most iconic managers in Jose Mourinho, Zinedine Zidane, and Carlo Ancelotti. But it was during this time where we saw the entrances and exits of the clubs largest stars inclusive of Raul, Casillas, Ronaldo, Ramos, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, and Benzema.
This current era has seen five Champions League titles (three under Zidane and two under Ancelotti), four La Liga Titles, four Supercopas, and two Copa del Reys. It has seen arguably one of the greatest players of all time in Cristiano Ronaldo, the exit of one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time in Iker Casillas, the rise and exit of one of the greatest defenders in Sergio Ramos, the exit of the Spanish legend Raul, the rise of the KCM midfield trio in Kroos, Casemiro, and Modric, and one of La Liga's greatest goal scorers and playmakers in Karim Benzema.
So, as the club's anthem says, History that was Made, History to be Made. Madrid, Madrid, Madrid, Hala Madrid.
And then of course, Y Nada Mas ...