Amazing how one’s fortunes can change dramatically in just a matter of days. Sunday morning Real Madrid was at the top of the La Liga table after an exhilarating comeback against Sevilla. Seemingly playing their best team football of the season, Pellegrini’s men set their eyes on the second leg of their Champions League tie with Lyon. Facing a goal deficit should not have been a problem for the Spanish giants, especially at home, where Madrid have played their best football. It was a goal they could not overcome and Real Madrid embarrassingly crashed out the Champions League in the round of 16 for the sixth straight year. Close to two hundred and fifty million pounds spent in the off-season to reestablish themselves as a European power could not propel the Spanish giants past the first knockout stage, again.
As Miralem Pjanic’s volley rocketed past Iker Casillas, the entire city of Madrid went silent as they realized their fate. Fifteen minutes remain, but, because of the away goal rule, Madrid now needs two more goals to advance. The whistle sounded a quarter of an hour later and it was the French side, not the hosts, who were celebrating at the Bernabeu. A sight that will be repeated as one of the remaining teams will raise the Champions League trophy at Madrid’s home ground this May.
Madrid have only themselves to blame after another dreadful tournament performance this year. They produced a plethora of fine opportunities in the first half but, save Ronaldo’s sixth minute finish that was surely going to propel the home side to a spot in the quarterfinals, Real relapsed to their form of a few months ago. They were able to set up opportunities but were incapable of finishing them. Higuain, who has been Madrid’s most consistent striker throughout the year, famously missed after beating the keeper, his shot finding the near post as he attempted to double the host’s advantage; however, it was not just the Argentine who should have done better. Kaka and Ronaldo, two of Perez’s pricey summer purchases, were unable to convert promising chances.
Pjanic celebrates the goal that would see Madrid out
Losing on aggregate or by away goals, it makes no difference. Lyon plays on in Europe, Real Madrid will not. What has Perez’s investment bought the club this year? True, they are still on top of the league (but only on goal differential) but an early exit from Europe and a Copa del Rey defeat to a third tier team have certainly marred this campaign, league title or not. The sport’s section of El Pais may have said it best: "El futbol no tiene precio." Football has no price. The other Spanish media outlets had a field day with the defeat, most of which were calling for Pellegrini’s head. The problem is, and I hope that it is not the case, that at season’s end he will most likely be sacked. Real Madrid are always attempting the quick fix solution but it is not wonder the team has been trophy-less the past few years, averaging more than one manager per season. Guti highlighted Madrid’s lack of team unity as a culprit in their loss. It took a while for all the new faces at the Bernabeu to become accustomed to one another and it seemed as if the team finally was coming together; however, said harmony was not to be seen in the second half of Wednesday night’s game. Will firing Pellegrini and bringing in another high-accredited coach solve Madrid’s problems? No, they need consistency.
The 2009-2010 campaign, which was beginning to look quite promising for Real Madrid, will inevitably be considered a failure. A league title will be a nice consolation if Los Blancos can hold off Barcelona over the last thirteen games; however, they transactions and hype surrounding the Bernabeu this summer demanded something better from the capital city club. Shamed in the Copa del Rey, embarrassed in the Champions League, Los Blancos need to win La Liga to avoid one the most disgraceful seasons of football in recent history.