August of 2010 was the start of the Jose Mourinho era at Real Madrid with the arrival of ‘The Special One” bringing as much fanfare and controversy as was to be expected. It also brought a trophy, albeit the least desirable of the three competitions in which Madrid competed. One of the biggest questions moving towards the summer will be if Mourinho will continue for another season or will the Portuguese manager, either on his own accord or via sacking, seek employment elsewhere? Looking back at the 2010-2011 campaign it certainly has been one of intrigue with many positive notes but in the end Madrid have been left to look up to the current kings of Spain, FC Barcelona.
The Good: It was not a trophy-less season. Madrid supporters were able to gather in the streets to celebrate their team once again. The most successful team across the globe in the 20th century, a three year trophy drought seems almost unfathomable. It happened and it took the tactics of their stoic manager to help lead Madrid to a nail biting extra time victory over the infamous Barcelona at the Mestalla. What does it mean in terms of Madrid’s goals set forth last summer? By no means is the Copa del Rey trophy the only silverware the Madrid brass wanted to flaunt around the capital; however, it is a trophy nonetheless and, as Jorge Valdano said, ‘it has put the taste in our mouth. We are now hungry for more.”
The Bad: It actually is tough to break down what is worse: losing a third straight league title or a semi-final Champions League defeat at the hands of Barcelona. I will argue the latter only because if the outcome next Saturday favours the English champions then it will just be tournament defeat. True, neither easy nor desirable, especially at the expense of seeing their most hated rivals onto the finals; Madrid also had their best run in Europe in seven years this past campaign. Granted for a club like Madrid anything except a Championship is considered a failure but Los Blancos’ snapped a six year run of failing to make it past the first knockout stage. A 2-0 first leg loss at home dampened their hopes of a final but entering Camp Nou Madrid still had, albeit a long shot, a chance. To Valdano’s aforementioned point, Madrid got a taste of success in Europe for the first time since the original Galacticos.
The Ugly: Barcelona wrapped up their third straight domestic title last week with a dour draw; however, it was tough to see complaints on the Catalan faces. Spain has always been Madrid’s team, and it will still take years of success for Barcelona to make an argument for them historically. That being said, few would argue that this Barcelona is the best team in the world, if not one of the best sides of all time. They have dominated both in Europe and domestically. Their third consecutive La Liga title just further emphasizes that they are the team to beat in Spain, no matter who dons the famed white shirt.
So take from it what you like. The trophy in the Copa del Rey final at the expense of Barcelona was Los Blancos’ first trophy in a very long three years (and their first domestic cup since 1993); however, Barcelona, yet again, were crowned champions of Spain. How much will Barcelona’s performance in the Champions League final next week play into the view of Madrid’s season? Surely it will not be forgotten that the Catalans beat Madrid en route to Wembley but a Manchester United victory on May 28 would prevent a Barcelona double and thus not trumping Madrid’s season as much. Cynical? Maybe a tad but it wouldn’t be a rivalry otherwise.
We will circle back after that famous 2009 Champions League final rematch to comment on how the outcome has affected the sentiments around the Spanish capital. On a different note, we will take the time to reflect back at Madrid’s season from an individual perspective, while looking forward to what the summer transfer window may hold for the nine-time European Champions.
Follow ESPNsoccernet's Football Correspondents on Twitter