With all the drama of the Premier League’s closing weekend, and Chelsea’s “tense” and stoic win in Munich to capture the Champions League title, it’s no wonder that most of the talk in the past two weeks has been about English football. Add in the timely exit of Kenny Dalglish from Liverpool, and it would be relatively easy to forgive the casual observer for harboring an Anglo-centric view of the European soccer world as of late.
However, it’s also strange that anyone should need reminding that Real Madrid won La Liga this year with a nine-point clearance, along the way breaking records in terms of points won, goals scored, victories in a season, away goals scored, and away wins. José Mourinho’s club notched 100 points from 38 games, losing just twice—against Barcelona and Levante. In the process they scored 121 goals, with the most important two coming in a win against Barça at the Camp Nou, which virtually sealed the deal for los blancos.
Madrid also simultaneously made it to the semis of the Champions League, losing on penalties to Bayern Munich. It’s no surprise that Madrid, a club with almost unrivaled wealth and influence, did well this year. But did anyone think they would do that well? They didn’t just win the title, they dominated the league from start to finish, at home and away, in the process knocking one of the strongest teams in recent memory off its perch. In their final ten league games, they outscored their opponents 31-7, winning away against Barcelona, Bilbao, and Atlético. In other words, they took my advice and that of Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: “Always Be Closing.”
Yes, both City and Chelsea finished with dramatic, come-from-behind wins that will not soon be forgotten. But Madrid didn’t need a storybook finish because they were simply and utterly dominant. Discipline may not be as sexy as underdog resilience or soap-opera roller coasters, but Madrid’s season should be as noteworthy as any other team’s—especially since winning in La Liga is no picnic. The plain truth is that City won on goal difference and Chelsea won on penalty kicks while Madrid put together the closest thing to a complete season we may see in quite some time. Hats off to City and Chelsea, don’t get me wrong. But while high drama is entertaining, continued and consistent excellence is admirable.