On the 96th minute, the on-field official, Hernandez Hernandez, blew his whistle for the last time.
The eerily vacant Alfredo di Stefano stadium echoed the hurrahs of Zinedine Zidane’s men, of Real Madrid — the newly-crowned champions of La Liga.
In the final weeks of the disastrous 2018-19 campaign, no one, not even the most ardent Real Madrid supporters would have predicted this outcome.
No one would’ve imagined that Los Blancos would lift their 34th La Liga title on the death anniversary of the great Miguel Munoz — the greatest manager in the history of the club.
Zinedine Zidane, who terminated his sabbatical and rushed back to save his beloved Madrid, knew how difficult it was going to be.
Yet, he never trembled, never took a step back. He just asked his players to give their all until the fat lady sang, and took it upon himself to go up against the defending champions, Barcelona.
His last La Liga triumph — in 2016-17 — was built on explosive performances. With Cristiano Ronaldo at his disposal, the Frenchman didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. He only needed to trust the abundance of attacking talents at his disposal and rotate the players, as needed.
This season, he didn’t have the luxury of falling back upon the services of a goal machine. He needed to find a way to make the most out of the players he had.
Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic were brought in to add a new dimension to Real Madrid’s struggling attack. Unfortunately, however, both ended up missing almost all the crucial ties of the season and added a combined total of three goals to Real Madrid’s tally.
Yet, despite the odds, Zidane and his Real Madrid have come out on top, and comfortably so.
The three-peat Champions League winning manager produced a tactical masterclass to turn Real Madrid into the meanest defence in Europe. But that alone wouldn’t have been enough to beat Quique Setien’s Barcelona to the punch.
Zinedine Zidane, despite his qualities, wouldn’t have managed to pull off this “miracle” if he didn’t have gargantuan on-field leaders at his disposal.
The unabashed warrior, captain of Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos, once again played a crucial role in making his team-mates believe in the cause again.
Thibaut Courtois, who was bashed left and right in his debut campaign, led by example, proving that a massive turnaround was indeed possible.
Luka Modric, in the middle of the pitch, defied biology to produce an unmatched string of performances, post-pandemic.
And finally, Karim Benzema silenced his and Real Madrid’s critics once and for all, proving that the capital club of Madrid was never going to be eclipsed by a single player; everyone is replaceable, even the greatest.
In 2011-12, when Jose Mourinho led Real Madrid to a famous triumph against Barcelona, Madridistas were treated to scintillating counter-attacking football.
In 2016-17, Zidane tapped into Los Merengues’ attacking prowess to snatch the league. Yet, both triumphs — Real Madrid’s only two league successes over the last decade — look a little pale in comparison to this season’s heroics.
Yes, Real Madrid couldn’t manage to rack up goals as they have throughout history. Yes, they weren’t as flamboyant as their reputation demands. But when push came to shove, the squad of 2019-20 shone brighter than the other two ever did.
From barely securing Champions League football to sealing the league with a game in hand — Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid has defined perseverance and efficiency in the boldest possible way, etching their name in history.
Real Madrid, the champions of Spain, will play their final match of the league campaign against Alaves on Sunday night. After that, they’d turn their attention to the Champions League Round of 16, where they need to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Manchester City.
The odds are once again firmly stacked up against Zidane’s men. Yet, given Los Vikingos’ recent displays, would Pep Guardiola dare to rest on his laurels? Should anyone?