After beating Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal, Real Madrid are almost certainly guaranteed a spot in the final at Kiev’s Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex. Marcelo’s goal two minutes before half-time equalised after Joshua Kimmich put the Bavarian club ahead, and after the break, Marco Asensio put Real 2-1 ahead, which is how it finished.
Should they advance to the final, Real will be the clear favourites to complete a Champions League “three-peat” by beating probably Liverpool, who themselves raced to a 5-2 lead after one leg against Roma.
I cannot overstate just what a monumental achievement it would be if Real were to win their third consecutive Champions League title this season, which would also be their fourth in the last five years.
Such an accomplishment, in my opinion, would make the current Real Madrid side the greatest club team in the history of football, for this level of excellence and dominance has not been seen since Real’s team of 1956-60, featuring legendary names such as Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo Di Stefano, and Francisco Gento.
Although that team won five European titles in succession, if Real were to win it all this season, I would rank the current Real squad above the team of six decades ago because the current group would have done it in an era in which sustained success at this level is far more difficult.
Another Champions League title would also see them move ahead of other legendary teams, such as the 1970s Bayern and Ajax sides, the Liverpool team of 1977-85, the AC Milan teams of 1988-94 and 2003-07, the Real Madrid team of 1998-2003, and the Barcelona team of 2009-15.
Every single one of those teams won the European Cup or Champions League multiple times, and all were led by some of the greatest footballers of all time, much like the current Real squad.
However, once again, changes in format, as well as the sheer level of dominance shown by Real Madrid right now, mean that these would pale in comparison to Real’s achievements over the last five years, should they win the title this season.
It wasn’t until the 1997-98 season that non-champions from stronger leagues were allowed to participate. Prior to this, only league champions were part of the tournament, and this led to teams from extremely weak leagues taking part, rather than the teams that were truly the best in Europe.
Furthermore, the Champions League did not expand to 32 teams until the 1999-2000 season. Thus, that was the first season that could truly be said to be the first of the modern Champions League era.
This, therefore, would put Real ahead of all the pre-2000 teams mentioned because of the degree of difficulty involved.
When comparing Real’s achievements to those of their more recent counterparts, they still outshine the likes of the mid-2000s Milan side or the early 2010s Barca side.
The mid-2000s Milan team, though they won two Champions Leagues and reached the semi-finals every year but over a five-year stretch, struggled domestically, surprisingly winning only one Serie A title despite boasting legends such as Andriy Shevchenko, Rivaldo, Alessandro Nesta, Kaka, and Andrea Pirlo.
Although the Barca team, featuring greats like Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Carles Puyol, and Xavi, did win the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey, and Champions League in 2009 and 2015, they never won consecutive Champions League titles let alone three in a row or four in five years.
At the moment, when it comes to ranking the greatest club teams ever, I have that Barca squad and Real’s current crop as being tied for the greatest of all time.
However, Real Madrid are now standing on the brink of football immortality.
By winning the Champions League this season, they would put clear daylight between themselves and that legendary Barcelona team, as well as every other great club team there has ever been.
Even those who do not support, or even hate Real Madrid, have to admit the following: we are witnessing one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports.
It is certainly possible that if Real Madrid win their third straight Champions League title this season, the feat will not be repeated for at least another 50 years.
Eu Weijun works at FMT.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.