June 23, 2024

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Champions: Why a Real Madrid or Borussia Dortmund win defies the odds

Champions: Why a Real Madrid or Borussia Dortmund win defies the odds

Real Madrid seeks to extend its record by winning the 15th European Champions Cup.

Borussia Dortmund wants to deliver one of the biggest surprises in football in recent times.

Whoever wins the Champions League final on Saturday will defy the odds in their own way.

Real Madrid’s dominance of the most important cup at the European club level confuses beliefs. Their record of 14 titles is double that of their nearest rival, Milan.

Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti says: “The club has shaped its history in this competition.”

Real Madrid’s record in the Champions League era is even more impressive: eight wins since the tournament changed its name in 1992; Three in a row between 2016 and 2018 and five in the past ten years. In the same period, Real Madrid won the league only four times.

Real Madrid have also reached the semi-finals in 12 of the last 14 European seasons.

“It is something special for the club, for all Real Madrid fans, and for us Real Madrid fans as well. It is a tournament in which we are more focused,” says Ancelotti, who as a coach can win the Champions League for a record fifth time.

In theory, teams should not have such superior dominance in a competition involving the biggest and richest clubs in the world. Even the top teams of recent times like Barcelona under Pep Guardiola or Manchester United under Alex Ferguson (both of whom have reached the final repeatedly) have not come close to the kind of supremacy achieved by Real Madrid in the Champions League. Even in the face of competition from state-backed teams such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, the king of Europe absolutely refuses to be ousted.

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That’s why this final is so interesting.

It is a clash between the old money, the magic of Madrid and the intelligent style of a Dortmund team that has found an alternative way to compete with the great powers of Europe.

There is no better example of the contrast between the two rivals than Jude Bellingham, who moved from Dortmund to Madrid last year in a deal worth up to $139 million.

Bellingham could well be the match-winner, having helped Real Madrid win the Spanish title in an impressive debut season.

However, in his absence, Dortmund are on the verge of adding a third final to their only Champions League title in 1997.

Selling players like Bellingham is part of the German club’s strategy to buy emerging talent and then cash in on them.

A year ago, Erling Haaland was sold to Manchester City. The list of stars who have passed through the club includes Jadon Sancho, Christian Pulisic, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele and Robert Lewandowski.

Not that Dortmund is a fairy tale in the strictest sense. Forbes magazine ranked it as the 12th most valuable soccer team in the world in its latest rich list. But it represents a different way of competing at the top.

Dortmund’s willingness to give opportunities to young players before selling them to bigger clubs has made them an attractive option for players like Haaland and Bellingham, who were targets of Manchester United before choosing to develop their careers in Germany.

“I was at Dortmund for three years and took a path that was a bit unknown to players in England,” Bellingham said. “But I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in European football. Maybe they wouldn’t be accessible in England.”

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