The drama in the La Liga title race has long weakened, but now it’s official: Real Madrid are kings of Spain once again.
For a record 35th time, Real Madrid have won the La Liga championship, clinching the title with four games remaining following Saturday’s 4–0 win against Espanyol at the Bernabéu. With last season’s champions Atlético Madrid stumbling more often than usual and in a fight for a top four finish and Barcelona still recovering from the financial crisis that caused the club to lose Lionel Messi to PSG, Real have bounced back to the top.
The title was the club’s second in three seasons and ensured the trophy remained in the Spanish capital after two consecutive years with Barcelona from 2018 to ’19. It was achieved due, in large part, to Karim Benzema’s forward play. The 34-year-old Frenchman has aged remarkably, leading La Liga with 25 goals (he would break Messi’s record of five domestic titles in a row) and scoring 41 goals in 41 games in all competitions this season.
His heroics in the Champions League have been extraordinary, with his 14 goals – six of which came from back-to-back hat-tricks vs. PSG and Chelsea—leading the competition. Real Madrid still have hope of adding to their record number of European trophies (13 titles) but must overcome a 4-3 aggregate deficit to Manchester City in Madrid on Wednesday following their outrageous semi-final first leg in England last week.
But Madrid’s rise under Carlo Ancelotti was more than just Benzema. Vinicius Junior’s breakthrough campaign has greatly helped the attack, with the dynamic 21-year-old Brazilian second at the club with 14 goals in league play. Ancelotti himself has made a new breakthrough with this title. In his second stint with Madrid, this was his first La Liga title, and now he has won him as manager in all of Europe’s “top five leagues”, having won the Premier League (Chelsea), Serie A (AC Milan), Ligue 1 (PSG) and the Bundesliga. (Bayern Munich) title at his previous training stop.
This season has not been without a few hiccups. Of the three league defeats, one was an embarrassing 4-0 home loss to Barcelona in the March edition of El Clásico (a game Benzema missed). Madrid also recovered from the Copa del Rey in the quarter-finals, being eliminated by Athletic Bilbao with a 1-0 result. And while at the top of the Champions League final, his European campaign has been a bit uneven. There was a famous Champions League group stage home defeat to Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova in September, and they have lost three of their five knockout stage matches en route to the semi-final second leg.
Nevertheless, it’s a title-winning season at home, in Saudi Arabia (where Madrid beat Barcelona in extra time in the semifinals and then beat Athletic Bilbao in the final for the Spanish Super Cup) and it could also be in Paris, if Ancelotti’s team can beat Pep. Guardiola at the Bernabéu midweek to return to the Champions League final. And looking forward, there may be more to take from Paris as well. Despite PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino’s comments this week that he and Kylian Mbappe will remain in the French capital next season, the star forward has made no secret of his desire to play for Real Madrid, and all signs have pointed to his signing there on a free transfer this summer. Mbappe’s contract with PSG expires after this season.
As for the other big decisions the club will face, Croatian Luka Modri is reportedly close to another year on his contract to stay on, while Gareth Bale, Isco and Marcelo also have contracts expiring. Bale is set to leave the club (the Washington Post recently reported on exploratory talks with D.C.
Whatever the form of this summer’s squad, one thing is certain: It will start next season in Spain with a league title to defend.