Real Madrid plot a 16th Champions League triumph, Mbappe would make Europe’s best even better

AP , Sunday 2 Jun 2024

Real Madrid had barely begun celebrating a record-extending 15th Champions League title when coach Carlo Ancelotti started to plot a 16th.

France s forward Kylian Mbappe takes part in a training session as part of the team s preparation for upcoming UEFA Euro 2024 European football championships in Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines. AFP

The all-time kings of Europe have no intention of releasing their grip on the trophy - and by the start of next season, the best are likely to be even better.

“In this club there is constant demand. It is never satisfied,” Ancelotti said after Saturday’s 2-0 win against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.

Madrid’s latest triumph came without a recognized striker after club icon Karim Benzema departed last year. The gap was filled by English midfielder Jude Bellingham, but by next season Ancelotti will have more fire power to call upon.

Brazil’s most exciting young talent Endrick is on his way.

But Kylian Mbappe is the player most wanted by Madrid fans after a decade-long pursuit of the man many believe to be the heir to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s greatest player.

Mbappe is leaving Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent and would be a marquee addition in the tradition of past Galacticos to wear the famous white shirt like Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo.

“If that was to happen it would be amazing (to have) a player like him,” Bellingham said Saturday.

World Cup winning forward Mbappe has the individual and match-winning qualities to compare with the game’s greatest. He is blessed with speed, balance, power and dizzying footwork. He is also a prolific goal scorer at the highest level to rival Erling Haaland and Harry Kane as Europe’s deadliest forwards.

“It’s the only little thing we’re missing in terms of that clinical (number) nine and if (Mbappe) was to come and give us that we’d be in a really, really great place. He’d take us to another level,” Bellingham said.

With Mbappe and Endrick Madrid would arguably boast the richest array of attacking options in club soccer, with Vinicius Junior already one of the finest forwards in the world - as evidenced by his match-winning performance in the final.

Vinicius’ moment of individual brilliance when putting the ball through the legs of Dortmund defender Julian Kyerson led to the corner from which Dani Carvajal opened the scoring. The Brazilian then sealed the win with Madrid’s second goal.

The creator of Vinicius’ goal was Bellingham - La Liga player of the year in his first season at Madrid.

So Ancelotti is hardly short of game-changing talent to call upon, but Madrid has seen a succession of top-class forwards depart — from Ronaldo to Gareth Bale and Benzema.

It is a credit to Ancelotti’s ability to adapt that he has kept the Spanish giant at the top against that backdrop.

“It was complicated to think that I could do that - winning in three years two Champions Leagues and two (Spanish) leagues with a team that was changing little by little,” he said.

Madrid’s continued dominance of European club soccer’s greatest prize comes at a time when Manchester City is growing in power.

Pep Guardiola led the English champion to its first European Cup last season - eliminating Madrid in the semifinals. It was supposed to herald a new period of success for City in Europe, but instead Madrid reclaimed its throne.

Its plans to strengthen a winning team are likely being made with a view to the ongoing challenge of staying ahead of City, which is backed by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and has consistently bought many of the world’s best players at great expense, including Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.

While Ancelotti’s attack will be improved, he will have to do without veteran midfielder Toni Kroos next season after the six-time Champions League winner announced his retirement.

“Something is going to happen for sure. We will be competitive lost. He is a really important player for us, but we have players that can replace him in a different way,” Ancelotti said. “If we don’t have Toni Kroos, we will adapt. We have fantastic players and resources to remain competitive.”

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