Madrid season review: Benzema & Ancelotti take double winners close to perfection

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Madrid won both La Liga and the Champions League thanks to a mix of Ballon d’Or-winning brilliance, clever coaching and remarkable resilience

From start to finish, it was a season to treasure for everyone connected to Real Madrid.

The Blancos ran out comfortable Liga winners as rivals Barcelona struggled, finishing no fewer than 13 points clear of the Catalans while losing just four games all season.

But Carlo Ancelotti’s men saved their best for the Champions League.

On several occasions their European campaign looked doomed, as they had to come back from a losing position against both Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

On the brink of elimination the club appealed to their impeccable record in the competition and one Karim Benzema, who came to the rescue with key goals just when Madrid needed them.

That set up their crowning moment in the Stade de France, where Vinicius Junior capped his best season yet in Madrid colors with the winner to down Liverpool and bring number 14 to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

It may not have been the most dominant of all those glittering campaigns but for sheer thrilling excitement and never-say-die spirit, Madrid’s 2021-22 crown will go down in club history as one of their very best.

Player of the Season:

There is little room for discussion here.

As mentioned above, Vinicius finally followed through on his undoubted potential with a year to remember, culminating in his Paris heroics, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois pulled off an immense performance to frustrate Liverpool throughout.

But Benzema was ultimately head and shoulders above the rest.

The France star contributed 27 goals to Madrid’s winning Liga campaign and another 15 in the Champions League to finish as top scorer in both competitions.

Perhaps more important still, though, was the timing of his strikes.

Ten of his European goals came in the knockout phase, including hat-tricks against both PSG and Chelsea.

Without that 17-minute blitz against Kylian Mbappe & Co. in the Bernabeu Madrid’s quest would have ended back in March, while he also came up with the winners against the Blues and Manchester City to keep his side on track for glory.

At 34, Benzema just seems to get better and better and not only was he Madrid’s best player, he should also finish the year with his first-ever Ballon d’Or gong as the world best in 2022, too.

Goal of the Season:

Benzema hit an incredible 44 goals in 46 matches in all competitions over the season, while Madrid in general also had plenty of cracking efforts to choose from.

The Frenchman’s first strike against Chelsea, may well have been the pick of the bunch.

Madrid took their time in building up towards the net with a string of passes around the halfway line, before a neat interchange between Benzema and Vinicius sent the Brazilian streaking down the left in a combination that was a hallmark of their fruitful partnership across 2021-22 .

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Karim Benzema Real Madrid Chelsea Champions League 2021-22 GFX

Getty / GOAL

Vinicius still had plenty to do when he reached the Chelsea box, but his cross was timed perfectly to find Benzema who had continued his charge from the middle of the park, and the striker’s header flew into the net to give his side the advantage.

That goal set in motion a vintage Madrid display and ultimately their passage into the Champions League semi-finals, a sterling collective effort finished off by their towering forward.

Performance of the Season:

Picking Madrid’s best display over the last season is no easy task.

Ancelotti’s charges came up big when they needed to, always able to find top gear for 10, 20 or 30 minutes in the most important games to ensure they would stay on course.

For total dominance on the biggest stage across the course of a game, though, their quarter-final demolition of Chelsea takes some beating.

The reigning European champions fell 3-1 behind in front of their own fans and were thoroughly outplayed, leaving them with one foot out of the competition due to another scintillating display from Benzema, who netted twice, and his team-mates.

Disappointment of the Season:

There was not much to find fault with at Madrid.

The Gareth Bale debacle, which reached its lowest point when a Madrid newspaper labeled him a parasite when he declared himself fit to report to Wales duty, did not exactly cover the club in glory, and yet the forward still signed off with his fifth Champions League winner’s medal at the end of his final season at the Bernabeu.

Only Barcelona cast the slightest of clouds over the Spanish capital with their 4-0 humiliation of their rivals in March’s Clasico.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Toni Kroos Barcelona Real Madrid 2021-22 GFX

Getty / GOAL

The game did little to divert Madrid from their successful Liga challenge but still stung the club’s pride.

However, what followed next – five straight league wins to clinch the title and that fantastic European run – suggests that Barca’s win only pushed the Merengue on to redouble their efforts in the final stretch of the season.

The Verdict:

Perfection is impossible to attain in football, but Madrid’s 2021-22 came mighty close.

For the trophies won, the individual brilliance of the likes of Benzema, Courtois and the evergreen Luka Modric and the manner of their gripping Champions League campaign, Blancos fans were treated to a festival of sporting brilliance that may never again be repeated, and both at home and in Europe the giants proved the worthiest of champions.

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