In years to come, youngsters familiarising themselves with this decade will look at the Champions League Wikipedia page (or inject the information straight into their veins, or whatever the trend is in 2049), and think “wow, what a team Real Madrid must have been”.
Four Champions League titles in five years, including three in a row – at a time when no-one had won it back to back since 1990. What performances they must have produced; how inventively they must have played; what a genius their manager must have been.
The reality is somewhat different. Real Madrid may have just enjoyed the best European run of any team since their own period of dominance in the 1950s, but affection and admiration have been in short supply. In fact, as Real’s 1,011-day reign as European champions ended on Tuesday night with a humiliating home defeat against Ajax, one had to wonder: has a theoretically era-defining side ever appeared so unremarkable?
Firstly, let’s clear something up. This is not about Real Madrid being unlovable, which – although they mostly are – is a characteristic true of many great teams and individuals. To a large degree, it comes with the territory of being hugely successful, as serial winners in any sport will always spawn jealousy and resentment.