Set to mark the 122nd anniversary in March 2024 of their existence, Real Madrid CF continues to set the standard for excellence in sports. So what makes the club “royalty” in the world of not only football but all of sports?
You were already destined for greatness when one of your founders, Adolfo Meléndez, served as a scientist for the Spanish military. A mining engineer and early pioneer of soccer to Spain, Julián Palacios, became the club’s first president and captain on 6 March, 1902.
As if the creation story of Real Madrid CF was not enough of a “tell-tale” to forecast the club’s greatness, King Alfonso XIII of Spain honoured the club with the title, “Real.” The honorary title means, “royal,” making Real Madrid one of Spain’s first teams of royalty.
Real Madrid’s first of over 100 trophies would come just three years after their founding, defeating Athletic Bilbao for the Spanish Cup, now better known as the Copa del Rey. The tournament was created in honour of the coronation of King Alfonso XIII. Along with four other teams, Real Madrid helped set up this tournament, which would serve to crown Spain’s national champion for the next 25 years. Third all-time on this list, Real Madrid has won the championship 20 times along with earning the most runner-up spots with 20.
In 1929 (27 years after their inception), Real Madrid was one of the three founding members of LaLiga, to which they still belong. In the near-95 years as league members, Real Madrid has never been relegated to Spain’s lower leagues. Though they were not the league’s inaugural champions, Real Madrid has won more league championships (35) than any other club.
Losing the “Real”
The 1930s were a time of turmoil for Spain off the pitch. A dissolving of the monarch and removal of King Alfonso XIII saw the Second Spanish Republic, led by General Franco. As finally Spanish Civil War came to an end, Santiago Bernabéu would become Real Madrid’s 11th president.
During his 35-year tenure, Bernabéu, a former Real Madrid player himself, became one of the most influential presidents in organized football history. His restructuring of operations at all levels is still the base model for clubs to this day. Estadio Real Madrid Club de Fútbol was constructed under the direction of Bernabeu and later became named in his honour. The stadium today has a capacity of 85,500.
With two championships headed into the 1950s, Real Madrid would begin a run of success still seen today. After winning four championships in the 50s, Madrid would dominate the next couple of decades amassing 19 championships over the next 30 seasons. Many of those 1950s and 60s seasons were dominated by Alfredo Di Stéfano.
Already with 10 years of experience under his belt, the then-27-year-old Di Stéfano made his debut against Racing de Santander scoring in his debut in September 1953. Di Stéfano was responsible for helping lead his team to 18 championships, including eight La Liga titles within 10 years.
In addition to his 216 goals in 282 Madrid appearances, Di Stéfano is also a two-time Ballon d’Or winner (1957, 1959) he also earned the Super Ballon d’Or in 1989. This award has only been given out once and went to the player of the previous three decades.
The Age of CR7
Arguably the most popular name placed on the back of a Real Madrid jersey would sign with the organization on 11 June, 2009. Cristiano Ronaldo would go on to world fame becoming the club’s all-time goal scorer with 450 goals in all competitions. Initially, Ronaldo was given jersey number nine on his debut due to the legendary Raúl still with the club in the number sven.
After the captain Raúl retired the following season, Ronaldo would take on the number seven shirt. Paving the way for future Madrid superstars like Ronaldo, Raúl how worn the Real Madrid patch more than any other player in history with 751 appearances. In addition to wearing the captain’s band for seven seasons, Raúl also was named to FIFA’s list of top 100 living players in 2004.
Joining the club for his eighth professional season of football, Ronaldo would go on to continue to build his name, becoming a world icon. Amazingly, Ronaldo is the historic club’s all-time goal scorer but does not appear on the list of top-10 in appearances. With many of his club records goal-based, the Portuguese superstar leads the way with 113 international goals and six FIFA Club World Cup goals, tied with Gareth Bale.
Ronaldo was a staple at the top of LaLiga, netting 34 hat tricks, with the next closest scoring 11 less. Along with two LaLiga and three FIFA Club Word Cup titles during his Real Madrid run, “CR7” would also collect four Ballon d’Or awards while in the Real Madrid shirt.
On 17 October, 2015, Ronaldo would become the club’s all-time goal scorer with a goal in the 30th minute against Levante. Ronaldo’s farewell tour would come in the form of a 2017/2018 UEFA Champion Leagues crown, making him the first player to reach five titles. The last time we would see CR7 grace the Real Madrid shirt was a 3-1 victory over Liverpool on May 26, 2018, to capture the UEFA title. Since then, Real Madrid has continued to sit at the top of the world, constantly adding new talent.
Currently leading LaLiga with 58 points, Real Madrid is being led by a new crop of faces post-Ronaldo including Vini Jr and the young British phenom Jude Bellingham. In the hands of the 20-year-old Bellingham, the club looks to continue its dominance into its 100 years of existence.
The Englishman looks to become the greatest footballer of the next generation with talents like Kylian Mbappè and Manchester City’s Erling Haaland. Joining the Birmingham City reserve and youth team at only the age of seven, Bellingham has shown to be a once-in-a-generation talent. This past summer of 2023, the midfielder signed a six-year contract with Borussia Dortmund receiving 103 million Euros (almost 112 million USD). For Real Madrid, this looks to be a priceless acquisition. In his debut season, Bellingham is the club’s leading goalscorer this season.
To this day, the dominance of Real Madrid remains on full display. They are the only football club across Europe’s big five leagues to win 100 trophies. In a report released at the end of January 2024, Real Madrid’s profit increase was 831.4 million euros (about USD 905 million) for the 2022/23 campaign.
The current value for the organization is now an astounding 6.07 billion USD, according to Forbes in May 2023. Real Madrid has never taken a back seat in the world of football, and this bright future shows for several more decades of success.