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Jul 5, 2012

A brief history of Real Madrid

Formed: 1902
European Cup/Champions League: 1955-56, 1956-57, 1957-58, 1958-59
1959-60, 1965-66, 1997-98, 1999-2000, 2001-02
UEFA Cup: 1984-85, 1985-86
UEFA Super Cup: 2002
La Liga: 31
Copa del Rey:18
Copa de La Liga: 1
Supercopa de Espana: 8

Real Madrid are indelibly associated with the European Cup. They have won the trophy a record nine times, including victory in each of the competition's first five seasons, while their total of 31 La Ligas is also unmatched. In 2000, Fifa voted them as the most successful club of the 20th century.

The club was founded in 1902 as an offshoot of Club Espanol de Madrid. They were called Madrid FC, and won their first trophy, the Spanish Cup, in 1905 - before adding three more in the next three seasons. In 1920 the name of the club was changed to Real Madrid after King Alfonso XIII gave them the title of Real (Royal). Later Real would become known as the 'regime team' when they received considerable support from General Franco.

Before that they claimed their first La Liga in 1932, and retained it the following season, but although they had won more than half of their Copa del Reys by 1947, there were no more championships until the Fifties.

That was in the decade in which Real became one of the game's superpowers. A team built around the astonishing forward partnership of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano won the first five European Cups between 1956 and 1960, when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in an almost mythical final at Hampden Park. Puskas and Di Stefano shared all seven goals.

Real also won four titles in five years from 1954 to 1958, and then a record five in a row (and eight in nine years) in the Sixties. The one year in which they missed out on La Liga, 1966, they won a sixth European Cup instead. They also won the Copa del Rey in 1962 as part of the club's first Double.

They added two more doubles in 1976 and 1980, a year in which they won their fifth La Liga in six seasons. Real also lost in the final of the Cup Winners' Cup - a tournament they would never win - in 1971 and 1983, as well as in the European Cup final of 1981. They did, however, win back-to-back UEFA Cups in 1985 and 1986.

The fact Real were competing in the UEFA Cup was a reflection of a relative lack of success in La Liga, but they ended six years without a title in 1986 and then equalled their own record by winning five in a row. The team included a number of home-grown stars - Emilio Butragueno, Michel, Manuel Sanchis and Martin Vazquez - as well as the spectacular and prolific Mexican striker Hugo Sanchez. In 1989, under the management of the Welshman John Toshack, Real scored a La Liga record 107 goals.

Real were an often dowdy presence for much of the Nineties, watching on as Barcelona's Dream Team wowed observers. They won the Copa del Rey in 1993 - their last to date - and La Liga in 1995 and 1997, the latter under Fabio Capello.

The emergence of a teenage Raul, who would go on to play more games and score more goals for Real than anyone else, ushered them towards a near era; in 1998 they finally ended a 31-year wait for Europe's premier competition by winning the Champions League with a surprise 1-0 victory over Juventus in the final. Yet Real had finished fourth in the league that season and, as proof of the club's stratospherically high standards, they sacked the European Cup-winning manager Juup Heynckes eight days later.

Two more European Cups were added in 2000 and 2002, by which time Real's galactico experiment was in full swing. This was implemented when Florentino Perez took over in 2000, and involved buying the best or most marketable player in the world each summer. In order, Real signed Luis Figo (a remarkable steal from Barcelona), Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham.

The more players they bought, the worse Real seemed to get. A spell of four trophyless years from 2003 to 2007 was their worst since the early Fifties. Only when they abandoned the galactico experiment, with Perez leaving the club, did they win championships in 2007 (again under Capello) and 2008. But a tenth European Cup proved elusive. Real could not even get close, and went out in the first knockout round for six consecutive seasons.

With Barcelona reaching new heights of excellence, there was only thing for it: more galacticism. Perez returned to the club in 2009 and shattered the world transfer record twice within a fortnight sign first Kaka and then Cristiano Ronaldo. A year later he made an even more important signing: Jose Mourinho, the world's first galactico manager. As always with Real Madrid, only the very best was good enough.

Although Mourinho failed to bring the league back to Madrid in his first season, he did seal a Copa del Rey success over rivals Barcelona for the first time since 1993. More, however, was delivered as the league title arrived the following season with a record points tally and record number of goals scored. Next stop, the Champions League.

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