Real Madrid Come from Behind to Record 35th La Liga Title with Ancelotti

The drama in LaLiga’s title race was sapped long ago, but now it is official: Real Madrid is king of Spain once again. For a record 35th time, Real Madrid has won La Liga’s championship, clinching the title with four games to spare following a 4–0 win vs. Espanyol at the Bernabéu.

With last season’s champion Atlético Madrid stumbling more frequently than usual and in a fight for a top-four finish and Barcelona still reeling from the financial crisis that caused the club to lose Lionel Messi to PSG, Real has risen back to the top.

The title is the club’s second in three seasons and ensures the trophy remains in the Spanish capital after a two-year run for Barcelona from 2018 to ’19. It was achieved due, in large part, to the forward play of Karim Benzema. The 34-year-old Frenchman has aged marvelously, leading La Liga with 26 goals and scoring 42 goals in 42 games across all competitions this season.

His Champions League heroics have been particularly profound, with his 14 goals—six of which came on consecutive hat tricks vs. PSG and Chelsea—leading the competition. Real Madrid still holds out hope of adding to its record tally of European silverware (13 titles) but it must overcome a 4–3 aggregate deficit to Manchester City in Madrid following their outrageous semifinal first leg in England this past week.

But Madrid’s ascension under Carlo Ancelotti has been about more than just Benzema. Vinicius Junior’s breakout campaign has greatly aided the attack, with the dynamic 21-year-old Brazilian second on the club with 14 goals in league play. Ancelotti himself has struck new ground with this title.

In his second stint with Madrid, it’s his first La Liga title, and it now gives him triumphs as a manager in all of Europe’s “top five” leagues, after winning Premier League (Chelsea), Serie A (AC Milan), Ligue 1 (PSG) and Bundesliga (Bayern Munich) titles at previous coaching stops. No other manager in history can claim such a feat.

The season was not without some hiccups. Of its three league losses, one was a humiliating 4–0 home defeat to Barcelona in March’s edition of El Clásico. Madrid was also bounced from the Copa del Rey in the quarterfinals, ousted by Athletic Bilbao in a 1–0 result. And while it’s on the cusp of the Champions League final, its European campaign has been rather uneven.

There was the infamous Champions League group-stage home defeat to Moldova’s Sheriff Tiraspol in September, and it has lost three of its five knockout-stage matches en route to the second leg of the semifinals.

Nevertheless, it’s been a title-winning season at home, in Saudi Arabia (where Madrid edged Barcelona in extra time in the semifinal and then beat Athletic Bilbao in the final for the Spanish Super Cup) and could be in Paris as well, if Ancelotti’s side can upend Pep Guardiola’s at the Bernabéu midweek to return to the Champions League final.

And looking forward, there could be more to seize from Paris, too. Despite PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino’s comments that both he and Kylian Mbappé would remain in the French capital next season, the star forward has made no secret of his desire to play for Real Madrid, and all signs have pointed to his signing there on a free transfer this summer. Mbappé’s contract with PSG expires after this season.