Real Madrid have been a major player in football history since their foundation in 1902. Awarded FIFA Club of the Century at the start of the new millennium in recognition of their success, Los Blancos have won it all: 32 La Liga titles, 19 domestic cups and a record ten European Cups.
Football was first introduced to the city of Madrid by a number of Cambridge and Oxford University graduates, whose Sunday morning games under the name of Football Club Sky in 1897 gave birth to Madrid Football Club, which was where it all began for the present-day Real Madrid.
The “Real” of the club’s name refers to the Royal crown that was bestowed on the logo by King Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1920, a move which turned out to make the “El Clasico” derby between Madrid and Barcelona even more meaningful.
That match-up took on a significance rooted in national identity, because while Real were often considered to represent Spanish nationalism, Barcelona were thought to embody a more independent-minded Catalan outlook. It has been one of the most famous rivalries in world football ever since the two sides battled it out for the very first league title in 1929.
Real Madrid secured their maiden domestic triumph in the 1931/32 season, and emerged as a dominant force in European football after Santiago Bernabeu Yeste became club president in 1945, bringing with him legendary forward Alfredo di Stefano.
The Argentine, who was able to play in multiple positions and has been described as one of the most complete footballers ever, inspired Los Blancos to five consecutive European Cup titles starting in 1956.
They continued to reap domestic success, but it wasn’t until 1998 that Real won another European Cup, the club’s seventh. Jupp Heynckes’ side beat Juventus 1-0 in Amsterdam, ending a 32-year wait for Europe’s top honour.
Since Florentino Perez’s appointment as president in 2000, the club has been famous for its “Galaticos”; world stars including Juventus’ own Zinedine Zidane who have been consistently brought in for world-record transfer fees as part of Perez’s quest to see the most elite footballers on the planet running out at the Bernabeu.
Despite huge financial power, their traditional domestic dominance has in recent years been challenged by a world-beating Barcelona side who many regard as the best in the history of the game.
Real did, however, clinch the La Liga title in 2011/12, becoming the first Spanish team to record 100 points in a single season under Jose Mourinho, but that remains their last triumph in Spain’s top flight.
After Mourinho left to take the reins at former club Chelsea in 2013, ex-Bianconeri boss Carlo Ancelotti was appointed, looking to bring Real Madrid back to the glory days following a somewhat barren 2012/13 season.
In spite of finishing third, three points behind arch rivals and eventual league victors Atletico Madrid, Los Blancos ended last year’s campaign as both Copa Del Rey and Champions League winners, with the latter signifying an unprecedented tenth success in Europe’s elite competition.
The Estadio Santiago Bernabeu - named after the club’s former chairman - is a world famous venue that has hosted five European Cup finals, the 1964 European Championships final and the 1982 World Cup final won by Italy.
Built on a site adjacent to the old Estadio Chamartin, it was inaugurated in December 1947 with a 3-1 win against Portuguese side Os Belenenses.
After various renovations it is now the third largest stadium in Europe behind the Nou Camp and Wembley, with a current capacity of 85,454.
A new project has been set in motion that will see a complete redesign of the outer facade as part of club president Perez’s vision to make it the very best stadium in the world.
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas has been a mainstay of this Real Madrid outfit ever since making his professional debut back in 1999.
A product of Los Blancos’ famed youth academy, the 33-year-old is one of the few remaining “one club” men and is now in his 16th season with Spain’s most successful side.
His expert shot stopping, concentration and ability to save efforts from point blank range has seen him rack up a plethora of plaudits throughout a career spanning almost two decades.
Casillas has gone on to lift 18 major trophies during his time with his boyhood Madrid including five La Liga championships, two Copa del Rey titles and three Champions Leagues.
The success has also been replicated for Spain’s national side, who the shotstopper led to Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012 glory all as skipper. These triumphs mean Casillas is part of a very select group of players including ex-Bianconeri Zidane and Thierry Henry to have won all major club and national championship titles.
In terms of individual honours, Casillas received the Golden Glove award in 2010 as well as being voted IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper four times, a record he shares with Gianluigi Buffon.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is a man who is very familiar to Juventus, having managed the Bianconeri from 1999 to 2001 before spending the next eight years in charge of Milan.
He began his football career as a player, captaining Roma to Scudetto glory in 1983 before winning consecutive European Cups with Milan in 1989 and 1990, as well as featuring 26 times for the Italian national side.
After producing an exhaustive tactical thesis entitled “The Future of Football: More Dynamism” as a student at the Italian Football Federation’s legendary Coverciano technical centre, Ancelotti first put his findings into practice with a Parma side that included a young Buffon.
Following a successful 1998/99 campaign, where he guided the Crociati to Champions League qualification, the Italian succeeded Marcello Lippi as Juventus manager. But after the Bianconeri finished league runners-up twice in a row, he left the club to assume the reins at Milan.
There, his side regularly battled it out for the title with Juventus in one of the most intense rivalries in Serie A history. He did manage to outdo the Old Lady to lift the Scudetto in 2004, and also led Milan to two Champions League titles in 2003 and 2007.
Two years later he was appointed manager at Chelsea, a team with which he became the first Italian coach to win the Premier League after they finished one point ahead of Manchester United. But a disappointing second-place finish the next year saw him sacked, and he moved to Paris Saint-Germain in December 2011.
Despite the new financial powerhouse of French football finishing second behind surprise package Montpellier in the 2011/12 campaign, he did clinch top spot in his one full season there, a triumph which signalled Les Parisiens’ first league title in 19 years.
Ancelotti then left to take over at Madrid on a three-year deal, claiming the Copa del Rey and the club’s tenth European Cup in his first season, becoming only the fifth coach to win Europe’s elite competition with two clubs in the process.
Real Madrid currently sit second in La Liga, just two points off table-topping Barcelona with three games of the season to play.
Since suffering a narrow 2-1 reverse at the hands of their El Clasico rivals in February, Los Blancos are the division's form side, having won their last seven on the bounce.
This weekend’s league contest saw Ancelotti’s troops overcome Sevilla in an entertaining 3-2 success at the Sanchez Ramon Pizjuan in Andalucia.
Cristiano Ronaldo hit the 29th hat-trick of his Real Madrid career to earn victory, while the hosts, who had previously not lost a home game since February 2014 when Barcelona triumphed 4-1, replied through Carlos Bacca and Vicente Iborra.
Copa del Rey exploits
The holders entered the competition at the round of 32 stage, drawing Segunda Division B Group C minnows Cornella back in October 2014.
After winning the first leg 4-1 away in Catalonia, a 5-0 return leg success at the Santiago Bernabeu ensured Los Blancos would set up a mouthwatering round of 16 clash with arch rivals Atletico Madrid.
But an initial 2-0 defeat at the Vicente Calderon earlier this year left Ancelotti’s men with a mountain to climb, before Los Rojiblancos then claimed a 2-2 draw just a week later to dump the reigning champions out.