The 2012 incarnation of the Real Madrid Club de Futbol might not be the greatest team in history. They might not believe that football is better understood as art than as war; and they might not have garnered international acclaim for their coalition of philosopher-footballers, so brilliant that they could simultaneously design and sculpt the Sagrada Familia while beating Manchester United 2-0 with 100% possession.
But on Sunday night, at 20:00 CET (2:00 PM EST), this Real Madrid side, coached by José Mourinho and led by Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas, will try to accomplish a simple, and historic goal: become the winningest side, over the course of one year, in the history of the Spanish League. If they beat Mallorca, they will have recorded 100 points, the most ever recorded. They have already scored more goals than any other side in Spanish history. No other team, over the course of one year, would have beaten this Real Madrid side for la Liga. None.
And that's something to be awed by.Incidentally, it's unclear whether José Mourinho will try to win this game with his full strength side. It's unclear whether some of Madrid's best players--Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema, Mesut Özil, Gonzalo Higuaín--will even start. This is a record that, compared with the already-accomplished goal of winning the Liga, seems to fall a little flat. Who needs 100 points?
Well, it's a good question. What is the significance of being the most consistently successful side in the history of Spanish football? Certainly, setting this record would bolster this side's candidacy for that all-important, yet impossibly stupid Greatest Of All Time argument. It would cement José Mourinho's legacy, bolster Madrid's confidence heading into next year, and would make Madrid an even more alluring transfer destination for a generation of young talent.
But in the grand scheme of things, Madrid has already won. The Liga was over weeks ago, sentenced on a chilly night in Bilbao by a gang of warriors that wouldn't let their immortality escape them. Everything else is just fluff after that. We've seen Iker hold up the trophy; we've seen Marcelo dance down the Castellana; we've seen the goddess Cibeles dressed in a flowing white cape and scarf; we've seen thousands of people celebrate in the streets. This battle is over.
As the season draws to a close, it's hard not to become philosophical about things like this. What does this all mean? Where do we stand now? How much would the points record matter? And why is it more symbolic than the goals record?
Towards the end of the great Scorcese epic The Departed, Jack Nicholson's Frank Costello is beginning to come unhinged; he's the head of a major crime empire, yet he's overseeing petty drug deals, blowing money on cocaine binges and hookers. Leonardo DiCaprio's Billy Costigan tries to warn him of an impending collapse; "You're seventy f***ing years old," Billy says. "One of these guys is going to pop you. As for running drugs, what the f***. You don't need the pain in the a**, and they're going to catch you. And you don't need the money."
Frank, slinking confidently back in his chair says, "I haven't "needed the money" since I took Archie's milk money in the third grade. Tell you the truth, I don't need p**** any more either... but I like it."
Are we just piling it on a crappy league? Does this Real Madrid team, sitting at the sunset of a magnificent season, not need to win any more? Aside from the fact that I am fulfilling every Barcelona fan's fantasy of Real Madrid as an evil crime boss, does Madrid not need to win anymore...they just like it?
Listen, I know Real Madrid bears no resemblance to Frank Costello. But I bring that quote up to actually dispute it: I think that if Real Madrid felt like they could ever, and I mean ever, just coast--that they didn't need to win--then there is no way they would have won this Liga. Certainly not by this much. Real Madrid doesn't just like it; they need it, with every fibre of their being. That's what is so magical about this team. That's why this points record means so much: it cements their place in the history books as the team that needed to win every single day, night in-night out.
And that's something that I'm very proud to say about this side.
Thanks for being with Managing Madrid for this wild ride. I can't tell you how proud I am of this site, and of the amazing community that has grown up with it. You all are why I do this every day.