The Copa del Rey is the oldest Spanish Football Competition. Yes, it is older than even La Liga, and compared to Real Madrid’s lofty standards, Los Blancos’ history in the Copa del Rey is somewhat mediocre.
Mediocre is not a word that the Whites are familiar with. Real Madrid are 11 times European Champions. Real Madrid have won La Liga 32 times. In both these competitions, Real Madrid are the leaders of the pack. Dominating these top tier competitions, one would expect a team of Real Madrid’s calibre to rule any competition they take part in.
However, Real Madrid have not fared all that well in the Copa, winning the competition 19 times, which is behind Barcelona’s 28 titles and Athletic Bilbao’s 23 titles.
Many choose to opine that the Copa del Rey is a meaningless competition. It might not be as valuable as the Champions League or La Liga, but the oldest competition in Spanish football is still something that all clubs would love to win.
Real Madrid won their 17th Copa del Rey Title in the 1988-89 season and ever since, Real Madrid have won the King’s Cup only twice and have been runners up five times.
Ahead of Real Madrid’s round of 16 clash with Sevilla, let us look at Real Madrid’s last 5 Finals in the King’s Cup;
Copa del Rey Final 2002; Real Madrid Vs. Deportivo La Coruña
Real Madrid was founded in the year, 1902. This meant that 2002 would be Real Madrid’s 100th birthday. President Florentino Perez desired that the final be played in the Santiago Bernabeu on the date Real Madrid was itself born, the 6th of March. Perez’s wishes would come true and Real Madrid were ready to start their birthday celebration with the Copa del Rey trophy.
First Half: Deportivo Domination
Real Madrid’s starting eleven were under tremendous pressure from the start of the whistle. The Riazor Blues dominated the Whites relentlessly. New Deportivo signing Sergio Gonzalez Soriano struck past Cesar Sanchez just 6 minutes into the game. The already pressured team in White started to feel the heat of the 75,000 strong inside the Bernabeu. Real Madrid had no answer for Deportivo’s Mauro Silva, Fran and Tristan. Zidane tried to bring Los Blancos back into the game only to find his attempts richochet off the crossbar and be saved by Deportivo goalkeeper Molina. The Riazor Blues found the back of the net once again in the 37th minute courtesy of a goal by Diego Tristan. The score at halftime read, Real Madrid 0-2 Deportivo La Coruña.
Second Half: Not Enough
With Vincente del Bosque bringing in Santiago Solari for Pavon, Real Madrid started dictating the game. Deportivo midfielder Valeron got the chance of making it 3-0 and killing the game, but his attempt could only find the post. Club Icon, Raul got Real Madrid back in the game by scoring in the 60th minute via a cross by Morientes. But, his attempt would go in vain as Real Madrid failed to break Deportivo’s defense for an equalizer. The match would end with the score Real Madrid 1-2 Deportivo La Coruna.
This match is remembered as the Centenariazo, as the Riazor Blues ruined Madrid’s 100th birthday celebrations by depriving the Whites of the King’s Cup.
2004 Copa del Rey Final; Real Madrid Vs. Real Zaragoza
The 2004 Copa del Rey Final between Real Madrid and Real Zaragoza was played just after 6 days of the 2004 Madrid Train Bombings. The emotional final was in Montjuic, Barcelona.
Real Madrid took the lead with a trademark David Beckham free kick in the 24th minute, after Raul was fouled. Real Zaragoza equalized through their own number 23, Dani Garcia, who put the ball past Real Madrid goalie, Caesar, with ease.
Real Zaragoza took the lead through a successful penalty by David Villa in the 44th minute when Guti fouled the then future Barcelona man David Villa in the penalty box. Real Madrid would go on to equalize in injury time in the first half through a thunderous freekick by Roberto Carlos after Figo was fouled.
In the 57th minute Zizou’s attempt to take the lead for Real Madrid was stopped by Zaragoza goalie Lainez. Real Madrid failed to take advantage of a 10-man Zaragoza after Cani was sent off in the 67th minute.
As the final went to extra time, Real Madrid too were playing with 10-men when Guti saw red in the 95th minute. In the 112th minute, Caesar was bettered by Galletti, who made it 2-3. The scoreline wouldn’t change and Real Zaragoza were crowned Champions of the 2004 Copa del Rey.
2011 Copa del Rey Final; Real Madrid Vs. FC Barcelona
A penalty shootout seemed inevitable as the final went into extra-time. But, a man from Madeira had other plans.
Jose Mourinho decided to not include a striker in his starting XI. The match started with lots of fouls and scuffles which resulted in multiple freekicks. For Real Madrid, Mesut Ozil looked the most dangerous. The ‘special one’ played Pepe in the holding midfielder position who troubled Xavi Hernandez, by preventing him from dictating play as he usually does.
The highlights of the first-half were David Villa’s Oscar-worthy theatrics, Barcelona’s poor passing, Real Madrid’s poor finishing and of course, lots of starts and stops to the game which hindered Barcelona’s natural rhythm.
In the second half, following some magical work by Leo Messi, Pedro found the back of the net, unfortunately for Barcelona and fortunately for Madrid, the goal was ruled offside (correctly).
Iker Casillas showed why he has won the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper, a record 5 times by making a series of magnificent saves against attempts by Leo Messi and Co. thereby forcing extra-time.
In the 103rd minute, Real Madrid scored the only goal of the match, courtesy of a lofted cross by Angel di Maria with Ronaldo leaping and defying gravity like only he can, to score the winner. Real Madrid had won their 18th Copa del Rey Title and their 1st since 1988.
2013 Copa del Rey Final; Real Madrid Vs. Atlético Madrid
A lot was going on inside the Real Madrid dressing-room when the final came to be in the 2012/13 season. Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, who had Madridistas dreaming of La Decima, had become the villain of the story as he engaged in ugly public spats with Real Madrid stalwarts like Pepe, Ramos, Casillas, and Ronaldo.
It was a match where both Ronaldo and the Special One were sent off, Jose picked Raul Albiol ahead of Pepe in the starting line-up. Jose had started to leave out Pepe from match squads ever since he criticized the former in public.
Cristiano provided Madrid with a lead early in the match after he headed in the ball, courtesy of Ozil’s corner.
Ironically, it was Raul Albiol himself who Jose Mourinho picked ahead of Pepe that made an error, which allowed Diego Costa to score an equalizer past Diego Lopez who was picked by the Portuguese ahead of Casillas.
The then Atletico goalkeeper, Courtois, was brilliant in the game, saving everything Los Blancos threw at him. A frustrated Mourinho was sent off after witnessing a series of fouls go in Atlético’s favour.
Ronaldo did Madrid no favours when he got himself sent off in the 115th minute, following an altercation with Gabi. The scoreline in full-time read Real Madrid 1-2 Atletico Madrid. This was the first time since 1999 that Atlético got the better of Real. This was also Jose Mourinho’s last match as Real Madrid manager.
2014 Copa del Rey Final; FC Barcelona Vs. Real Madrid
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid were Ronaldo-less when they met FC Barcelona in the Copa del Rey Final in Mestalla.
Real Madrid looked dangerous from the start, as Gareth Bale attempted to get Madrid the lead from a tight angle just 4 minutes after kickoff, but his shot was just off target.
In the 11th minute, Isco snatched the ball from Dani Alves like a bully snatches a toy from his victims and found Bale, who passed it first time out to the left wing, where he found Benzema. The Frenchman turned it first time inside to Di María, who was racing through. Although Jordi Alba got back to cover him, Di María's shot went through the Brazilian’s legs and in off Pinto's gloves, pushing Real Madrid in front.
The 22nd minute saw Jordi Alba’s effort saved by Casillas, while Messi’s effort in the 41st minute was off-target, leading the scoreline to stay 1-0 at half-time.
As the 2nd half rolled in, Barcelona tried to rebuild and get back into the game. Every time the Barcelona midfield tried to start something, Real Madrid broke it off and launched counter-attack after counter-attack. Luckily for Barca, Madrid duo Benzema and Bale saw their shots hit the side netting.
Even luckier for them, was the moment when Bale scored from a corner, but the goal was not allowed as Real Madrid were penalized for a foul on Barcelona goalie Pinto.
Barcelona made their comeback through a corner that reached the only Barcelona player with a decent height and reach, Marc Barta, who found the back of the net with a powerful header.
Bartra would go on to be forever remembered for that night, but not because of his goal, but because of Gareth Bale.
It was the 84th minute when Isco won possession in Real Madrid’s defensive half and found Coentrao. The Portuguese passed it to Bale, who burst forward and knocked it past Bartra into the empty space in Barca’s half. With 50 yards between him and the goal, Bale knew this was a race he would win. Barta pushed Bale out of the field, but the Welshman ran like a man possessed. He ran and ran, taking the long route, beyond the touchline, exploding into the area to poke the ball through José Pinto's legs. Bale’s legs could not stop as he raced to the other corner to celebrate, with even his teammates struggling to catch up with him. The full-time scoreline read Barcelona 1-2 Real Madrid. Los Vikingos had won their 19th Copa del Rey Title.
2014 was the year when Real Madrid won their last Copa del Rey Title. In the season that followed, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid were shown the door by Atletico Madrid. In the 2015-16 season, Real Madrid were disqualified from the King’s Cup, as Rafa Benitez and the Real Madrid management made a comical error by fielding an ineligible player in Denis Chersysev, who had picked up 3 Yellow cards in the previous edition of the tournament while playing for Villarreal.
As a Ramos-less Real Madrid gets ready to face Sevilla in the first leg of the round of 16 of the King’s Cup, only a triumph in the tournament can heal the wounds inflicted by the disqualification that occurred last season.