Looking at the league table, there are parts of it that are scarely believable. One of them is that Real top the table on head to head having fallen at the Clasico hurdle time and time again over the last 10 years. The other is when you organise the table by goals conceded and see Los Blancos leading the league.
Having kept another clean sheet in the last game against Mallorca, Real Madrid have conceded just 21 goals in 31 matches so far. With so few games to go, it seems that this backline is heading for history, however, to find out exactly where, one must look over Madrid’s greatest defensive seasons so far.
Goals conceded - 32
Clean sheets - 15
Zamora - N
The Liga de los Records naturally would also feature Real Madrid’s best defensive record of the 21st century so far. Having conceded as high as 62 goals in the then recent past, the arrival of Jose Mourinho gave Real Madrid defence new impetus. Despite a harrowing 5-0 defeat to Barcelona in his first Clasico, Mourinho’s first season saw Real Madrid leak just 33 goals in 38 games, their best defensive record in years.
Fielded in front of legendary goalkeeper Iker Casillas, a back four of Alvaro Arebloa, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo proved impervious during the 2011/12 campaign. Though only managing to record 15 clean sheets, Real Madrid rarely conceded more than one goal a game, managing to keep their opponents to one or no goals in all but six of their 38 league matches that season.
Since LaLiga turned to its 38 game format, Real Madrid have reached this defensive landmark twice before the 2011/12 season. The first came in 1991/92 while the second time came in 2004/05. On both occasions, Real recorded 17 clean sheets, two more than Casillas’s tally under Mourinho however, they also failed to win a league title on both occasions hence why the 2011/12 season trumps them.
With 31 games, the 2011/12 team had conceded 26 goals, five more than Real Madrid have currently while Courtois is just two clean sheets away from equalling Casillas’s tally. It seems, barring disaster, the current Madrid team will surpass 2011/12.
Goals conceded - 29
Clean sheets - 19
Zamora - N
The early 1990s were a difficult time for Real Madrid. Having won five consecutive titles in the late 1980s, Los Blancos suffered the other end of the stick as Barcelona won four titles on the bounce. To make matters worse, Real were on course to win two of those four league titles before final day losses to Tenerife handed both titles to Barcelona. Among those losses is one of the most infamous defensive blunders in Real Madrid history.
After another final day loss to Tenerife and a fourth place finish the year after, Real Madrid hired their final dayfoe manager, Jorge Valdano to rebuild Los Blancos. The former Madrid midfielder made some crucial signings that summer including in defence where he bought Quique Sanchez Flores and José Amavisca as well as José Cañizares to back up longtime keeper Paco Buyo.
The result was a first league title in five years and a return to defensive solidity. Amavisca and Flores seemed to be real difference makers while Manalo Sanchis and Fernando Hierro proved an intimidating duo in central defence.
After 31 games, the 1994-95 vintage had conceded 22 goals giving the 2019-20 class a slim advantage with seven games to go. Buyo’s clean sheet record, however, is well out of reach for Courtois.
Goals conceded - 28
Clean sheets - 23
Zamora - N
The second of two painful final day losses against Tenerife came in 1992-93. Unlike the previous season, where Real were leading 2-0 at one point, Los Blancos looked practically beaten once they had stepped out onto the pitch and were clearly still carrying the scars of the previous season mentally. Nonetheless, unlike the previous season, no one could blame this lost league title on goalkeeper Paco Buyo.
As this list has and will continue to demonstrate, Buyo is among the underrated club legends we don’t discuss enough. Arriving at Real in 1986, the former Seville shot stopper was a rock in the Madrid net and, statistically speaking, is probably the club’s greatest ever goalkeeper. Buyo played just 26 of Real Madrid’s 38 league matches in 1992-93 and managed to keep 16 clean sheets in those matches. The remaining seven went to his deputy, Pedro Luis Jaro, who recorded all seven of his clean sheets in the first 10 LaLiga matches of the season.
The rest of the defence wasn’t too shabby either, Manolo Sanchis and Francisco Villarroya were the favoured centre backs pairing and were flanked by the famous Cheno at right back and either Michel or Ricardo Rocha at left back. In front of that back four was a free-scoring Fernando Hierro
Similar to 94-95, 2019-20 once again enjoy a slender lead with the latter having conceded 22 goals in 31 games. Once again, Buyo and Jaro’s clean sheet record leaves Courtois out of contention.
Goals conceded - 26
Clean sheets - 22
Zamora - Y
The 1987-88 Quinta del Buitre is considered by most the peak of the generation. The team cleaned up shop in the league for a third consecutive season, finishing 11 points ahead of second place Real Sociedad and 23 ahead of Barcelona. It was also the season where the Quinta seemed the closest to winning a European Cup, having swept aside Diego Maradona’s Napoli and Bayern Munich, they were finally halted by the highly cynical and eventual champions PSV.
What isn’t remembered is the greatest Real Madrid backline across a 38 game season. The 26 goals conceded is the fourth fewest across a 38 game season in LaLiga history. Its fair to say that the defence was ferocious with familiar names such as Manolo Sanchis, Chendo and Paco Buyo in the squad. They were partnered by Miguel Tendillo (who’d made his name in Valencia), the famous Jose Camacho and Rafael Gordillo from Real Betis.
If the 2019-20 team want to knock this side off their perch, they will have some ground to make up as, after 31 games, the 1987-88 team had conceded just 20 goals. What might run in the present team’s favour is that the title is still up for grabs and Madrid’s backline has been vital in getting Los Blancos to the top of the table. A record finish to the season defensively could see Madrid make history and knock a legendary defensive side off their mighty high perch.