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The View From Spain: Pol Ballús On Real Madrid’s Hopes Of Another Champions League Triumph

The View From Spain: Pol Ballús On Real Madrid’s Hopes Of Another Champions League Triumph
The View From Spain: Pol Ballús On Real Madrid’s Hopes Of Another Champions League Triumph

Callum McFadden speaks to Spanish football expert Pol Ballús ahead of this weekend’s Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.

“Domestically, it has been a wonderful season for Real Madrid, because they have been so solid as a unit.

“There has been a lot of talk in Barcelona about the scrutiny on the referees and how some games have gone against them at times this season, but there has been no debate about the fact that Real Madrid have been the better team by a mile in Spain this season.

“They’ve lost just one game in La Liga, and for me, the most astonishing thing is that they have done so by overcoming injuries to key players such as Vinicius, Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao. Despite challenges like those, they just make it happen.

“They are able to always get the best out of their players. Rudiger has had an outstanding season, then Jude Bellingham, who has possibly been the best player of the season.

“The fighting spirit that they have in addition to their quality is the key to their success in La Liga and in the Champions League to this point.”

In the UK media, there is a lot of attention on Jude Bellingham, for obvious reasons. However, in addition to Bellingham, what do you believe are the key strengths of this Real Madrid team? 

“I think it’s their mentality. If I’m honest, Bellingham is not going through his best moment of the season right now.

“I’m not saying that he’s going through a bad moment because he’s playing well in almost every game but he’s not being as clinical as he was earlier in the season.

“That being said, as a team they are adaptable which means they can defeat all types of teams.

“If they need to take the ball and take the game to the opposition, they have shown that they are good in possession, but, if the game requires for them just to defend deep and soak up pressure then they can do that too.

“Their level of adaptability makes them such a difficult side to play against. Added to that, they have key players who are huge difference-makers in both boxes.

“Vinicius is going through a great moment of form at this time, and I think that in the final third, he connects really well with Jude Bellingham, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde. They know each other’s strengths really well and it is their strength in unity as well as their individual quality which is what I believe makes them favourites for this Champions League final.”

The game at Wembley will be the last ever club match of Toni Kroos’ illustrious career. What has the reaction been to his impending retirement in Spanish football?

“He’s been a generational player for Real Madrid, one of those players that will be remembered as one of the greats of the club.

“The fact that he will leave at the top of his game tells you all that you need to know about his quality and mentality.

“He is not a player who wants to draw undue attention to himself and not someone who wants to go to an easier league to cash in money.

“He just enjoys playing football and he has shown time and time again that he is one of the very best at doing it.

“He’s been able to adapt even in the face of the changing of the football world.

“I can remember times where like some of the Real Madrid media wanted him out because the team because he wasn’t performing to the levels that he had previously in their line.

“Every manager that has been at Real Madrid since he joined the club knows how valuable he is. When he leaves Madrid, he is going to live as a Real Madrid legend, and deservedly so because he’s a legend of the club with all he has achieved over the last decade and over the course of his career as a whole.”

This might seem like a crazy question, given the fact that Carlo Ancelotti is, of course, an incredibly successful manager. But given the fact that he was at Napoli and Everton for short stints after his first spell in Madrid before he returned for a second spell, has there been any surprise at all about how he’s managed to come straight back into Madrid and be so successful again? 

“That is a tricky question. I don’t think that we were too surprised because, we all know Carlo Ancelotti is a guy that knows how to manage the dressing room, especially an elite dressing room.

“His best ability is being able to maximise the best out of his players and he has proved that again over the last couple of years.

“Tactically, Real Madrid are fantastic under him as well because, as I was saying earlier, they are able to adapt to any scenario that the game throws up.

“If they have to play against Man City and, they need to sit in and defend deeper, they will do that or if they need to take possession and attack a team on the front foot, they can do that as well.

“Under Carlo, they have different weapons in their armoury, and he is able to make different tactical switches that provide this team with a distinct cutting edge.

“Therefore, if there were like any doubts after his short spells in Napoli and Everton, they are long gone because he has proven more again that he deserves as well to be recognised as one of the best managers in football history.”

Finally, Pol, do you believe Real Madrid will cope well with being favourites in this final and do you think they will get the job done at Wembley on Saturday?

“I believe they will cope with the tag of being favourites and get the job done to win another Champions League title because that is quite simply what they do.

“They cope well with the Champions League. Their experience and know-how of the competition is what has brought them to this stage.

“That is what helped them to go through against Man City in a game that I think 99% of the teams in world football would have lost at the Etihad.

“They know how to cope with tough moments as they also showcased by turning the semi-final match around against a strong Bayern Munich side.

“So, even if like the final doesn’t pan out as they expect, they have a mature squad to know how to adapt within a game no matter what happens and how to make the best of themselves to ensure that they win the game come the final whistle.”