The curse of Cristiano Ronaldo? Real Madrid back to losing in Champions League last 16 with former icon reaching at least semi-finals in eight consecutive years
There’s no ‘I’ in team, but there are two in Cristiano Ronaldo. What Real Madrid would have done to have him back on Tuesday night.
The Spanish giants’ grip on the Champions League was loosened at last by Ajax, who recorded a stunning 4-1 win at the Bernabeu to condemn Madrid to a last-16 exit.
The result means there will be a new winner of Europe’s elite competition for the first time since 2015.
Ajax recorded a stunning 4-1 win at the Bernabeu to end Real Madrid’s era of dominance
It was also Madrid’s first European campaign since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo
It was also Madrid’s first campaign for nearly a decade without Ronaldo, who swapped Madrid for Turin when he left to join Juventus for £100million over the summer.
The Portugal international enjoyed a stunning spell in Madrid, winning 16 trophies as Real enjoyed an unprecedented spell of glory in recent European Cup history.
During his nine years in Spain, Ronaldo won three Champions League titles as the club reached at least the semi-finals in eight consecutive seasons.
The exception? His first year, 2009-10, when they were knocked out at the last-16 stage.
Ronaldo led Madrid to an incredible spell in Europe – which included three consecutive titles
Madrid players are left dejected as their hopes of another Champions League win are ended
For a club of such rich European history, that season capped a miserable run of six consecutive exits before the quarter finals.
Following that first-season blip – when Madrid were knocked out by Lyon – Ronaldo led the club to an incredible era of success.
They reached the last four in 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13, losing to Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund at the respective final hurdles.
After three near misses, however, they finally ended their 12-year wait for victory when they beat Madrid rivals Atletico after extra-time in 2014.
Ronaldo won 16 trophies at the Bernabeu before swapping Madrid for Turin over the summer
The following season they were beaten by Juventus in the semi-finals but that defeat sparked a run of three straight European titles.
In 2015-16 they beat Atletico on penalties before exacting revenge on Juve in the Cardiff final of 2016-17.
Last year, of course, they beat Liverpool thanks to a large helping hand from Loris Karius in Kiev.
That proved to be Ronaldo’s final bow for the Spanish giants. And, until next season at the earliest, their last night of glory in Europe.