Real Madrid are the record 33-time domestic champions in Spain. However, their league success over the years has been sporadic due to the emergence of Barcelona as a more consistent force on the domestic front.
Since the turn of the century, Madrid have won the LaLiga title in 6 seasons while their Catalan rivals have done so on 10 occasions, which includes 4 wins in the last 5 seasons - 2 wins either side of Madrid's latest triumph in 2016-17.
A multitude of reasons ranging from focus on Europe to over-reliance on star individuals may be attributed to Madrid's fluctuating domestic form. But it cannot be denied that Los Blancos are a credible title threat when they are on song.
Madrid have not ended a LaLiga season outside the top-3 since 2003-04 (fourth), eking out 8 top-2 finishes, 4 top-3 finishes and 4 title runs, the most recent being in 2016-17 which marked their record-extending 33rd Spanish top-flight title. After a torrid 2018-19 season which saw the departure of the club's record-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, the sudden void of a proven goalscorer coincided with a drastic downturn in the club's fortunes both on the domestic front as well as in Europe.
Three home defeats in the space of a tumultuous week in Feb/March' 19 knocked Madrid out of contention from three different competitions, and without further ado, Zinedine Zidane who had left the club of his own volition at the start of the season was reinstated at the helm. The Frenchman managed to arrest the slide and led the club to a top-three finish which confirmed Champions League football for next season. But the whopping 27-point gap between third-placed Madrid and league winners Barcelona meant that Madrid needed a drastic overhaul.
The powers that be at the Bernabeu heeded the mayday call and replenished the squad with a heady concoction of youth and experience as the likes of Rodrygo, Luka Jovic, and Eden Hazard arrived. And with it started Zidane's arduous and painful task of rebuilding and delivering the goods with a side brimming with potential.
Madrid started the season with a 3-1 win at Celta Vigo which put the Bernabeu club top of La Liga for the first time since the first matchday of the 2017-18 season. After 13 matchdays, Madrid trail league leaders and two-time champions Barcelona only on goal difference. Here are 3 reasons to suggest why Madrid's recent renaissance may not be a short-term phenomenon and the Bernabeu club do have the wherewithal to mount a sustained challenge and land their first league title in three years.
1. The Zinedine Zidane factor
Critics and fellow coaches were unimpressed when Zinedine Zidane, with no senior team management experience, was handed the Real top job in January 2016. But the Frenchman put the naysayers to bed by leading the club to a hat-trick of Champions League titles - no club had managed to win successive titles in the Champions League (since 1992-93).
Real also won the LaLiga title in 2016-17, the Super Coppa Espana in 2017, UEFA Super Cup in 2016-17, and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2016-17 before Zidane voluntarily ended a productive 2 and a half year spell with the club which yielded a rich haul of 10 titles.
Diehard critics were still unwilling to laud Zidane's managerial skills, instead attributing the Frenchman's 'Midas touch' to the presence of star players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, and Toni Kroos at the peak of their powers.
Midway through the 2018-19 season, when Madrid's performances in various competitions plummeted to new lows, the Frenchman was reinstated at the helm, the scale of the rebuilding job at hand was immense. Zidane responded positively to the challenge and began to leave his imprint on the squad by letting some fringe/out of form players leave at the end of the season and integrating new arrivals to supplement an array of experienced but ageing personnel like Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos, and Luka Modric.
Zidane's vocal support for Gareth Bale, who was on the verge of leaving the club during the off-season, has been laudable. The Welshman has since repaid his coach's trust in him by stringing together some good performances before an injury forced a brief lay-off.