Real Madrid’s Champions League aura masks fear behind Super League pursuit

Self-appointed kings of the Champions League, Real Madrid go for a 15th European crown against Borussia Dortmund in Saturday’s final, but the competition may cease to exist if the Spanish giants get their way.

Real Madrid’s Champions League aura masks fear behind Super League pursuit

Real Madrid and rivals Barcelona have pressed ahead in their wish to create a European Super League, defying the condemnation of the project from around the rest of the continent.

That includes from their opponents at Wembley this weekend with Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke repeatedly stressing his club will have no truck with a Super League.

An initial attempt to launch a closed-shop breakaway league in 2021 collapsed within days after a backlash from fans, governments and the game’s authorities.

But supporters of the Super League have already had a victory this week as a Madrid court found governing bodies FIFA and UEFA had “abused their dominant position” and “prevented free competition” by opposing a breakaway division.

Madrid’s reasons for pursuing an earthquake in European football may seem confusing.

Los Blancos have won the Champions League five times in the past 10 years.

At the same time, they have managed to modernise the 85,000 capacity Santiago Bernabeu into a world class stadium and remain a go-to destination for the planet’s best players.

Jude Bellingham was plucked from Dortmund 12 months ago for a fee in excess of 100 million euros ($108 million) despite the riches and home comforts offered by Premier League clubs for the England international.

Kylian Mbappe is expected to complete his move to the Spanish capital in the coming days after turning his back on Qatar-funded Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid’s aura in the Champions League may strike fear into their competitors. Yet, inside the club there is concern that their position as the competition’s most successful club could eventually come under threat without structural change to the sport.

For the first time last season one of European football’s state-backed projects, Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City, lifted the Champions League — thrashing Madrid 5-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals.

City also benefit from the billions of television revenue that pours into England’s Premier League that has financially left Europe’s other major leagues trailing in its wake.

Dortmund feel that financial disparity even more keenly with a wage bill around one third of Madrid’s.

Real topped Deloitte’s football money league last season with 831 million euros in revenue to Dortmund’s 420 million euros.

The Germans have had first-hand experience of the difficulties in competing with state-backed clubs during their fairytale run to the final, for just the third time in their history.

Edin Terzic’s men saw off both PSG and Saudi-funded Newcastle in the group stages before beating the French champions once more in the semi-finals.

“It is unbelievable,” Dortmund managing director Carsten Cramer told The Athletic of his club’s run to the final.

“We never complain about the situation and that others spend more in their budget. But when we reach a final like this, it brings even more pride to everyone at the club.

“We are competitive even though the tools and weapons we have in our bucket are not the same ones the others have.”

Dortmund, though, are all too aware of the need to make a rare final appearance count.

Their last taste of Wembley was a bitter one as they lost the 2013 Champions League final to rivals Bayern Munich.

Yet, they may be able to draw inspiration from Atalanta, who shocked German champions Bayer Leverkusen in last week’s Europa League final, to win their first ever European trophy.

“To win it with Atalanta is perhaps one of football’s fairytales, that rarely gives scope for meritocracy,” said Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini.

“It doesn’t always come down to cold hard numbers or Super Leagues but shows teams without huge budgets can achieve big things.”

Dortmund are 90 minutes away from achieving their dream, they just need to knock the kings of Europe off their throne to do so.