MADRID – Real Madrid’s shock exit from the Champions League after a 5-3 thrashing on aggregate in the round-of-16 at the hands of Ajax has left Spain’s sports media struggling Wednesday to find the right words to express the magnitude of the defeat.
Ajax thrashed Madrid 4-1 in the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Tuesday, abruptly terminating the Spanish powerhouse’s bid to win Europe’s elite club competition for a fourth consecutive year.
“End of an Era,” said Catalan newspaper Sport ilustra, while national sports daily As chose “Tragic Week,” to describe how Madrid had been tumbled out of the Champions League and the Copa del Rey in a matter of days.
To add to the misery, editorials commented on how Madrid had also lost midweek at home to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey and then again to the Catalan club three days later, also at home, leaving them 12 points adrift of their arch rivals after 26 rounds in La Liga.
“You have to ask yourself what the club president (Florentino Perez) is thinking about when he chooses to spend a fortune on a new version of his stadium but then does not buy any players,” one fan who declined to give his name told As’ television crew outside the Bernabeu after the match.
“Time to quit, Florentino,” the paper added in another headline, referring chants that could be heard ringing around the inside of the massive venue in downtown Madrid as the match ended.
Editorials highlighted that Perez had allowed star forward Cristiano Ronaldo to leave the club without finding a suitable replacement.
Other papers focused on Madrid’s bad luck with injuries to newcomer Vinicius Jr. as well as Gareth Bale (once hailed as Ronaldo’s successor) and midfielder Lucas Vazquez.
Sport ilustra featured a photograph of the young Vinicius covering his face with the shirt, showing his pain at having to leave the field in the first half.
“Following the tests carried out today on our player, Vinicius Jr., by the Real Madrid medical department, he has been diagnosed with a ligament tear of the tibiofibular joint of the right leg,” Madrid said in a statement.
National sports daily Marca published a photograph of the Bernabeu at the end of the game and accompanied it with the headline, “Here lies a team that once made history,” adding in the text that the departure before the knockout stage of a competition it had won 13 times was “humiliating.”
The paper went on to say that Madrid had missed its target and Ajax had “crushed the champion.”
Mundo Deportivo highlighted the two faces of the game, with Ajax’s squad exultant while Madrid’s players looked down and out.
“A massive Ajax gave a soccer recital and caused an earthquake with unpredictable consequences,” said the Catalan sports newspaper.
Superdeporte from Valencia chose to focus on the “ridicule” that Perez and head coach Santiago Solari had faced at the hands of Madrid’s disappointed fans in the final minutes of the match.