Real Madrid didn’t expect this, which is probably why they will not become the four-time defending champions of the UEFA Champions League.
Real led 2-1 after the first leg in Holland, the two away goals enough that captain Sergio Ramos purposely took a yellow card to serve his suspension in the second leg instead of risking an absence later in the tournament.
Instead, Dusan Tadic and Ajax tore Real apart at the Bernabeu, using a 4-1 second leg win to send the Madrid side out of the competition.
Real is not sure how to react to such a loss. Dani Carvajal said it’s all about of an “(expletive (rhymes with Gritty) season.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever had this feeling of pain,” Carvajal said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s never easy to bounce back from two defeats against Barcelona and two errors put us 2-0 down, however 3-0 killed us.”
The vicious Real Madrid media will come the players and staff with knives out, and the men under the microscope are clearly preparing for it with some opening salvos in the opposite direction.
“We’re devastated. It’s very complicated. We’re not used to being at this stage of a season with practically no title left to play for. … La Liga’s practically impossible, we’re out of the Copa and the Champions League. It’s tough.”
As for interim boss Santiago Solari, who was credited with a new manager bump — and deservedly so — when he took over for Julen Lopetegui, he’s looking for answers as well.
Solari even admitted that Real missed Ramos, though he’s keeping perspective. After all, Ramos was there for all 180 minutes when Barcelona beat Real twice in four days.
And maybe, just maybe, Solari being a part of Real’s legacy of winning makes him the man to do the job moving forward (though we doubt Florentino Perez is going to have the patience for that with Jose Mourinho on the market).
“The season is difficult, but we are here to show our heart and character in difficult moments,” added Solari. “Easy moments are easy for everyone, you can climb up and surf them, but difficult moments you have to show bravery. … Madrid is bigger than any of us. It always returns, and returns even stronger.”