Real Madrid retained the UEFA Champions League for the first time in its history after thumping Juventus 4-1

When Real Madrid’s attacking riches took on Juventus’ resolute defence in the final, few could fathom a landslide victory for the La Liga champions was on the cards, particularly given how strong the Old Lady had been all season at keeping out opposition attacks.

They went into the final high on confidence after only conceding three goals in the Champions League all season, and had previously shut out the likes of Barcelona over two legs without conceding a single goal against them.

Yet, in the finale against Real, it all fell apart for Massimiliano Allegri and his men. They started the game as the stronger team, but once Los Blancos found the back of the net through Cristiano Ronaldo in the 20th minute, they took control of the game.

Mario Mandzukic’s stunning overhead kick gave the Old Lady some hope going into the break, but Zinedine Zidane’s half-time talk worked wonders on his Madrid outfit, as they came out all guns blazing in the second period to bag three goals.

For the first time in history, a team managed to retain the UEFA Champions League, and it came as little surprise given how the Real Madrid side looked at the start of the campaign. Despite being frail defensively, they managed to outscore their opponents en route to the title.

Zinedine Zidane has been the key to Real Madrid's successes. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid to win their 12th Champions League title as he led the scoring charts for them this season. (Photo Courtesy: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

This undoubtedly has to be regarded has one of the best ever sides in footballing history, and the obvious comparisons between the Galacticos squad have been made. The ultra-deep Zidane-coached squad did the unthinkable by retaining the Champions League, something the side of the 2000s could not.

So are the current crop of Real Madrid players better than the Galacticos? Zinedine Zidane was part of the playing unit back in the day, and he now is the manager of arguably the greatest bunch of players of the current generation.

Let us begin with the goalkeepers with former Spanish number one Iker Casillas as the man between the sticks for the Galacticos. Real’s current bunch of first-team goalkeepers are Keylor Navas and Kiko Casilla, but Casillas was clearly a class apart.

While Navas has done an outstanding job to replace Casillas, he has not evoked confidence, and has looked a tad shaky during matches. It is clear that Zidane is looking to find a replacement for him, with David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois being linked.

Thus, Casillas is clearly the real winner here as he is Real’s longest serving goalkeepers and will go down as a club legend. While the hierarchy did not do a good job with his farewell, he is undoubtedly one of the best players to ever don the jersey of Los Blancos.

The centre-backs were the Achilles heel of the side of 2003, and proved to be no match to the current Real Madrid defenders.  Ivan Helguera and Francisco Pavon were the first-choice pair at the heart of the defence, and struggled to maintain the level of consistency Sergio Ramos has with both Raphael Varane and Pepe.

The Galacticos squad boasted of one of the greatest left-backs of the last decade in Roberto Carlos. The Brazilian was solid from set pieces, was a nightmare for opposing attackers, and put in a shift in the offensive third as well.

SEVILLE, SPAIN - OCTOBER 15: Marcelo of Real Madrid CF shoots for score a goal during the match between Real Betis Balompie and Real Madrid CF as part of La Liga at Benito Villamrin stadium October 15, 2016 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Marcelo is one of the most gifted full-backs in world football today, and is a fan favourite at the Santiago Bernabeu. (Photo Courtesy: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Real’s current side also boast of a Brazil international left-back in Marcelo, but he is not quite at the level Carlos was during his heyday. It is a tough shout between the two right-backs Michel Salgado and Dani Carvajal, but Carlos certainly wins the tussle between him and Marcelo.

Another area of the field that will massively split opinions is the Real Madrid midfield. The Galacticos outfit possessed two of the finest midfielders of all time in Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane playing as inside forwards and often as attacking midfielders.

Behind them a double pivot of David Beckham and Esteban Cambiasso was omnipresent to provide defensive stability, particularly after the departure of Claude Makelele to Chelsea.

Sure, Real Madrid’s current team has probably the best midfield trios in Europe today with Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in the fold, but they are unfortunately no match for the four-man midfield deployed by Carlos Queiroz in 2003.

The Galacticos attack was bolstered by two legends of the international game – Raul and Ronaldo. Representing Spain and Brazil respectively, the strikers were feared by defences even if they took them on single-handedly.

However, in 2003, which was the year of the Galacticos, Raul started to slow down, and his impact in front of goal diminished considerably. Even though Ronaldo bagged goals on a regular basis, he was few years past his peak, and wasn’t the prolific goal-scoring machine anymore.

Until October 2015, Raul held the record for being Real Madrid's highest goal scorer with 343 efforts to his name. (Photo Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images)
Until October 2015, Raul held the record for being Real Madrid’s highest goal scorer with 323 efforts to his name. (Photo Courtesy: AFP/Getty Images)

In contrast, the current Real Madrid attack looks a lot more stronger, and it is due to one man and one man only – Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese attacker has often carried the entire team on his shoulders and is one of the greatest players ever to grace the game.

He is supplemented in the attack by Gareth Bale, who is Real’s most expensive signing till date. He achieved recognition during his time at Spurs, but at the Santiago Bernabeu, he has taken his game to a whole different level.

To cap it all off, Karim Benzema may be the least rated of the front three, but he has quietly been going on about his job playing as a poacher. Of late, due to Ronaldo’s tendency to drift centrally, the Frenchman has played equally well on the flanks, and is one of Real’s most prolific strikers in recent history.

While both the sides look fairly even on paper, when the squad depth comes into consideration, it is the current Real Madrid outfit that reigns supreme. Championships are never won with eleven players, and it is essential for every top side to have strength in depth.

The 2003 Real side had the likes of Cesar Sanchez, Guti and Raul Bravo as their top deputy players. When compared to the current crop of players, there actually remains no doubt as to which team has a deeper squad.

Isco, James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio are just four names in what it is an ultra deep squad that Zidane has at his disposal. These players could walk into most of Europe’s top sides’ first teams and achieve success there.

Thus, the 2017 Champions League winning team of Real Madrid is a more balanced and all round team as compared to the Galacticos of 2003. While the side of yester years had a number of world-class players, Zidane’s crop of players gel extremely well as a cohesive unit.

The Frenchman has done an exceptional job to nip all the egos in the bud at Santiago Bernabeu, something which was not the case in the early 2000s. The current Los Blancos team could beat the Galacticos in their prime, and also have it in them to retain the Champions League for the second straight year.

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