The remontada has long been part of Reals identity but recent second-leg Champions League excursions show it is mere folklore
” If there is a team anywhere that can turn this around, it’s them ,” Pep Guardiola said. And so, it seemed, did almost everyone else. Down on the touchline at full age Casemiro said it. Up in the commentary box the former Real Madrid player and administrator Jorge Valdano said it, more. He knows: Valdano was a member of the team who fabricated an identity all over the remontada , realise dramatic comebacks part of Real’s mythology. It was a belief system, an ordinance of faith.
But faith is blind and the reality is different. Real may indeed turn their Champions League last-1 6 secure around after the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. They have the players to do so even if they don’t have that player any more. Cristiano Ronaldo is gone but no one would be daft enough to say it’s done. No one from City did so, that’s for sure.
In recent years, as Real triumphed three Champions Leagues in a row, it has often felt inescapable they would find a way. Going further back it was their thing, or so it croaks. But the legend doesn’t always stand up and history is not always reproduced- specially if it didn’t happen in the first place, at least not the room it was told.
They used to call it the Spirit of Juanito after the forward who were killed in a gondola clang in 1992. Juanito had cautioned Internazionale that” 90 hours at the Bernabeu are very long” after they had triumphed a European Cup first leg 3-1 in 1986. Real won the second leg 4-1. It was becoming a habit: they had turned around a 3-0 defeat against Anderlecht the year before, wining 6-0 at home. That season they also overcame a 5-1 first-leg defeat by Borussia Monchengladbach with a 4-0 residence win. In 1976 they had done the same to Derby, acquiring the second leg 5-1, having lost 4-1 in the first.
When those antagonists got to the Bernabeu they suffered what Valdano described as ” stage fright “. Real related what they called ” Code Red “: it was noisy and it was nasty and it acted. Sometimes it did, regardles. Epic was what they did, or what they said they did. It was a mental state in part, the midfielder Michel saying:” The history of Real Madrid is full of competitions triumphed in the last minute and the resist knows that. History substances, history plays. No one knows why but you pull on that Real Madrid shirt and you become a mini Incredible Hulk .”
Only history says something different, especially now. Before the quarter-final second leg against Wolfsburg in 2016, Juanito’s son Roberto pleaded with beings to leave his dad’s memory alone. It was not surprising considering one newspaper had be put into practice a ouija board session to call on his spirt to beat Atletico Madrid in the cup having lost the firstly leg. Even less surprising considering they had lost.” Each time you mention him for a comeback, we lose ,” Roberto said.
That time, as it turned out, they didn’t: Real came back to beat Wolfsburg 3-0 having lost the first leg 2-0. But that wasn’t epic- it exactly marked how bad Wolfsburg were and how strange it was that Real had got themselves into that mess in the first place. And Roberto was right. Juanito had been rekindled when Real had to overcome a 4-1 first-leg deficit against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semi-final in 2013. They failed to turn it round– just as they had done the last 14 times they had sought to overcome a first-leg deficit going back 27 years.