Abu Dhabi: Real Madrid’s win to complete a hat-trick of titles in the Club World Cup on Saturday night was never a surprise. Once Al Ain had exhausted all their resources and firepower to eliminate Argentine bigwigs River Plate, it was destined to be light work for Real.
A drained out Al Ain had the will to go one step further and create history but their guile wasn’t enough to supersede the might of Spanish giants.
The Los Blancos’ success was the first feather in the cap of Santiago Solari since taking over his duties from Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked in October.
“Football is all about merit and for me to be here is due to the footballers’ merit. To be able to win three Champions Leagues and three Club World Cup titles for three years in a row is something very difficult to achieve for any club.
“Real have done it, which is a remarkable achievement. It’s history that will be very hard to match by any teams. I want to give the credit to the footballers,” said Solari, whose triumph would assure the fans that he was indeed the right man for bigger challenges ahead. The silverware had come at a time when Spanish media were speculating Jose Mourinho’s return to his former club following the boot by Manchester United.
Solari refrained from saying if this success can certainly act as a catalyst for setting the tone for the rest of season. “The team is used to repeat success. The more you win, you realise how difficult it is to win. I enjoyed seeing how much the players enjoyed it. They value success and the seriousness they put in the tournament was great.
“We didn’t concede a goal in the semi-finals, which was great and had a great match today. Although football always gives you surprises as at the start we couldn’t mark properly but later we got our acts together,” said Solari, adding that the team needs to enjoy this success and then think ahead towards the next challenge.
“I say this again that we don’t have to forget the titles that we have achieved in the past but yes, you cannot rest on your laurels. At the moment, I’m happy but later when we start playing again, the cycle of criticism will start,” said Solari, who also acknowledged that retaining the Champions League would be a stiff ask.
“Well, the Champions League is the Champions League. There is still a month for that. We are going through a difficult round of last 16 and there are some better teams in Europe. We now have a well-deserved holiday break and thereafter we will decide on how to go about Champions League,” said Solari, who hailed the way hosts Al Ain performed in the tournament. The Argentine was seen sharing some light moments with Al Ain players including their ace striker Caio, who created a bit of stir in the Real defence with his Brazilian touch.
“Al Ain’s performance was fantastic. They were the only team that hadn’t won a continental title and to win three games and reach the final was a remarkable achievement for them.
“They surprised the Oceania Champions, African champions and then River Plate in order to be here and face us. They fought hard and there was a lot of effort. They were magnificent and they deserved to be in the final. I was congratulating their players for that.”