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End of an Era at Real, Barcelona
Associated Press, June 18th, 2007 4:30PM

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Those who don't believe need only be strapped in front of a TV and forcibly subjected to the 6,840 minutes that made up the 2006-07 season for Real Madrid and Barcelona. Indeed, forget about luck, something far stronger-call it Fate-drove the Merengues' to their first La Liga title in four years. Just ask Zinedine Zidane: soccer comebacks seldom, if ever, end this tidily.

As recently as February, David Beckham was in the stands, the team wasn't scoring or winning, and the Madrid fans were calling for the resignation of the club's coach and president. But the way in which the entire organization responded to that nadir has to be unprecedented in the history of sport. Ruud van Nistelrooy, David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Robinho, Guti, Raul-even Michel Salgado and Jose Reyes in the end-and certainly Coach Fabio Capello, who will forever be remembered for his league-winning substitution, all returned from personal lows to become part of a meteoric rise the likes of which we may never see again. And there can be no more fitting way to end the "galactico" era than to have three of its originals-Raul, Roberto Carlos and Beckham-walk away having shown future generations that teams, not individuals, win leagues.

Which is exactly why Barcelona lost its title. Notwithstanding a solid last few performances, Barca for large chunks of the season relied too heavily on individual displays. Ronaldinho, especially, proved this season that superstars can win games, but not titles. Sadly, now, it's the end of an era for both Real and Barcelona, as many of their brand-name players will be departing. It's also the end of one of the best and most inspiring seasons in sports history.

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