When Gonzalo Higuaín collected a superb through pass from Angel di María and slotted the ball into the net against AC Milan last night, he scored Real Madrid's 700th goal in the European Cup. Not only has Real Madrid won more European Cups than any other team, with nine trophies, but the club has also won more games than any other club (326) and scored the most goals in the competition.
This is fitting, given Real Madrid's contributions to the founding and subsequent history of the European Cup and, in its later incarnation, the UEFA Champions League. The idea for a pan-European tournament in which top sides from the various domestic leagues would battle for supremacy on Wednesday nights derives from the work of a French journalist for L'Equipe named Gabriel Hanot. Hanot is also well known today for single-handedly creating the Ballon d'Or award, still today the top individual honor in the sport, as well as for his integrity.
In 1949, Hanot was simultaneously working as France coach and as a journalist for the country's two most important sports periodicals, L'Equipe and France Football, when his side was humiliated by Spain. He wrote a scathing critique of his own players in L'Equipe before famously penning an unsigned editorial calling for his own resignation. The next day he stepped down as coach and concentrated on journalism thereafter.
Working off of this inspiration, the legendary Real Madrid president Santiago Bernabéu Yeste, largely responsible for restructuring the club after the Spanish Civil War and laying the groundwork for the club's future financial and footballing success, met in 1955 in the Ambassador Hotel in Paris with Bedrignan (presumably a Frenchman about whom I can gather no further information) and Gusztáv Sebes, the Hungarian coach of the famous "Mighty Magyars" international side of the mid-1950s, in order to lay out the basics of the first European Cup.
Sixteen clubs deemed to have the most popular draw were invited by L'Equipe to participate in the inaugural cup in 1955 and the tournament has been running in one form or another ever since.
Real Madrid, led by international and home-grown stars such as Alfredo di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskas, Francisco Gento and others won the first five consecutive tournaments, setting the world alight with their incredible performances, the most notable of which was the 1961 final in which Madrid demolished Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. Madrid finished runners-up in 1961-62 and 1963-64 before claiming their sixth in 1966-67. There then followed a long drought, with Madrid finishing runners-up again in 1980-81 before Madrid triumphed once more in the 1998, 2000 and 2002 finals to chalk up a record nine trophies.
Real Madrid's first European goal was scored by Miguel Muñoz in 1955 against Swiss side Servette. No. 100 was scored by Madrid legend Alfredo di Stéfano against Barcelona four years later. The club's 200th goal was scored by Puskas during Madrid's 5-0 demolition of Feyenoord in 1965-66, while the 300th came courtesy of Danish star Henning Jensen in the late 1970s in a 7-0 away win against Niedercorn.
Youth product Sebastián Losada scored the 400th in 1990 against FC Tirol, while another canterano, Guti, scored the 500th as part of a double against Sporting Lisbon in the 2000-01 season. No. 600 was scored by none other than David Beckham against Olympique Marseilles in the 2003-04 season. Now Gonzalo Higuaín can chalk up his name at the end of this illustrious list.
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