THE polling stations opened in Madrid yesterday morning.

It was tempting to assume that at least half the city turned up disappointed to find that none of the candidates on the ballot for the European elections was a representative of Real Madrid.

It is uncertain what such as Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo know of the particulars about EU politics but each of them could have anticipated a swell of results following the rally they held in the Spanish capital the night before. They had each arrived in the colours of Real, though not in the guise of a fitba player: rather they attended as champions of Europe.

Loading article content

The new moniker had a certain ring to it, not least as it echoed around the Cibeles fountain - the historic staging post for all of the club's big parties. Supporters had gathered there since the end of full-time in the Champions League final and awaited the Real squad's return from Lisbon where city rivals Atletico had been overcome in extra time. The celebrations would go into time added on too, the revelry of supporters carrying on in the streets until around 6am.

City officials then ushered fans away from the fountain to allow preparations to begin for voting in the European elections. Carlo Ancelotti might have been another popular candidate, the Italian coach having delivered "La Decima" to Real with a 4-1 victory, with the political leanings of the club's supporters perhaps being put off balance by the temptation to recognise their footballing heroes still further.

"I'm so happy to have beaten Atletico Madrid, to come back after 1-0," said Joaquin, a 27-year-old Real supporter dressed fully in his club's kit as he headed through the jammed streets to the party. "Real, forever!"

It would certainly fell as though supporters had waited at least that long to celebrate a 10th European title triumph. Fully 12 years had gone by since Zinedine Zidane thumped in that spectacular volley at Hampden in Real's last victory and the Frenchman figured on the bench in Lisbon as Atletico were dispatched.

Diego Simeone's side were on the verge of victory before a goal in the third minute of stoppage time by Ramos took the final into extra time, during which Real scored another three goals. "It was excessive . . . Atletico deserved a better result," acknowledged Manuel Burgos, another Real fan. Atletico won the sympathy vote, at least.