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Real Madrid end trophy wait

So often at the business end of the competition, Real Madrid at last took the title in 2019/20.

Real Madrid celebrate the title
Real Madrid celebrate the title AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid's wait for a UEFA Youth League title finally ended in the seventh edition of 2019/20.

They kept up their record of always reaching the round of 16, set a new mark of seven quarter-final appearances and equalled Barcelona and Chelsea's record of making the semis four times. But then Raúl González's side made the final at last and secured victory against Benfica – runners-up for the third occasion.

Final highlights: Benfica 2-3 Real Madrid
Final highlights: Benfica 2-3 Real Madrid

There were surprises in the group stage as this competition's most successful clubs, Barcelona and Chelsea, both failed to progress, the first time the Blaugrana had not reached the knockouts. Holders Porto were in the domestic champions path and sailed through, but in the play-offs were ousted on penalties by 2016/17 winners Salzburg. Meanwhile, Sheriff, who had become the first Moldovan team to make it into the new year in any UEFA club competition, fell to Crvena zvezda.

The round of 16 began as scheduled in March with Benfica, Ajax, Salzburg, Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb and (impressing for the second year running) Midtjylland and winning through. But the COVID-19 pandemic meant the competition was paused at this stage and did not resume until August, with the last nine games played at Colovray Stadium, Nyon, rather than just the semis and final.

Semi-final highlights: Benfica 3-0 Ajax
Semi-final highlights: Benfica 3-0 Ajax

Those remaining last 16 ties were won by Internazionale Milano and Madrid, who had a newly appointed coach in Raúl and then beat the Italian side in the goal-filled quarter-finals, where Salzburg saw off Lyon 4-3. There were also victories for Ajax and Benfica, whose Pedro Álvaro made a 28th competition appearance, beating the record of Porto's 2018/19 winner Diogo Costa.

Madrid were now looking for a semi-final win at the fourth attempt and saw off Salzburg 2-1 thanks to first-half goals by Juan Latasa and Miguel Gutiérrez. As for Benfica, they followed up their 4-1 defeat of Liverpool and 3-1 win against Dinamo in earlier rounds by beating Ajax 3-0, keeping up their perfect record from three semi-finals.

Semi-final highlights: Salzburg 1-2 Real Madrid
Semi-final highlights: Salzburg 1-2 Real Madrid

However, Benfica had lost both their previous finals and suffered further heartbreak. Pablo Rodríguez and an own goal made it 2-0 to Madrid at half-time, and although Gonçalo Ramos pulled one back in the 49th minute, Miguel Gutiérrez instantly responded. Gonçalo Ramos struck again with 33 minutes left to become the season's joint-top scorer with Atalanta's Roberto Piccoli on eight goals, but Luis López saved a Tiago Dantas penalty and Madrid were champions.

Raúl said: "We're really proud. There are so many players around the world who come from Real Madrid and are exported to all of the leagues. We're the team that's won the most Champions Leagues and as a club we needed this as well."