Early years (1902–1945)
Real Madrid's origins go back to when football was introduced to Madrid by the academics and students of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza, which included several Cambridge and Oxford University graduates. They founded (Sociedad) Sky Football in 1897, commonly known as La Sociedad (The Society) as it was the only one based in Madrid, playing on Sunday mornings at Moncloa. In 1900, conflict between members caused some of them to leave and create a new club, Nueva Sociedad de Football (New Society of Football), to distinguish themselves from Sky Football. Among the dissenters were Julián Palacios, recognized as the first Real Madrid president, Juan Padrós and Carlos Padrós, the latter two being brothers and future presidents of Real Madrid. In 1901 this new club was renamed as Madrid Football Club. Later, following a restructuring in 1902, Sky was renamed as "". On 6 March 1902, after a new Board presided by Juan Padrós had been elected, Madrid Football Club was officially founded.
Three years after its foundation, in 1905, Madrid FC won its first title after defeating Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Cup final. The club became one of the founding sides of the on 4 January 1909, when club president Adolfo Meléndez signed the foundation agreement of the Spanish FA. After moving between grounds the team moved to the Campo de O'Donnell in 1912. In 1920, the club's name was changed to Real Madrid after King Alfonso XIII granted the title of Real (Royal) to the club.
In 1929, the first Spanish football league was founded. Real Madrid led the first league season until the last match, a loss to Athletic Bilbao, meant they finished runners-up to Barcelona. Real Madrid won its first League title in the 1931–32 season and retained the title the following year, becoming the first team to win the championship twice.
On 14 April 1931, the arrival of the Second Spanish Republic caused the club to lose the title Real and went back to being named Madrid Football Club. Football continued during the Second World War, and on 13 June 1943 Madrid beat Barcelona 11–1 in the second leg of a semi-final of the Copa del Generalísimo, the Copa del Rey having been renamed in honour of General Franco. It has been suggested Barcelona players were intimidated by police, including by the director of state security who "allegedly told the team that some of them were only playing because of the regime's generosity in permitting them to remain in the country." The Barcelona chairman, Enrique Piñeyro, was assaulted by Madrid fans. However, none of these allegations have been proven and FIFA and UEFA still consider the result as legitimate. According to Spanish journalist and writer, Juan Carlos Pasamontes, Barcelona player Josep Valle denied that the Spanish security forces came before the match. Instead, at the end of the first half, Barcelona coach Juan José Nogués and all of his players were angry with the hard-style of play Real Madrid was using and with the aggressiveness of the home crowd. When they refused to take the field, the Superior Chief of Police of Madrid appeared, identified himself, and ordered the team to take the field.
Santiago Bernabéu Yeste and European success (1945–1978)
Alfredo Di Stéfano
led the club to win five European Cups consecutively (currently the Champions League).
became president of Real Madrid in 1945. Under his presidency, the club, its stadium Santiago Bernabéu and its training facilities Ciudad Deportiva were rebuilt after the Spanish Civil War damages. Additionally, during the 1950s former Real Madrid Amateurs player Miguel Malbo founded Real Madrid's youth academy, or "cantera," known today as La Fábrica. Beginning in 1953, he embarked upon a strategy of signing world-class players from abroad, the most prominent being Alfredo Di Stéfano.
In 1955, acting upon the idea proposed by Gabriel Hanot, a French sports journalist and editor of L'Équipe, Bernabéu, Bedrignan and Gusztáv Sebes created a tournament for the champions teams around Europe, under invitation, that would eventually become what today is known as the UEFA Champions League. It was under Bernabéu's guidance that Real Madrid established itself as a major force in both Spanish and European football. The club won the European Cup five times in a row between 1956 and 1960, which included the 7–3 Hampden Park final against Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960. After these five consecutive successes, Real was permanently awarded the original cup and earning the right to wear the UEFA badge of honour.
The club won the European Cup for a sixth time in 1966 defeating Partizan Belgrade 2–1 in the final with a team composed entirely of same nationality players, a first in the competition. This team became known as the Yé-yé. The name "Yé-yé" came from the "Yeah, yeah, yeah" chorus in The Beatles' song "She Loves You" after four members of the team posed for Marca and impersonated the Beatles. The Yé-yé generation was also European Cup runner-up in 1962 and 1964. In the 1970s, Real Madrid won five league championships and three Spanish Cups. The club played its first UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in 1971 and lost to English side Chelsea 2–1. On 2 July 1978, club president Santiago Bernabéu died while the World Cup was being played in Argentina. FIFA decreed three days of mourning to honour him during the tournament. The following year, the club organized the first edition of the Trofeo Santiago Bernabéu in memory of its former president.
Quinta del Buitre and sustained success (1980–2000)
By the early 1980s, Real Madrid had lost its grasp on the Liga title until a new cohort of home-grown stars brought success back to the club. Spanish sport journalist Julio César Iglesias gave to this generation the name La Quinta del Buitre ("Vulture's Cohort"), which was derived from the nickname given to one of its members, Emilio Butragueño. The other four members were Manuel Sanchís, Martín Vázquez, and Miguel Pardeza; all five footballers were graduates of Real Madrid's youth academy. With La Quinta del Buitre (reduced to four members when Pardeza left for Zaragoza in 1986) and notable players like goalkeeper Francisco Buyo, right-back Miguel Porlán Chendo and Mexican striker Hugo Sánchez, Real Madrid had one of the best teams in Spain and Europe during the second half of the 1980s, winning two UEFA Cups, five Spanish championships in a row, one Spanish cup and three Spanish Super Cups. In the early 1990s, La Quinta del Buitre split up after Martín Vázquez, Emilio Butragueño and Míchel left the club.
In 1996, President Lorenzo Sanz appointed Fabio Capello as coach. Although his tenure lasted only one season, Real Madrid were proclaimed league champions, and players like Predrag Mijatović, Davor Šuker, Clarence Seedorf, Roberto Carlos and keeper Bodo Illgner, arrived at the club to strengthen a squad that already boasted the likes of , Fernando Hierro and Fernando Redondo. As a result, Real Madrid (with the addition of Fernando Morientes in 1997) finally ended its 32-year wait for its seventh European Cup: in 1998, under manager Jupp Heynckes, they defeated Juventus 1–0 in the final with a goal from Mijatović.
In November 1999 Vicente del Bosque took over as coach. For the last season of the century, 1999–2000, the squad was still led by the older veterans such as Fernando Hierro, Fernando Redondo, Roberto Carlos and Raúl González. Real added the budding young talents of Fernando Morientes, and Iker Casillas, supported by the arrival of Steve McManaman and Nicolas Anelka from the English Premier League, alongside local talents Míchel Salgado and Iván Helguera. In Del Bosque's first season in charge Real won the Champions League for the eighth time, following a 3–0 victory over Valencia in the final, with goals from Morientes, McManaman and Raúl. This victory marked the beginning of a successful period in Real Madrid's history.
Florentino Pérez era (2000–2006)
In July 2000, Florentino Pérez was elected club president. He vowed in his campaign to erase the club's €270 million debt and modernize the club's facilities. However, the primary electoral promise that propelled Pérez to victory was the signing of Luís Figo from arch-rivals Barcelona. The following year, the club had its training ground rezoned and used the money to begin assembling the Galácticos team by signing a global star every summer, which included Zinedine Zidane, , Luís Figo, David Beckham and Fabio Cannavaro. It is debatable whether the gamble paid off, as despite winning the UEFA Champions League and an in 2002, followed by La Liga in 2003, the club failed to win a major trophy for the next three seasons.
The few days after the capturing of the 2003 Liga title were surrounded with controversy. The first controversial decision came when Pérez sacked winning coach Vicente del Bosque. Over a dozen players left the club, including Madrid captain Fernando Hierro, while defensive midfielder Claude Makelele refused to take part in training in protest at being one of the lowest-paid players at the club and subsequently moved to Chelsea. "That's a lot [of players leaving] when the normal rule is: never change a winning team," stated Zidane. Real Madrid, with newly appointed coach Carlos Queiroz, started their domestic league slowly after a hard win over Real Betis.
The 2005–06 season began with the promise of several new signings: Júlio Baptista (€24 million), Robinho (€30 million) and Sergio Ramos (€27 million). However, Real Madrid suffered from some poor results, including a 0–3 loss at the hands of Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabéu in November 2005. Madrid's coach Wanderley Luxemburgo was sacked the following month and his replacement was Juan Ramón López Caro. A brief return to form came to an abrupt halt after losing the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinal, 6–1 to Real Zaragoza. Shortly after, Real Madrid were eliminated from the Champions League for a fourth successive year, this time at the hands of Arsenal. On 27 February 2006, Florentino Pérez resigned.
Ramón Calderón era (2006–2009)
Ramón Calderón was elected as club president on 2 July 2006 and subsequently appointed Fabio Capello as the new coach and Predrag Mijatović as the new sporting director. Real Madrid won the Liga title in 2007 for the first time in four years, but Capello was nonetheless sacked at the end of the campaign. The title was won on 17 June, where Real faced Mallorca at the Bernabéu while Barcelona and Sevilla, the other title challengers, faced Gimnàstic de Tarragona and Villarreal, respectively. At half-time, Real were 0–1 down, while Barcelona had surged ahead into a 0–3 lead in Tarragona. However, three goals in the last half-hour secured Madrid a 3–1 win and their first league title since 2003.
Second Florentino Pérez era (2009–present)
was the club's most expensive signing when he joined in 2009, costing €94 million.
On 1 June 2009, Florentino Pérez regained Real Madrid's presidency. Pérez continued with the Galácticos policy pursued in his first term, buying Kaká from Milan for a (in pounds sterling) sum of £56 million, and then breaking the again by purchasing Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for £80 million.
José Mourinho took over as manager in May 2010. In April 2011, a rare occurrence happened when, for the first time ever, four Clásicos were to be played in a span of just 18 days. The first fixture was for the Liga campaign on 17 April (which ended 1–1 with penalty goals for both sides), the Copa del Rey final (which ended 1–0 to Madrid) and the controversial two-legged Champions League semifinal on 27 April and 2 May (3–1 loss on aggregate) to Barcelona.
In the 2011–12 La Liga season, Real Madrid won La Liga for a record 32nd time in the league's history, also finishing the season with numerous club-level records set, including 100 points reached in a single season, a total of 121 goals scored, a goal difference of +89 and 16 away wins, with 32 wins overall. In the same season, Cristiano Ronaldo become the fastest player to reach 100 goals scored in Spanish league history. In reaching 101 goals in 92 games, Ronaldo surpassed Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskás, who scored 100 goals in 105 matches. Ronaldo set a new club mark for individual goals scored in one year (60), and became the first player ever to score against all 19 opposition teams in a single season.
Real Madrid began the 2012–13 season winning the Supercopa de España, defeating Barcelona on away goals, but finished second in the league competition. A major transfer of the season was signing of Luka Modrić from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee in the region of £33 million. After a disappointing loss to Atlético Madrid in the 2013 Copa del Rey Final, Pérez announced the departure of José Mourinho at the end of the season by "mutual agreement".
La Décima and European treble
On 25 June 2013, Carlo Ancelotti succeeded Mourinho to become the manager of Real Madrid on a three-year deal, with Zinedine Zidane named as one of his assistants. On 1 September 2013, the long-awaited transfer of Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur was announced. The transfer of the Welshman was reportedly a new world record signing, with the transfer price approximated at €100 million. In Ancelotti's first season at the club, Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey, with Bale scoring the winner in the final against Barcelona. On 24 May, Real Madrid defeated city rivals Atlético Madrid in the 2014 Champions League Final, winning their first European title since 2002, and becoming the first team to win ten European Cups/Champions League titles, an achievement known as "La Décima".
After winning the 2014 Champions League, Real Madrid signed goalkeeper Keylor Navas, midfielder Toni Kroos and attacking midfielder James Rodríguez. The club won the 2014 UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla, the club's 79th official trophy. During the last week of the 2014 summer transfer window, Real Madrid sold two players key to the previous season's successes: Xabi Alonso to Bayern Munich and Ángel Di María to Manchester United. This decision by the club was surrounded by controversy, with Cristiano Ronaldo stating, "If I was in charge, maybe I would have done things differently," while Carlo Ancelotti admitted, "We must start again from zero."
After a slow start to the 2014–15 La Liga season, Real Madrid went on a record-breaking 22-match winning streak, which included wins against Barcelona and Liverpool, surpassing the previous Spanish record of 18 successive wins set by Frank Rijkaard's Barça in the 2005–06 season. The streak came to an end in their opening match of 2015 with a loss to Valencia, leaving the club two short of equalling the world record of 24 consecutive wins. The club failed to retain the Champions League (losing to Juventus in the semi-finals) and the Copa del Rey, and also failed to land the league title (finishing two points and a place behind champions Barcelona), shortcomings that all preceded Ancelotti's dismissal on 25 May 2015.
On 3 June 2015, Rafael Benítez was confirmed as the new Real Madrid manager, signing a three-year contract. Real Madrid remained unbeaten in the league until a 3–2 loss at Sevilla on the matchday 11. This was followed by a 0–4 home loss in the first Clásico of the season against Barcelona. In the Copa del Rey Round of 32, Real fielded an ineligible player in Denis Cheryshev in a 1–3 first leg win away against Cádiz, resulting in the second leg being cancelled and Real being disqualified. Benítez was relieved of his duties on 4 January 2016 following allegations of unpopularity with supporters, displeasure with players and a failure to get good results against top teams.
On 4 January 2016, Benítez's departure was announced along with the promotion of Zinedine Zidane to his first head coaching role. Under Zidane, Real ended up finishing in second place, just one point behind champions Barcelona, in the 2015–16 La Liga. On 28 May, Real Madrid won their 11th Champions League title, extending their record for most successes in the competition, with the achievement being termed "La Undécima".
Zidane, with his Real Madrid players, standing to the right of Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena
after Real had won their 33rd La Liga
title, May 2017
Real Madrid began their 2016–17 campaign, which was to be Zidane's first full season in charge of the club, with victory in the 2016 UEFA Super Cup. On 10 December 2016, Madrid won their 35th-straight match without a loss, which set a new club record. On 18 December 2016, Madrid defeated Japanese club Kashima Antlers 4–2 in the final of the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup. With a 3–3 draw at Sevilla on 12 January 2017, Madrid's unbeaten run extended to 40 matches, breaking Barcelona's Spanish record of 39 matches unbeaten in all competitions from the previous season. Their unbeaten streak ended after a 1–2 away loss against Sevilla in La Liga three days later. In May that year, Madrid won the 2016–17 La Liga for a record 33rd time, their first title in five years. On 3 June, the club's Champions League Final win against Juventus resulted in Real Madrid being the first team to successfully defend their title in the UEFA Champions League era, and the first to win consecutive titles in the competition since Milan in 1989 and 1990, when the tournament was known as the European Cup. Real Madrid's title was its 12th, extending its record, and its third in four years. The achievement is also known as "La Duodécima". The 2016–17 season was the greatest campaign in terms of trophies won in the history of Real Madrid.
Real Madrid won the 2017 UEFA Super Cup 2–1 against Manchester United. Five days later, Real Madrid beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the first leg of the 2017 Supercopa de España, before winning the second leg 2–0, ending a 24 consecutive match scoring record of Barcelona in El Clásico matches, and with a 5–1 aggregate score. On 16 December 2017, Real beat Brazilian club 1–0 in the Final of 2017 FIFA Club World Cup and became the first club to retain the trophy. Real Madrid also won their third successive UEFA Champions League in 2018, becoming the first club to win three straight UEFA Champions League titles since the tournament's inception, as well as the first team to win three straight titles in European competition since Bayern Munich in the 1970s. On 31 May, only five days after winning the final, Zidane announced his resignation as Real Madrid manager, citing the club's "need for change" as his rationale for departing.
On 12 June, Real Madrid named Julen Lopetegui, the head coach of the , as their new manager. It was announced that he would officially become manager after the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, the Spanish national team sacked Lopetegui a day prior to the tournament, stating that he negotiated terms with the club without informing them. The club then began aggressively re-shaping the squad in the summer of 2018, which included the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus for a reported €100 million. After a string of poor performances and losses from the team, Lopetegui was dismissed and replaced by then Castilla coach, Santiago Solari. On 22 December 2018, Real Madrid beat Al Ain by a 4–1 margin in the final of 2018 FIFA Club World Cup. With their win, Real Madrid became the outright record winners of the Club World Cup with four titles. They are considered to have been the world champions for grand total of seven time because FIFA recognises the as the predecessor of FIFA Club World Cup. They also extended the record for most consecutive titles with their third in a row. On 11 March 2019, Real Madrid reinstated Zidane as the head coach of the club.