Richard Buxton: Disgraced Real in urgent need of a reboot
Spectacular crash against Ajax shows how far Galacticos have declined
Having been the undisputed kings of Europe for over 1,000 days, Real Madrid's dethronement was inevitable. Few, however, would have envisaged that they would come crashing down so spectacularly.
Ajax Amsterdam's comprehensive 4-1 win in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie yesterday morning (Singapore time) did not simply herald the end of an era for Los Blancos' previously unassailable dominance.
In just six days, the Bernabeu has endured the ultimate humiliation. Successive defeats by Barcelona in La Liga and the Copa del Rey killed off their domestic hopes.
Further decimation by the Dutch side has left them facing the need for a belated reboot.
Planting the flag in Atletico Madrid's backyard by winning this season's final at the Wanda Metropolitano would have meant more than their three most recent triumphs combined in Europe's elite club competition. But it would also have masked a multitude of sins.
Above all, the Champions League has come to define Real's modern identity.
Lifting it four out of the previous five seasons has seen them pad up their all-time record of European crowns to 13 titles.
Yet rarely did they display their pedigree with genuine distinction.
Someone, or something, would invariably pull them through.
That burden tended to fall on Cristiano Ronaldo's glut of goals and Sergio Ramos' determination to win at all costs, a trait which has remained to this day. Ramos' calculated attempt to give Real an upper hand in the quarter-finals backfired.
A booking deliberately picked up at the end of their first leg with Ajax meant that Real sorely lacked the defensive steel and cunning often provided by their captain.
Since they last suffered Champions League ignominy, in 2015, no fewer than five managers have passed through the Bernabeu's dugout.
Santiago Solari, the incumbent, is set to suffer the same fate as his predecessors after presiding over the current nadir.
Real president Florentino Perez knows his latest vanity project is no longer sustainable.
In truth, it ground to a halt long before his side surrendered their continental crown.
On and off the pitch, a "Galacticos" policy which helped re-establish them as a dominant force in world football ended last summer. Once Zinedine Zidane resigned, Real's house of cards was always liable to collapse.
Without the mercurial Frenchman around to unite a fractured dressing room, Ronaldo's marksmanship and Ramos' penchant for the dark arts, they are merely a team that are the sum of their parts.
Those that could conceivably help arrest the post-Galacticos rot have become marginalised.
Gareth Bale's financial demands are likely to see would-be suitors for the ex-Tottenham winger in increasingly short supply, should his current employers decide to cash in.
All the more reason for him to be embraced, rather than ostracised, by Madridistas.
Except that is not the way things tend to go down at the club which Perez has built.
Until that changes, Los Blancos will remain their own worst enemy.
REAL: Courtois, Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Reguilon, Modric, Kroos, Casemiro (Valverde 87), Vinicius (Asensio 35), Vasquez (Bale 29), Benzema
AJAX: Onana, Mazraoui (Veltman 80), de Ligt, Blind, Tagliafico, van de Beek, Schone (de Wit 73), de Jong, Ziyech, Tadic, Neres (Dolberg 74)
The last time Real Madrid were eliminated at this stage of the Champions League was nine years ago, when Lyon won 2-1.