CNN  — 

In a year that the Champions League final will be played just 14 kilometers from the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid’s current team ended up some distance away from resembling a European champion.

For the past three seasons, Real has swept all before it in the Champions League. Nobody had ever won the the tournament twice in a row during the modern era, but Real managed it three times in succession.

Yet for all the club’s recent European success, this season has been, as Real defender Dani Carvajal so bluntly told reporters after his side’s stunning defeat by Ajax on Tuesday, “a piece of s***.”

There will be plenty of football fans across the world enjoying Real’s demise, none more so than neighbor Atletico, which will host this year’s final at its Metropolitano Stadium.

‘Heads will roll’

Tuesday’s humbling 4-1 home defeat by Ajax in the second leg of the last-16 Champions League tie sent Real crashing out of the competition for the first time in 46 months.

The defeat capped a miserable week for Real, which was knocked out of the Spanish Cup by arch rival Barcelona, and then beaten at home in the league by the Catalan giant once again a few days later.

Ajax, which lost the first leg 2-1 to Real in Amsterdam, then produced a scintillating display to administer the most fatal of blows and leave the Spanish club in crisis. While Ajax delivered a futuristic style of football, a jaded Real looked stuck in the past.

Rarely one to shy away from hyperbole, Spanish newspaper Marca labeled it the “failure of the century,” adding that “heads will roll.”

Daniel Carvajal gave an honest assessment of his side's performance.

“I have never had this feeling before,” Carvajal told reporters after the game. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s so bad. In a week we lost it all, we lost it all at home. Is it the end of an era? I don’t see it like that but it is true the season is practically finished for us.

“We have to be professional, we have to stand up, we can’t hide, we know we have had a s*** season and that’s it.”

While Carvajal was keen to air his views in public, a penny for the thoughts of the club’s captain, Sergio Ramos.

This was certainly not the script Ramos would have had in mind as he sat in his corporate box while reportedly filming a documentary for Amazon.

His decision to get himself suspended for this contest by accruing a booking on purpose during the first game in Amsterdam smacked of arrogance. That arrogance, it turns out, was misplaced as no doubt the documentary will show.

The front pages of Spanish sports newspapers in Madrid after Real's defeat by Ajax.

For how does a team with the riches and talent of Real Madrid succumb to a side that is second in the Dutch league, and whose budget is dwarfed by the Spanish club.

And not only did it succumb, it was beaten by a side playing a brand of football that was vibrant, energetic and the very antithesis of what Real has offered in recent weeks.

“We’ve had three bad games and lost the illusion of Real Madrid,” Lucas Vazquez told Marca.

“We come from winning three years in a row to losing like this. What we achieved was incredible but this season hasn’t gone as expected. It’s an exaggeration to talk about a change of cycle, but we can’t explain what happened in this past week.”

What’s gone wrong?

No sooner had the final whistle gone and the masses trudged out amid the deepening gloom, the postmortem began.

 Real Madrid's Brazilian defender Marcelo (C) lifts the trophy after winning the 2018 Champions League.

“I think there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed,” Spanish football journalist Ben Hayward told CNN.

“Gareth Bale is having a tough time, Marcelo too, Isco can’t even make the squad. There are top players who are probably coming to the end at Real Madrid and some rejuvenation and strengthening is required.

“Real Madrid always manage to find a way of getting through and while fans are used to seeing a few scares in the Champions League, they weren’t used to this. It came as a big shock.”

Kings of Europe for over 1,000 days, Real’s defeat marked its first elimination at the last-16 stage since the 2009/10 season.