Lights, Camera, Action!!! With the return of Florentino Perez to the presidency of Real Madrid came “the show” and spectacle he likes to offer the soccer world. With Florentino, every move he makes at Madrid needs to draw cameras and a big crowd. The presentation at the Santiago Bernabeu of new signings Kaka (over 50,000 fans) and Cristiano Ronaldo (over 80,000 fans) being the prime example this summer. Ronaldo’s presentation set a new record for a player introduction to fans, eclipsing Diego Maradona’s Napoli presentation.
A quick bit of history with regards to the current president and his approach in the soccer transfer market. Upon winning the presidency in the summer of 2000 he pulled off one of the most controversial signings in luring Luis Figo away from Barcelona for a world record 58.5 million Euros! The move being the ultimate betrayal and a stroke of genius from the Madrid president. Next up, in summer of 2001 they broke the bank again with a new world record fee for Zinedine Zidane for 76 million. The trend continued in 2002 with Ronaldo after leading Brazil to world cup glory for 43 million. Beckham followed in 2003 for 35.1 million.
With the big names and massive spending came the nickname “Galacticos” (superstars) for Real Madrid. The philosophy, according to Florentino Perez was to mix Zidanes with Pavones (youth team defender brought into the team from academy). Initially, Perez policy worked with great success and the team had balance in attack and defense. In his first years in office Real Madrid won two Spanish leagues and their 9th European Cup (Champions League).
Unfortunately, Florentino was more worried about mounting a show with attacking minded superstars that would sell jerseys and give the club a more global brand then he was about keeping the team balanced. They insisted in signing big name players. In all, over 330 Million Euros were spent in players, most offensive minded ones during his first tenure. The lone player doing all the dirty work for the stars, Claude Makelele left to Chelsea after being denied a wage increase. After that, Madrid failed miserably in European football trying to win their 10th title.
Though Pérez’s policy resulted in increased financial success based on the exploitation of the club’s high marketing potential around the world, especially in Asia, it came under increasing criticism for being focused too much on marketing the Real Madrid brand and not enough on the football.
He announced his resignation on February 27 2006, acknowledging that the team and the club as a whole needed a new direction.
On June 1st, 2009 Perez was announced as the new president of Real Madrid after no other person or party dared rival him in an election. Days later, he began his spending spree by once again shaking up the transfer market in buying Kaka from AC Milan for 65 million Euros. Kaka is highly regarded as one of the top 3 players in world football and was FIFA player of the year and Golden Ball winner in 2007. A few days later, Perez broke the bank with a new world record fee in signing Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo for 94 Million Euros!!!
Karim Benzema (Lyon 35 Million), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool 35.4 Million), Raul Albiol (Valencia 15 Million), Alvaro Negredo (Almeria 5 Million), Alvaro Arbeloa (Liverpool 4 Million), and Esteban Granero (Getafe 4 Million) all followed during this summer transfer window that officially closed today. In all, Florentino has spent 257.4 Million Euros this summer in a time of Global Recession.
Not to mention he was desperately trying to lure Frank Ribery from Bayern Munich over all the way until the transfer deadline for over 80 million.
The word out of Madrid is that anything short of winning their 10th Champions League title and reclaiming the Spanish League crown will be a failure. Priority one is the Champions League of which ironically the final is being staged in Madrid.
The main reason Florentinos return gave all Madrid supporters hope and became a reality is because of arch rival FC Barcelonas record treble season. Hope has been restored with the signing of 2 of the 3 best players in the world in Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, the same problem remains in Madrid as in previous seasons and failures! Too many generals, not enough soldiers.
This Real Madrid squad is loaded with talent and new coach Manuel Pellegrini is a top level manager! If anyone can handle the personalities in the dressing room and keep them grounded, it’s him. The worries should come from this teams lack of balance. Based on what I’ve seen with their 4-2-3-1 formation implemented in the preseason and in their opening league encounter vs Deportivo La Coruna they will struggle. Another huge problem is lack of continuity within the squad. The starting lineup vs Deportivo over the weekend had 7 new faces with regards to last seasons team. Only Iker Casillas, Marcelo, Lass, and Raul were part of last years squad. You can probably add Sergio Ramos and Pepe into the mix when they come back from injury and suspension, respectively.
So with a projected Line Up that looks like this:
Ramos Pepe Albiol Marcelo
Lass Xabi Alonso
Ronaldo Kaka Raul
This team lacks the necessary balance defensively to win consistently against Europes best. When the team has possession, it will have a dangerous look. The left and right backs get forward with ease and can create off the dribble and give good width to the attack. Xabi Alonso’s passing is second to none in the midfield. He will surely orchestrate out of the middle and supply Kaka and Ronaldo with the type of service they need to make a difference in the offensive third. Benzema will show he is truly a world class #9 and score plenty of goals this season.
Now, when the team loses possession is where this team is going to struggle in the worst way. The back line is suspect with Sergio Ramos and Marcelo much better at getting forward than defending. Pepe can hold his own and is one of the top center backs in the world game today. Albiol is growing as a player, but covering the gaps that will be left with the constant projections Ramos and Marcelo make is a lot to ask. Speaking of gaps, Xabi Alonso is not exactly a true defensive mid in his own right. His defensive abilities are average. That leaves Lass to DO ALL OF THE DIRTY WORK BY HIMSELF. Kaka, Ronaldo, Raul, Benzema? Not a chance they will defend or pressure the way Pellegrini (coach) will demand them to.
The bright side Real Madrid has is the depth in the squad. Their squad is much deeper than any other team in La Liga or Europe for that matter. Who wouldn’t like to have Ruud Van Nistelroy or Higuain off the bench to score goals? What about Gago and Mamadou Diarra in the midfield? Esteban Granero’s creativity? In a World Cup year with so many games to be played and rotation necessary, this is the advantage Madrid boasts over the rest.
Look for Real Madrid’s new Galactico era to end much like the last one, trophy-less and in crisis, seeing archrival FC Barcelona lifting more trophies again this season.
We will continue to give detailed match previews and analysis of the big La Liga games this season on 3four3.