The Return of the Galácticos

After a dismal 4th place finish in the 2018/19 season Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez parted ways with manager Max Allegri. Despite leading Los Blancos to Club World Cup victory in 2019 their performance in the league was below par, not only did they finish 15 points behind biter rivals Barcelona (Champions), they weren’t even the highest placed club in Madrid with Atlético finishing 5 points higher in 2nd place.

League 1819

Off the field the clubs finances aren’t in the best health, ‘but it’s Real Madrid’ I hear you say and you’d be right, they will never be in the same situation as Huesca or Rayo, but they’ve still got books to balance & the end of seasons financial records don’t make for sustainable reading. £93m in the red & spending £16m per month more than they’re bringing in, thanks in no part to the £4.8m a week wage budget.

Finance 0519

This decade has been arguably one of Madrid’s most successful in the history of the club, but it’s felt far from dominant; Barcelona, Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi have always been there taking the headlines and in someways the shine off of those three Champions League victories which in any other decade would have stood head and shoulders above anything in world football. 6 league victories in the past two decades is far from what has been expected from this great club & even the last league win in 2016/17 feels like a distant memory and certainly more about Barcelona’s failings rather than Real Madrid’s dominance.

Background

Florentino Pérez isn’t a man to mince his words and after he granted us access to his Madrid residence, just a six minute drive from the stadium, we got to understand the direction the 15th richest man in Spain wanted to take his team. He spoke openly about the recent history and it was clear to see that Pérez was disappointed that they had been unable to compete (in stylistic terms) with Barcelona & that many teams around the globe had closed the gap to Real Madrid with the huge television deals and lucrative commercial deals associated with world football.

‘We want to be number 1’ said Pérez assertively, he spoke about the need for reflection and the need for a new plan. ‘Money isn’t the way to win’ he continued, ‘PSG, Manchester, Munich, they all have money now, we need more, we need a plan’. It was clear to see that Florentino’s business mind had been at work, the days of just buying the best players were gone, football’s a business, it is an art and most of all it is entertainment. We started to talk about the plan and it was clear that there was an objective and ‘3 seasons’ was the framework, ‘after 3 seasons el nuevo Galácticos will return’ he said – my eyes instantly drawn to the pictures in his office of Figo, Ronaldo, Beckham and the memories of that first galáctico era – the structure of this plan was as simple as the white shirts of Los Merengues:

Season 1 –

  • Reduce playing staff – squad to have no more than 2 players per position (not including youth team players).
  • Sell fringe players to make space on the wage budget to allow the financial standing of the club to grow.
  • Sign 1 Galáctico – improves the playing squad & shows our commitment to our supporters.
  • Scouting network to identify high potential youth prospects to filter into the playing squad or be sold at a profit from Season 3.

Season 2 – 

  • Sign 1 Galáctico
  • Improve playing squad by position – only signing players once deals have been done for existing players.
  • Challenge for La Liga & Champions League
  • Scouting network to identify high potential youth prospects to filter into the playing squad or be sold at a profit from Season 4.

Season 3 – 

  • Sign 1 Galáctico
  • Improve playing squad by position – only signing players once deals have been done for existing players.
  • Win La Liga & reach the final of the Champions League
  • Scouting network to identify high potential youth prospects to filter into the playing squad or be sold at a profit from Season 5.

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The idea of el nuevo Galácticos got me excited so I asked Pérez how he quantified a galáctico – ‘it’s the player that every child pretends to be on the playground, it’s the player that makes an entire stadium rise to their feet to applaud their performance, it’s a Di Stéfano, a Puskás, a Zizou, a Ronaldo, it’s a player of their generation.’ I quizzed him on whether he believed Madrid had forgotten what a galáctico looked like in recent years – ‘it’s difficult, we used to identify a player at the top of his game, the likes of Figo, Beckham, Kaka, Ronaldo and Zidane were all superstars of the game and moving to Real Madrid elevated them to the ceiling of world football. We had the financial power to make offers to clubs that they couldn’t turn down, you cannot do this in today’s market. Cristiano was the last real galáctico, he was that special, special player & £80m was a lot of money in 2009, a club like Manchester United wouldn’t give you the time of day if you offered £80m for their biggest asset in today’s market. To buy the top, top players you would have to pay in excess of £150m, just look at Neymar to Paris, it’s not sustainable so we looked at potential, could we identify the next galáctico and cut out the club in the middle that took a chance on a player to then profit from them when a big club comes calling. I would say we have had some success with this model, we signed Benzema, Isco, Modric & Kroos for a combined £100m – the same players have a market value of £235m today and although not galácticos they have developed into world class players in their own right’.

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So what’s in store for the new regime? The last galáctico left for Turin, the current starting eleven have a combined average age of 29.45 and they have the proverbial mountain to climb to topple Barcelona. I asked Perez about Fernando Redondo and why he thinks he has the credentials to implement the plan. ‘Fernando knows Madrid, he knows what it is to be in a team of galácticos & he understands the fans. A high profile manager comes with demands, they want unlimited funds, the fans expect instant success & we’ve seen how quickly the dressing room can turn if the players don’t support the manager. We did this with Zizou, he was a galáctico & you saw the success we had with him and although he did have some time with Castilla before taking control of the first team he understood what it means to play for this club. We are hoping that Fernando has the same success’.

It’s safe to say that Real Madrid are going to be busy this summer, high wages and higher egos are going to make any transfer deals complex and time consuming all whilst developing a playing style to compete with the power of Barcelona. Redondo certainly has his work cut out and time is never on a Madrid managers side.


Thanks for reading. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything and if I’m honest I’ve not been inspired, but since playing a network save my love for Football Manager has returned & an offline save was a necessity to fill the time when I can’t play that. I chose Real Madrid because of what’s happening in real-life, the club seems to be in a bit of a mess & it felt like a Football Manager save with them could create a good narrative. I hope you like this style of post, there’s no point going into the database details as everyone knows who Real Madrid are, they’re expected to win everything & I’ve no doubt I’ll pick up a fair bit of silverware so I want to make it more about the club, the players and their place in football’s hierarchy.

Joe | @FridayNightFM