It’s that time again in the Spanish capital, the Real Madrid presidential elections. The current favourite is Florentino Perez and it looks an almost certainty he will be the man in the Madrid hotseat next season.
If anyone out there is unaware of who Perez is he has had a spell as president at the Santiago Bernabeu before from 2000 to 2006 – the Galacticos period. In his previous tenure in charge he brought Zinedine Zidane to Real in a then world record transfer from Juventus. He also sanctioned a move for Luis Figo from bitter rivals Barcelona, which make no mistake was a massive coup at the time. Ronaldo and David Beckham followed and for a time at least they really were the envy of the footballing world.
Then there was the fatal error, an ultimate faux pas from Perez – allowing Claude Makelele to depart the Bernabeu for Chelsea. He claimed Makelele wasn’t worth anything to the team and wouldn’t pay him the wages he was demanding, to be honest this was utter foolishness and extreme arrogance from Perez. Everyone who watched Madrid in that period will have known Makelele was the engine of the side, the player who would win the ball and distribute it to one of the many creative outlets at his disposal. Without Makelele Madrid’s form began to slide, as did their position as the best team in the world.
If Perez is to recreate the Galacticos he will have to have learned lessons from his previous mistakes. The targets he has named are great players in all fairness in Kaka, Wigan’s Antonio Valencia and Xabi Alonso. Valencia might not be the most established name in the world but he is quality and was rumoured to be the player Manchester United had in mind last summer when it was unclear whether or not Cristiano Ronaldo would have stayed at Old Trafford.
Personally I think Alonso would be a great addition to the Real team and could perhaps be even more effective there than he is at Liverpool. Real’s current midfielders of the Alonso type, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van der Vaart in particular, haven’t really worked particularly well this season. I’m not sure why to be honest, I’ve always rated both Sneijder and Van der Vaart but they really haven’t hit the heights that were expected of them this season. Alonso has great distribution and alongside Lassana Diarra in a holding role they would be a dangerous combination.
A few weeks ago on soccerlens I wrote an article entitled ‘What is happening to Real Madrid?’ This was in the week of the 6-2 defeat to Barcelona which all but ended a frankly disappointing season at the Bernabeu, with the title out of reach and a relatively early exit from the Champions League. It would seem that something is happening at Real Madrid and they should have built a better side for next season, especially if they stay away from Cristiano Ronaldo. That isn’t to say I don’t rate Ronaldo, but last summer they wasted so much time and effort trying to get him the real issues in the side were ignored.
Whether or not they will be able to topple Barcelona next season remains to be seen. The Catalans have been by far the better side this season, I don’t think even the most loyal of Real’s fans would disagree with me on that point, and it will take more than two or three new players to change that. Whatever happens at Real Madrid I expect them to offer greater competition next season, whether or not they can regain the Spanish title and hopefully we’ll see more of a return to the attacking style that as a club they are famous for. If Perez is to match or better the success he enjoyed in his previous spell as Real president he will have to have learned from his previous mistakes, namely to realise that the defence is actually quite an important part of football.