The Real Problem

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So a new President and around 250 million pounds later, Real Madrid find themselves in exactly the same position as they were at the end of Bernd Schuster’s ill-fated rated reign in 2008.

With the loss at Alcorcon in the Copa del Rey all Real Madrid’s match day personnel have been thrown into the spot-light as, when coupled with the suspect draw at Sporting Gijon, the Real Madrid express train has, temporarily at least, ran out of steam. Or at least that is how one would expect to read a post-mortem of Real Madrid’s defeat to a third division team last Tuesday night.

So cue the alternate views in reaction to the defeat to Alcorcon. Some will jump to defend Real Madrid and claim that when Ronaldo returns everything will be fine. Others will state that Real Madrid are simply stuttering and a few changes should set it all right. Extreme views could call for Pellegrini’s head, a violent reaction I think you’ll agree but if rumours are to be believed he has one game to save his job.

These reactions are inevitable and opinions that are formed as a result come in great variety but all they really do is distract from the real issue and give a microscopic view of what should be a bigger picture. The fact is, with their size in mind, Real Madrid are one of the most poorly run clubs in Europe, from the top to the bottom.

I’m not really interested in what the loss to Alcorcon should mean. The reasons for the loss to the aforementioned minnows were obvious, and I will not be dwelling on them. I’m more concerned with using it as an excuse to shine a large and burning spotlight on Real Madrid as an institution. Since the day Florentino Perez arrived at the club Real Madrid have acted like, and I shall borrow John Carlin’s description, a 13 year old child who has found a money cheat on Championship Manager.

The talks of the sacking of Manuel Pellegrini, one of Europe’s best coaches, and the attempts to scape-goat and lay blame at the feet of other people is getting ridiculous even by Real Madrid’s ‘standards’. Florentino Perez has ridiculously asked for patience from the fans. Patience, why? It seems panic has already set in and Perez wants to find a solution.

From the intention to sell a place in the team to entrepreneurs with a boyhood dream, to opening a theme park in honour of the ‘galacticos’ Real Madrid has done all sorts that should attract condemnation from all corners of the football world under this man.

I have no idea of the inner workings of ‘the White House’ but whether it is too autocratic or some ridiculous form of delegation the clubs seems to bounce from crisis to crisis and do very little about it. They seem to have been in a perpetual state of either panic buying or fire-sales which have meant the team has lacked any stability. They also never address these problems in-house. They usually just sack their manager to appear to their ever demanding fans that they are doing something about the problems the club is having and call it a new era, only to struggle on to the same problem that they always had a few months down the line.

Results on the pitch have always been priority number one for Real Madrid so if things are going well for them in the league then not many questions are asked. Spending so big this summer seems to suggest that Florentino Perez wanted to guarantee success on the pitch while he had time to look at the situation within the club, maybe he thought if results remained positive then he could avoid looking altogether. I think that even though they may win the league this year, massive upheavals should be made to prevent any problems from reoccurring.

One major problem in the past has been their shameless treatment of staff, both players and coaches. Selling or sacking a player or manager by a club the size of Real Madrid often suggests that the person departing couldn’t handle being at such a big club, or wasn’t good enough.

This assumption is often wrong in terms of Real Madrid who have used this position as a comfort zone to avoid criticism. What is often more apparent is that the player they have sold wasn’t needed in first place, and the manager they sacked had no time, freedom or option to run the club as he would want it and could only go so far. Managers and players do not become bad over-night.

Real Madrid have a proven track record of treating staff appallingly yet they still remain the number one destination for the majority of top players in the world and I cannot understand why. Take the Dutch quartet at Real Madrid last year, Arjen Robben, Klass-Jan Huntelaar, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart. They were all drafted in, some un-needed (van der Vaart), some bought to appease fans (Huntelaar and all of them quickly jettisoned when the next president came along.

They were made to look stupid by the club this summer as they were shopped out to the highest bidder. Players and managers who have known nothing but upwards in their careers suddenly find themselves churned out  by a club they should never have been at in the first place and find themselves set back for years as they shoulder the blame, some never recover.

Their transfer policy exacerbates this, they mostly buy players because they are talented with little attention given to the position they play. Is Benzema really any better than Higuain? Last season, Sergio Ramos claimed he’d love it if the club bought a right sided midfielder to share the load while Arjen Robben was (constantly) injured, did they listen? They bought Lassana Diarra and Klass-Jan Huntelaar.

Those purchases also represent a glaring lack of any organisation when Real Madrid realised that only one of those two could be registered for the Champions League. Presumably their legal team were instantly sold on, and expensive replacements brought in.

The treatment extends to the untouchables too, Ronaldo and Beckham were made examples of when they signed pre-contract deals with other clubs (granted that was Capello’s decision, put the point remains) and Capello also admitted that Raul was very close to being loaned out or sold during his time there.

The issues I have raised may have been mistakes of the past and they may never repeat them, but I still feel they should be held accountable for their wrong-doings. How many careers have they ruined as they suck dry football’s talent pool? Despite all this, I’ve never heard too much criticism slung their way. Sure they have lost to Alcorcon, but have the real issues been sorted?

Winning La Liga or Champions League this year would really only paper over the cracks. But who would care about the delicate sensibilities of any football player or manager, sold or current, if they win the Champions League? Someone should, and they can’t keep treating players this way. Their attitude to their youth players always baffled me also. They don’t seem to be able to ascertain the current or potential level of ability of any of their players who graduate from the academy. They usually sell their players on to other clubs then exercise a buy-back-clause; it’s a common charade for a club who should know better.

Their attitude to selling the majority of their academy players caused their talented youth manager Michel to resign in 2008 as Juan Mata and Ruben de la Red left for pastures new. Juan Mata, in the #10 shirt, scored for Valencia last weekend against Almeria and is one of Spain’s brightest stars. How could they have not realised his talent? Or allowed him to leave? They were so busy chasing Huntelaar when Michel resigned, I doubt they noticed that either.

So when Florentino Perez won the election change should have been afoot as the majority of these mistakes happened under Ramon Calderon. But the recent talk about Pellegrini losing his job somehow makes me think that maybe Real Madrid will never change at all. Real Madrid has been described as a circus in the past. Maybe this circus should leave town.

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