Ever since the year 2000 coinciding with the appointment of Floretino Perez as club president of Real Madrid, Los Blancos were quick to adopt a new philosophy at the club in the wake of their; deepening finical debt and the rise in prominence of bitter rivals Barcelona and pretenders to their crown of the biggest club in world football in Manchester united. Despite having 11 different managers in 14 years the philosophy always remained the same and simple, never be adverse to breaking the banking when it came to bring in the best and most lucrative players to the world, he termed this audacious plan Galácticos. Although the plan greatly divides most football fan; some seeing it merely as a marketing ploy to bring big names in just to sell shirts and help expand the lucrative Real Madrid name to foreign markets, particularly in rapidly developing Asia. While other will argue that it has always been for the good of the club on the pitch to bring in the best players in the world, because there is no doubt about it; good players win you games, but great players win you titles.
In the tenure of Perez it is clear to say that there has been three distinct periods of Galácticos; after breaking the world transfer record on two separate occasions, the combined almighty power of Figo, Beckham, Zidane and Ronaldo officially jump started the first Galácticos era. The period of the first Galácticos side lasted from 2000 – 2007, but despite the star names, the returns on the pitch began to spiral downwards and soon became barely even a shadow of what was expected from this godly alliance. Although they started on a good note, winning the La Liga title in 2001/2, 2002/3 and with a 9th Champions League win in the same year, the next three years would go on to become a baron wasteland, void of any glimmer of silverware. By 07 with the departures of Perez and Beckham, effectively G1 was left deadened in the water.
The 2008 season was an all time low in recent RM history, at home they were constantly playing bridesmaid to Barcelona treble winning team. While in Europe a 5-0 defeat to Liverpool on aggregate added the rotten cherry on the decaying cake of five consecutive early Champions League exits. Times at the Bernabéu were looking grim, but hold on, in the sky… Is it a bird? Is it a plane… no its Perez and his back with that blank cheque book again. Meet Galactios part 2 spear headed by word transfer breaking Kaka for 56 million, Cristiano Ronaldo for an earth shattering 80 million and of course Xabi Alonso and Benzema. With such a star studded line up, the pressure was instantly on then manager Manuel Pellegrini to deliver big! But once again the team didn’t deliver on the immense hype; in four years with just above average 2 domestic trophies and a champion’s league, the team didn’t really go on to dominate the world stage in quiet the same way Barcelona had been doing for a fraction of the cost. However fast forward to 2014 and the dawn of G3, in the wake of a legendary and superb world cup, Real Madrid used the tournament as a glorified scouting mission and liked what they saw particularly from the likes of golden boot winner James Rodriquez and ever present midfield maestro Tony Kross, to add to their current attacking geniuses of Bale, Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo and Di Maria. But it’s this particular Galaticos incarnation that I have truly the highest hope for them to do what all the other Glaticos teams could never really do; word domination and titles, tittles and more titles. But why is this team so much more equipped for a acclaim to throne of world football? Well that’s because the predecessors, despite their endeavours were always missing that secret ingredient to turn a burger from the Chum Bucket into a Krusty Krab.
Galácticos 1 vs 3
It might seem on the surface rather naive to dismiss a team with quite possibly two of the top 15 footballers of all time in Ronaldo and Zidane. But as history has dictated on many occasions, a few men do not make a championship winning team and sure Zidane and Ronaldo would easily walk into the present Galáctico team and still find a way to outshine their contemporise, obviously with exception of Cristiano Ronaldo and possibly Gareth Bale on a good day. However it is the other 9 members of the team that simply aren’t effective enough, the main suspects to blame can be found in the defensive positions. Since day 1 Perez philosophy was always to bring in the words best attacking players, and if you were even to mention the word defence he would look at you with a dead blank face as if you were speaking in tongues. When you consider in around the period between 2003-2006, the best defenders in the world were the likes of Evra at Monaco, Carvalho at Porto (which they did go on to sign, but well past his prime) and the ever present Paolo Maldini at the heart of the Milan defence, that period of time was with an abundance of defensive talent; however when you look at the defensive players that were brought in by Perez, the likes of Walter Samuel, Thomas Gravesen and Jonathan Woodgate, with the exception of Sergio Ramos, the defensive the acquired personnel in comparison certainly left a lot to be desired.
Now if we were to compare that defensive unit to the current RM team, there is considerable stack contrast in talent; first we have Pepe, although if you saw him in the 2014 world cup easily being duped by Muller into committing a red card offence, the player does have a history of bad temperament, but despite this when you actually watch this impressive athlete galloping across the turf you can instantly realize that you can come at him with all the trickery, pace and strength in the world, he is still always going to be one step ahead of you. They also have young talent in abundance in the shapes of Coentrao and Varane. But it is the later that deserve true merit especially when you consider that when Jose Mourinho was at RM he held the young Frenchman in such high esteem he described him as the best defender in the world of his age. Which on the surface may seem like a courage’s statement for even a managing genius, but I see it more as an insult as in the current football climate, I rank Varane right up there next to Mats Hummel’s and Vincent Kompany. While the final defender who I fill can trump anything Galácticos can conjure up is Sergio Ramos who when you consider that he has two Euros, a Word Cup, an assortments of domestic titles and a Champions League win under his belt, he adds that vast experience and that calm under pressure which adds great balance to the young defensive emerging talent that might crumble under pressure.
Another detriment to the G1 era was that the team was built out of star power and not necessarily players who would sacrifice a front cover on Vogue for the team. With too many inflated egos it is an almost herculean task to keep them all grounded and committed to the cause instead of themselves. If you want proof, just ask the 7 managers during that period how difficult it was to do so. For better or for worse, in the current crop of Madrid stars there is and there always will be one star and that is Cristiano Ronaldo still what I consider to the greatest European player of all time and when you can call yourself that, that’s when players like James Rodriguez, Luca Modric and Gareth Bale can afford to be a prima donna. Referring back to Ronaldo again, unlike let’s say Beckman or a Figo in a white shirt, on the pitch Ronaldo has consistently empathises is claim to the throne with a ludicrous goals return of 177 goals in 162 games – take that golden balls!!
Galácticos 2 vs 3
Naturally when you have the best player in the world, you just have to pass to him, but that strategy certainly possesses great risks. Not only are you sacrificing the other 10 players creative and goal scoring talent. If you’re known to constantly pass to him, other teams a more likely to man mark him and stifle his pace and goal potency. By April 2014 Cristiano Ronaldo was the top scorer in La Liga with 28 goals in 27 games. The top scorer in the Champions League with 14 goals in just eight games and he was also Real Madrid’s joint top scorer in the Copa Del Rey with three goals. I guess looking at stats, it’s a no brainer to pass to him, but that was the very reason I felt that the G2 never really lived up to potential, they were always to over reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo to the extent it created a bottleneck effect on their attacking prowess. However when Ronaldo had an injury lay off at various point in the season, in the ten games he didn’t play RM recorded a better win ratio jumping from 78% – 80% and their goal to game ratio raised marginally from 2.7 – 2. Don’t get me wrong, RM is always going to be a better outfit with the Portuguese wizard in their ranks; it just goes to show that the problem was physiological in nature. Simply put when Ronaldo is playing they have slightly less attacking conviction because they have complete trust in his scoring ability. However when they look around the pitch and don’t see Ronaldo, they go into panic mode and instantly step up their game to supplement the gaping hole left in his absents. Leading to more fluid movement in the attacking roles, more methodical passing as they don’t have to worry about passing it to Ronaldo every time and when it comes to free kicks, they can actually cross the ball in instead of watching as Ronaldo cannons it 40 yards over the cross bar.
But what makes G3 so special especially seeing as they to have Ronaldo in their team? Well for me part of the reason is that Ronaldo in G2 had to try and do so many by himself was because he didn’t have the faith in his fellow attackers to score without him. When Ronaldo plays for Portugal, a far weaker team than RM, he is often trying to win every game for Portugal single handily. But when you look at the team he is surrounded by in G3, there is a massive spike in quality compared to anything he has ever experienced before in a white shirt, or his nation’s colours. First you just have to look at Bale, who everyone will agree that at his peak playing for Spurs he was easily the third, and at certain points in the season probably the most exciting player in the world to watch. You just have to look at the supernatural goal he scored against Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final last season, where he left Daniel Alvez in shambles with his concord meets bullet, fuelled by cheetah blood pace that he used to tear past the Brazilian on the half way line before breaking the speed of light as he shot towards Victor valdes’s goal and scored. Then you add the two new singings to the mix, who were probably the two most sort after players post 2014 world cup. When you consider Rodriguez world stopping outside of the box volley, that easily will be listed as best goal of the tournament you can understand why RM forked out an astounding 63 million for the player. But it’s not just that goal and the fact he almost single handily carried his Columbian team into the quarterfinals; with his immense passing accuracy, his phenomenal close control that gives him great ball retention and his equal adeptness with both feet, it makes it absolutely likely for James to flourish in the ticker taker flow of La Liga.
Then you have probably my favourite player in last two years and always my go to signing on Fifa 14 when I need midfield Mozart to compose scintillating attacking symphonies. Tony Kross is a tremendous young German Talent that frustrates me greatly not to have seen Manchester United sign. But atlas, Manchester United massive lose, is Real Madrid’s decisive gain in a upcoming season pregnant with possibilities of silverware when you realize just how good Kross is, especially when you consider he is getting compliments from midfield legends like Paul Scholes, “a top-class central midfielder”, was the player that United most needed to sign.” Oh and let me not forget the other slew of extraordinary creative arsenal RM have at their disposal; Modric, Di Maria, Isco, Benzema and Xabi Alonso. If you’re a Barcelona fan not shaken in their boots at such daunting prospects, then you my friend – forget steel, you have balls of diamonds!
All this talent means that Ronaldo will be a lot more trusting of his the team mates around him and less likely to feel the pressure of RM’s success rested solely on his shoulders. Imagine how good Ronaldo is now when he has no competition for his position. Then imagine how good he would be if he was forced to fight for place in the starting 11 against the likes of Isco and Rodriguez as they become more prominent on the world class stage. I can’t help but shiver, as flurry of both excitement and fear rushes into me at the thought of it.
How will RM manage up in the next coming season?
Barcelona with a seemingly formidable front line of Messi, Suarez and Neymar and creative geniuses in midfield with the talent to feed the chances; Rakitic and Iniesta, Xavi. Everyone at their peak, Barcelona does in fact offer a formidable prospect for the upcoming season. But I don’t see Barcelona posing any real threats this season, for one thing they aren’t at their peak; for starters Suarez is still in the midst of a lengthy band that prohibits him from even training with the rest of his team. Although there is no doubt about his quality, can Barcelona guarantee that after four months out of action, he will be back sharp, fit and firing? In my opinion, defiantly he will eventually return to his all conquering self, but for the first few games back I would be surprised if he would be back to his best, especially when you consider the level of fitness required to operate at the very top level. It will certainly take a player who hasn’t had any first team football action in four months to instantly acclimatise to the demand in quality. Until then Barcelona, will only have two of the dangerous three, or will it be just one?
As everyone knows half of what it takes to be a top player is mentality and I feel that Neymar’s tournament ending injury, suffered in the world cup quarter final against Columbia will have a massive blow to his mentality. An injury so serious Neymar was lucky to avoid being paralyzed. Surely an incident like that, would damage a player psychology and the fact he still too injured for any pre-season tournament appearances, his availability and sharpness remains a doubt on top of that. Then when you look at Xavi at age 34 and only real destination if he were to leave the Nou Camp being MLS, it just shows at what point his career is right now. His performance on the pitch still warrant selecting for the first team, but with Modric and Khederia at the heart of the midfield of Real Madrid, there is no way a player on his last legs can compete against that much energy and leg power.
Finally when you look at the defence of Barcelona which has always been a cause of concern, you would have thought with the departure of Purol it would be the main position they would seek to improve upon. Yet with only the singing of an unremarkable 30 year old player in the form of Jérémy Mathieu, again Barcelona doesn’t look like an impressive defensive outfit. So in terms of the La Liga and with Barcelona multitude of problems you can’t see them posing much of a threat.
So who else could you look to for a fight, probably the team that won La Liga last season and finished second in the Champions League maybe? Yes I see Atheltico Madrid for the initial stages of the title race to be the only team even within touching distance of Real Madrid. Diego Simmone’s men have recently been a team of hard working individuals who put their entire minds and bodies on the line for each other. They always were a team difficult to break down, yet at the same time in Costa and Falcao they always had that striker upfront who provided that potent edge to balance out their dogged defensive style. But with Diego Costa moving to Chelsea, leaving upfront a now out of fashion Mario Mandzukic and nothing else to back him up, AM are looking rather toothless upfront as of late. In the long run they will be difficult to beat, but certainly won’t have enough goals in them to keep in touching distance of RM throughout the whole campaign.
Alright then, La Liga for next season is pretty much wrapped up, but what about the big boy competition in Europe. Can Madrid make history by defending their Champion’s League win from Lisbon and stretch their tally to an almighty 11th title? Well they certainly will be up in the mix and probably again be top three most likely to get the hands on the silverware, but they will face extremely difficult contention from Bayern Munich with the recent acquisition of Lewandowski and in particular Chelsea who have been the most head turning in the transfer market right up next to RM. By bringing in Luiz and Costa to Standford Bridge to add to their other mouth watering signing of Cesc Fabregas on top of the already present likes of Oscar, Willian and world cup winner Andre Schurrle amongst their ranks. For me Chelsea are a centre bank signing away from being the strongest squared built by an English team, and it’s for that very reason that I feel if anyone with enough quality to put a halt and possibly a crushing blow to RM title assault, it would be the men in blue helmed by none other than Mourhino himself.