Los Galacticos: Second time lucky for Madrid

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

Football

It’s been a frantic summer of transfers for Los Blancos. The return of Florentino Perez as president has sparked a revolution at the Bernabeu.

Last year’s season of toil has resulted in a mass turnover of the ailing Madrid squad. Upon resuming his old role, Perez immediately indulged millions of euro into rebuilding the infamous Los Galacticos.

The original team of superstars comprised of prestigious talents such as Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, David Beckham, Ronaldo, Raul and Roberto Carlos. They played majestic football as they claimed a ninth European Cup (2002) and a La Liga title (2003).

However the system was flawed with Perez neglecting the importance of building from the back. The team adopted an attitude which can be encapsulated by the phrase: you score 2, we’ll score 3.

The talented squad played flowing football, attractive to eye, and the sight of some of the greatest players on one pitch working as a cohesive unit proved breathtaking for football viewers worldwide.

Deft touches, blockbuster passes, and spectacular goals became their trademark. But for all the flair the squad possessed, they struggled to achieve an extended spell of dominance in both Spanish and European football.

The Makelele role

Claude Makelele was unhappy with his measly wage despite the influence he had on the fortunes of the team and considering the huge amounts the more inventive players were earning.

Makelele was indispensable to that Madrid side. He was the insurance policy. He protected the fallible back four with his unrelenting and tireless work rate.

Manager Vincent Del Bosque, Captain Fernando Hierro, Fernando Morientes and Steve McManaman all leant their support to the Frenchman’s wage demands.

Perez refused to be swayed. Makelele departed for fresh pastures, embraced by all at Chelsea. Real were left with a gaping void to fill. In addition Del Bosque, Hierro, Morientes and McManaman all exited the club.

Madrid deployed second rate players in the newly vacated anchor role. The balance of the team had been disrupted with the President’s stubborn attitude proving detrimental to the fortunes of his club.

Zidane was quick to recognise the influence of Makelele when he stated: “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”, referring to the sale of his international team mate and the purchase of David Beckham.

Thomas Graveson was one of the players earmarked to flourish in the role after being poached from Everton. Yet, he was unable to produce the performances that had earned him a fearsome reputation in English football.

The arrival of David Beckham coincided with the beginning of a long trophy drought. Carlos Queiroz replaced Del Bosque but lasted one season. The club wouldn’t return to winning ways until Fabio Capello returned to the Bernabeau.

The uncompromising Capello was unafraid to exclude the ageing Galacticos from his side, choosing his starting line-up on merit and not reputation.

The Italian’s predecessors had relented with the famous faces despite regular poor performances. To coin a term from Macca this ‘Disneyfication’ of Madrid ultimately undermined their lofty ambitions.

What is different about the New Galacticos

Madrid has spent over £250 million this summer in an attempt to overhaul the treble winning Barcelona. Juande Ramos departed as coach with the Manuel Pellegrini taking the managerial reigns of the club.

The experienced Pellegrini joined Madrid from Villereal. While at El Submarino Amarillo, Perez established himself as one of the premier managers in Spanish football, boasting an impressive record domestically and in Europe.

An ambitious transfer policy has seen the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo (€94m), Kaka (€70m), Benzema (€35m), Xabi Alonso (€34m)  and Raul Albiol (€15m) among others.

A complete revamp of the squad ensued, as many of the teams Dutch stars were shown the exit door with Wesley Sneijder departing for Inter Milan, Arjen Robben joining Bayern Munich and Rafael Van Der Vaart expected to leave before the transfer window closes.

It appears lessons have been learnt. Pellegrini highlighted the importance of signing Xabi Alonso to play the ‘Makelele role’ while adding defenders Albiol and right back Alvaro Arbeloa to the Madrid ranks.

Alonso could prove the most influential signing of the summer. Perez spent lavishly on his stars. While Pelligrini spent wisely on a ball player which he described as “fundamental” to his plans.

The former Liverpool dynamo will control the rhythm and tempo of the Madrid side as he did for Liverpool to such great effect last year.

Lassana Diarra will be deployed in the destroyer role as the overflowing talent of Ronaldo, Kaka and Benzema will bag the goals up front.

Perez was reluctant to sign Alonso. The Spanish international didn’t fit the superstar tag which is a requirement for any Perez signing.

However upon the insistence of Pellegrini, Perez relented, purchasing the player his manager so craved. It indicates that the 62-year-old has learnt from past errors, showing a willingness to listen to the manager. This could prove crucial to a successful Galacticos team.

Ronaldo, Kaka and Benzeama will pimp up the Real Madrid Bentley but Alonso will provide a well oiled engine, a player worthy of taking over the mantle left by Claude Makelele – Real Madrid’s greatest Galactico.

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