Madrid Madness

The rumours are doing the rounds again. Who will Real Madrid buy this year? Franck Ribery? Wayne Rooney for £ 90 million? David Villa? It’s apparently a foregone conclusion that Racing Santander wizkid Sergio Canales is on his way as well. Carlos Tevez’s name has been mentioned as well.

There’s a huge wave of schadenfreude going around the world these days every year as Madrid fail to get past the first knock out round. But why have Real Madrid become everybody’s pet hate?

I know many Madrid fans will feel that Madrid are being unjustly villified, after all Chelsea, Manchester United and even Barcelona are guilty of splurging on players? I think the difference is that Madrid buy players at the top of their game – they achieve great things elsewhere, and then Madrid buy them. Most when most teams “splurge”, they spend collectively on a clutch of players an amount less than or equivalent to than Ronaldo’s price tag.

Plus, most good teams / managers seek to make sure that there is a home grown spine. Barca’s names are obvious but I credit both Wenger and Fergie in persisting with a youth policy, even if 7 out of 10 youngsters don’t actually make it. In many ways this is Liverpool & Chelsea’s big failing. Madrid had a time when Raul, Guti, Cassillas came through the ranks. But in recent years, there’s only Granero, right?

Higuain is a great exception and Madrid need to do more of this. Buy a young promising player and turn him into a top notch best-in-the-world player. But alongside, there are the Beckhams, Van Nistelrooy’s and Robbens…

Buying players is not a crime, all teams need periodic refreshment and occasional overhaul. But if you only buy players at their peak, and when everybody agrees that they’re the among the best in their positions, what, apart from money, did you bring to the party? What will it prove if you buy Tevez next year when he’s scored 30 goals rather than last year when he scored 15?

Another perspective is that Madrid have had a number of Ballon D’ors playing for them in recent years, but the only players who won the Ballon D’ Or while at Madrid are Figo (2000) and Ronaldo (2002) – both record breaking transfers; while players who went to Madrid after having won the gong include Zidane, Ronaldo, Owen, Kaka, C. Ronaldo, Cannavaro (part of the year)

Yet another perspective, a mind-experiment: take Madrid’s spend last year of £ 250m. Give it to any of the other top 10 clubs in UEFA’s ranking. And see what it does to them.

And that’s before we talk about how exactly its funded, the politics, the merry-go-round of coaches and the lack of commensurate success on the field.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a moral argument with the money – if you have it, spend it, it’s a free market. No cribs about Chelsea or Man City either. But end of the day you’ve either got to make the money pay – i.e. win things, or at least show value for the money by improving the players you buy, or by making the sum of the parts count. This is my bigger crib. We don’t see a quality of football at the Bernabeu week in week out which is of an inter-planetary calibre. But with the team Madrid have, it should be! And Madrid seems to have made a habit in the past 10 years of buying high and selling low.

I personally would have a lot more respect for Madrid if they took this team, persisted with it and made them play as a real team (e.g. Mourinho’s Chelsea), rather than an expensive collection of stars. I think it’s harder to do for Madrid because very few of these players owe their success to Madrid. The white jersey for a lot of these players is the prize for their success, not the cause of it.

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