Real Madrid are the world’s most iconic soccer club. Around the world they are revered for their brand of success and swashbuckling football, but for every trophy they win a terrible mistake is just around the corner. The Galaticos philosophy of buying the best and biggest carries it’s pitfalls because those price tags don’t go unnoticed. All of this comes down to one man – president Florentino Perez.
Arguably the best businessman in Spain, Perez is renowned for being the worst president in all of soccer. He makes huge decisions based on nothing more than a whim, wastes millions of dollars on flops, changes his mind on coaches more than his underwear and continues to put the club in a position of uncertainty due to his actions.
While the club has the greatest value of any club in the world with a market price of $3.4 billion, they also happen to have the greatest debt at $750 million. This is fairly academic given their huge turnover and financial muscle, but bubbles are meant to be burst.
The recent firing of Rafa Benitez is the latest decision by Florentino Perez in a string of bizarre choices. He hired the manager in the off season knowing his reputation and past history, only to send him packing a few months later. Did he have an experienced coach to fill the void? Oh no, enter legendary player Zinedine Zidane – one of the best playmakers of his generation but a man with no experience at the top level of actually being a coach.
The Spanish press and Madrid fans tolerate Perez’s remarkable incompetence as normal behavior. Neither see him as the right man to lead the club, but his promises of shiny new expensive players usually wins him enough favor to stay in the gig. Mistakes continue to be made and in that spirit, these are 15 crisis’ Real Madrid inflicted on themselves, largely in part to Mr. Perez.
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13 Firing Vicente del Bosque
Such is the love Vicente del Bosque has for Real Madrid, he accepted a caretaker role for the club in the second of 3 stints as coach of the club. The former Real local played as a holding midfielder at Madrid in the 1970s, winning 5 league titles in the process. When he took the reigns he won La Liga and the UEFA Champions League twice only to be shown the door. Why? Florentino Perez decided, that’s why. He immediately shook it off to take Spain to 2 European Championships and a FIFA World Cup.
12 Selling Claude Makelele
The impact of Claude Makelele is still being felt in football today. When analysts and commentators talk about the “Makelele position” on the field, people know exactly what they’re talking about. He redefined what it meant to be a holding midfielder, making every tackle and distributing the ball back to the playmaker as quickly as possible. So why Real Madrid decided to move him on in 2003 to Chelsea is beyond comprehension. The creative players at Madrid were left with no insurance and the Blues would go on to win back-to-back titles in England. Stupid, stupid decision.
11 Passing On Ronaldinho For Beckham
Look up the word “materialistic” in the dictionary and Florentino Perez will be there. The remarkable snub of Ronaldinho based purely on his looks for the much sexier option of David Beckham blew up in the club’s face when he went back to the Bernabeu to bag a hat trick. Real Madrid knew quality when they saw it and gave the rival star a standing ovation, giving Perez a massive punch to the chest. That 2003 decision still haunts them to this day and says everything about Real Madrid and what they stand for.
10 Endless Flops Bought Expensively
From Jonathan Woodgate to Nicolas Anelka, Walter Samuel, Pedro Leon, Fabio Coentrao, Flavio Conceicao, Royston Drenthe, Antonio Cassano, Julien Faubert and many, many more – the money thrown down the toilet at this club is outrageous. The Julien Faubert signing stands out in particular, not only from coming on loan from West Ham United of all places but for the expression on the face of club legend Alfredo Di Stefano. That “who the hell are you?” look said more than words ever could, handing over the famous white kit to a man who never should have come through the front door.
9 Selling Dutch Duo Sneijder and Robben
A funny thing happened after Real let go two of Holland’s greatest ever players go. One went on to win the treble in Italy, the other won the treble in Germany. Diminutive number 10 Wesley Sneijder’s defection to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan saw the playmaker take out the Italian Cup, Serie A and UEFA Champions League once he was kicked out of Madrid in 2009. As for Robben? He took out the German Cup, Bundesliga and Champions League with Bayern Munich. Both teams were basically built around their talents so in many ways, Madrid can be credited for gifting them those titles.
8 Allowing Mourinho To Play Negative Football
That infamous eye gouge on the late Tito Vilanova personified Jose Mourinho’s reign at Real Madrid. His 4 years in Spain gave one league title and a cup, but the obsession with the Champions League was ultimately his downfall. Perez was so desperate to conquer Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona that he went out to hire the firebrand Portuguese coach, who had only recently beaten the Catalans on their own turf to win the trophy with Inter Milan. The El Classicos between Madrid and Barca under Mourinho turned into wars, not football. Players kicked, fell over, got into brawls and the tactics to stop Barcelona were incredibly negative. For a club of that history and spending power it was a disgraceful period.
7 Creating An Environment of Player Power
If you only watch the matches or quickly skim the headlines of the news, you would be under the impression the players were complete professionals who were 100% behind the manager at all times. How wrong you would be. Player power is at it’s strongest at Real Madrid where senior members like Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Karim Benzema wield their influence on the remainder of the squad. They know the owner Florentino Perez has their back and the coach is under pressure to pick them, so they make that leverage count behind the scenes. It’s not a healthy dynamic.
6 Signing Kaka
The monumental $74.5 million transfer from AC Milan to Real Madrid in 2009 saw Brazilian playmaker Kaka secure the move of a lifetime. After winning all there was in Italy, this was an enormous investment at the Bernabeu culminating with Cristiano Ronaldo’s move from Old Trafford. But 85 appearances in 4 years meant that money was wasted as Kaka never fitted into the team. Injuries played their part, yet Madrid are culpable for seeing one of the sport’s greats diminish so quickly.
5 No Succession Plan For Iker Casillas
Rarely does a club with the size and resources of Real Madrid bring through a local product, but Iker Casillas was very much the exception to the rule. The Spanish stopper made his debut as a teenager way back in 1999 and solidified himself as the undisputed number one in between the sticks at club and national level. 5 La Liga and 3 Champions League titles crowned a tremendous 16 years at the Bernabeu, yet they faltered in succeeding him. His infamous fallout with manager Jose Mourinho was a bitter end and now they’re left with the services of Keylor Navas.
4 Selling Mesut Ozil
This is embarrassing. The king of the assists lit up Real Madrid with his decisive passing to set up the likes of Ronaldo and Benzema time and time again. The German playmaker’s $61.7 million move to Arsenal in 2013 has transformed the Gunners into title contenders as Ozil averages close to one assist per match. Perez’s vanity signings pushed fan favorite Ozil out the door and like many others he has gone on to great success.
3 Selling Gonzalo Higuain
The Argentine striker is killing defenses in Italy right now. At 28 Gonzalo Higuain is at the peak of his powers and when he was at Real Madrid he had a brilliant strike rate of 107 goals in 190 matches. He combined perfectly with Karim Benzema but became jaded by the club’s lack of faith in him. Since moving to Napoli in 2013 he’s accumulated 53 goals in 88 games and is now linked with every other major franchise in Europe, other than Madrid. Once bitten, twice shy.
2 Failing To Sign David de Gea
Should one mistake put you behind the eight ball, then other errors will quickly follow. The failure to properly plan for Casillas’ departure meant that the best keeper in Spain, David de Gea, fell through Real Madrid’s grasp. De Gea is widely regarded as one of the premier keepers in the sport right now and tried to do his upmost in the summer transfer window to leave Manchester United to go Madrid. It sparked a war of words and put the player in an awkward position, but regardless of all the back and forth in the press this was an own goal for the club.
1 Feeding Ronaldo’s Ego
There’s no ‘I’ in team, but there is in ‘Cristiano Ronaldo.’ His goal record is so outrageous that coaches and teammates are forced to tolerate his selfish antics whereby he doesn’t even celebrate his team scoring a goal if it wasn’t him doing it. This is fine when the side is winning but as soon as the worm turns, this facilitates a negative environment for all in sundry because it goes against the ethics of a team sport.
2. Sacking Carlo Ancelotti
He gave Real Madrid what they were desperately searching for over a decade – La Decima. Their 10th UEFA Champions League title came against bitter rivals Atletico Madrid, smashing favorites Bayern Munich on way to the ultimate glory to extend their lead in the overall tally of championships on the continent. Was this enough to satisfy Perez? Of course not. He was sent packing shortly after and replaced by a manager notorious for playing dull, defensive football. Utter stupidity.
1. Hiring Then Firing Rafa Benitez
Why does he do this to himself? Rafa Benitez is exactly the same coach as he ever was, giving the media polite platitudes, being distant from the playing group and organizing a tight defense. All but one of those came true as the shape of the side looked leaky at the back. He felt an odd fit to begin with so the fact it all ended in tears is not the fault of Benitez but the club and most importantly – Florentino Perez.
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