Is this the end of the Galactic Era of Real Madrid?

Alejandro Panfil @AlePanfil

It’s very puzzling to see the table of the Spanish league where Real Madrid is in the fourth position, behind Real Sociedad, Villarreal and Atlético de Madrid. Although this is just the beginning of the season, is this a symptom that confirms the end of the Galactic Era?

For the team coached by the French icon Zinedine Zidane, 2020 will not be just the year of coronavirus, seasons delayed and empty stadiums.  Although it is the current champion of La Liga, having stolen the title to Barcelona in the last sprint of the competition, Real Madrid looks nothing like the powerful team that won four of the last seven Champions Leagues.

But let's take a closer look at the present year: The Zizou squad was eliminated in 1/8 finals of UEFA Champions League 2019-2020 by Manchester City and in the current UCL season is in the third position of group B with just 4 points as a result of a defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), a tie with Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany) and a win against Inter (Italy). In addition, Real Madrid had to face the critics and the humiliation of losing 4-1 against Valencia, the club that’s in the ninth positions on the table, and is trying to put it down to experience. Although the Merengues have 16 points and the leader is just 4 points ahead, its present doesn’t fit its great history and especially the last 20 years.

Beyond having won La Liga, a tournament where, let’s be fair, just two teams compete -Real Madrid and Barcelona - for the title, Madrid has nothing to show to mitigate the doubts about the club’s strength to fight for the Champions League from now on. In the Spanish context they are still disputing the trophy because its players’ level is higher than the rest of the squads’, including Barcelona. We can’t deny the talent and skills of great international players like Thibaut Courtois, Raphael Varane, Casemiro, Toni Kross, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema. Nonetheless, the best player in the team is captain Sergio Ramos, who has an extraordinary level at 34 years old, but is a central back, which speaks volumes of the present of the club. It is quite difficult not to see Real Madrid as an average-level club that no longer has the power of previous years.

While at a first glance you might believe that 2020 is the year of the end of the Galactic Era of Real Madrid, we must inform that it has been merely the year of its confirmation. In fact, it was 2018 the year in which the Merengues stopped being the most powerful team in the world. After winning his fourth Champions League with Real Madrid, the super star Cristiano Ronaldo decided to move to Juventus, leaving a huge empty space to fill. One year later, Florentino Pérez spent 100 million Euros on Eden Hazard, but the Belgian ex-Chelsea player has not fulfilled the expectations of the fans or the coach. The last “galactic” contract the club has signed has not shown any significant results and the lack of a leadership and goals worries the President and Board of directors: in 22 games, Hazard has scored only twice. He doesn’t seem to have Real Madrid material.

Beyond the fact that Real Madrid has not sign any new players during the last transfer window because it is making a millionaire investment to remodel the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, it is well known that the Spanish club needs to refresh the team and raise its level to meet the standard of an international champion. It’s also known that Florentino Pérez’s next target is Kylian Mbappe, but the French star of Paris Saint Germain is valued at 180 million Euros according to Transfer Markt.  When has E180.000.000 become an endorsed figure to purchase a soccer player’s transfer? At the end of the day, Florentino cannot afford to bring such an expensive player and has to suffer the “inflation” of the market window that he, himself, helped build 20 years ago.

In his book “The ball doesn’t go in by chance”, Ferran Soriano, ex vice-chairman of FC Barcelona and current CEO of Manchester City, states that there was a gigantic financial disruption in the soccer industry in 2000 and holds Florentino Perez responsible for it. In the beginning of the century, the land surrounding the Ciudad Deportiva on the Paseo de la Castellana, suddenly increased its value when plans to re-zone and commercially develop the land came to fruition. This was during Perez’s first presidency of the Real Madrid. Even if the EU found no wrongdoing or evidence of state subsidies, the transaction still raises great controversy. The agreement between the club and the Madrid City Council, approved by the Madrid Parliament, included a portion of the land being ceded to the Government and, afterwards, both selling their portions to corporation such as Repsol YPF, Mutua Automovilística de Madrid, Sacyr Vallehermoso and Obrascón Huarte Lain (OHL). As a result, Real Madrid earned an estimated 480 million euros.

Soriano remarks that this was too big a figure for a soccer club. That same year 2000, Real Madrid had already had an income of 135 million Euros and by adding 480 million more, the club paid its debts, built a new training center in Valdebebas and was able to buy top players. In other words, Real Madrid became the richest club on the planet and created the economic conditions to acquire year after year any player they wanted, no matter the cost. In consequence, the club began signing stars. For instance, Real paid 60 million Euros to Barcelona for Luis Figo and 76 million to Juventus for Zinedine Zidane. The galacticos were born after the Merengues signed Ronaldo Nazario (45 million), David Beckham (37.5 million), Michael Owen (12 million), Kaká (65 million), Cristiano Ronaldo (94 million) and Gareth Bale (94 million).

According to the same analysis, that external injection of money received by Real Madrid -and similar injections from different sources were received by the Premier League and Ligue 1 clubs- generated an “inflation”, that is, an increase of the average price level of transfers and, thus, a decrease in the purchasing power of clubs.

Twenty years ago, Real Madrid went from being one of the most powerful teams in the world to being the most powerful of them all. But today its wallet competes with that of the Arab, Russian and American capitals that landed in European soccer. That is why now, to get itself back to the Olympus of soccer, the Real Madrid must follow the same financial rules it has helped set, but by which they apparently cannot abide.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published

Shop now

You can use this element to add a quote, content...