Thursday, 2 April 2020

Real Madrid's new plan for world domination

The days of Florentino Perez rushing to buy football's biggest stars are all-but over - now, the transfer policy is very much focused on future greats
Not so long ago, the start of each summer transfer window was greeted with trepidation by Europe's biggest clubs. The sun's return would be accompanied by the opening of an enormous chequebook as Real Madrid scoured their rivals for the latest Galactico to add to their collection.

It did not matter if the unwilling sellers were AC Milan or Juventus, Manchester United or Liverpool; nobody was safe from the Merengues' cash-laden talons. Not even arch-rivals Barcelona could resist, famously losing star Portuguese playmaker Luis Figo to the capital and greeting his next visit to Camp Nou by tossing a pig's head at their former favourite.

Twenty years on from the start of Perez's first term in office in 2000, the wily old impresario cuts as formidable a figure as ever in the Spanish capital. But while money for new talent continues to flow, the targets have changed.

The likes of Ronaldo (both Brazilian and Portuguese), David Beckham and Roberto Carlos are no longer the club's transfer priority. Now, from Spain to Brazil and across the globe, potential Galactiquitos, or Baby Galacticos, are being watched with interest and snapped up with ever-increasing frequency.

The policy is not entirely novel. As long ago as 1996 Madrid swooped for teenage Argentine brothers Esteban and Nicolas Cambiasso, while Perez himself veered from his strict Galactico policy from 2005 onwards to sign promising Under-23 talents such as Sergio Ramos, Gonzalo Higuain, Fernando Gago and Robinho, among others.

It was not until the summer of 2013, however, that a real shift in the president's thinking could truly be seen.

Madrid's failure to sign then-Santos sensation Neymar rankled as an unforgivable oversight for a club that has always prided itself, from Di Stefano and Puskas in the 1950s to Cristiano Ronaldo almost six decades later, on harvesting football's finest. Barcelona proved more thorough in their scouting, slicker in negotiations and perhaps more willing to accommodate the extravagant requests made from all parties involved in that notorious deal.

“We spoke, we saw what the transfer was coming to and we realised that it would have damaged our ecosystem,” Perez told Punta Pelota of the failed talks in 2013. Nevertheless, the president sent two envoys to Brazil at the 11th hour in a fruitless attempt to change the current Paris Saint-Germain man's mind.


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