If you’re in doubt about who the biggest name in Spanish football is at the moment, let me enlighten you. It’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Actually, no it isn’t. It’s World Player of the Year 2008, Cristiano Ronaldo. Not quite. The biggest name in Spanish football at the moment is of course Mr Galactico and everybody’s favorite party uncle, Florentino Perez.
The Real Madrid president made his comeback on June 1st almost 3 and a half years after he left the club. And what a comeback it’s been. The power shopping began in Spain before the famous cheque book was flashed in Italy, England and France. None of it has been bargain shopping either as Florentino Perez does not enjoy buying anything on sale, let alone footballers. So far £220mil has been spent on new players and there could be more to come.
There is no doubt that Florentino Perez wants the very best players at Real Madrid and unlike last time around, he’s now spending all of the money available in one go. Already Spanish experts are lauding this Real Madrid group of players as the best ever. As debatable as that may be, just the fact that such discussion exists is exactly what Perez wants. Real Madrid has to be the biggest in all aspects and thus they must have the best players money can buy.
But what about the fact that Real Madrid have spent over £200mil on men chasing a football at a time of the worst financial crisis in recent history? At a time when regular people are barely allowed to enter banks, Perez has managed to borrow an outrageous sum of money from various Spanish financial institutions. On paper it is the club that’s actually borrowed the money, but in reality it’s Perez who has gathered the cash. When former Real Madrid president, Ramon Calderon, tried going to the bank he was gently turned down. When Perez did it they welcomed him with open arms.
Why does the world of finance respect Perez so much? Well for starters he is the president of ACS, which is one of Spain’s largest companies in its field and employs more than 100.000 workers. Then there is of course Perez’ name in football, which is synonymous with “spend a lot – have a lot to show for it” ideology. On top of that he’s a genuine man of his word and he always delivers on his promises.
While there is no question that football, and especially Real Madrid need Florentino, why does he need Real Madrid and this particular project? He is after all one of Spain’s most influential men, he’s rich, respected and he’s already experienced being the president of Real Madrid once. Why come back and take on an even bigger challenge? The people in the business world will tell you it’s because he loves being in the spotlight while people in football will tell you it’s because the city of Madrid need someone like Perez, a man with grand contacts in the business world, to overtake Barcelona once again. Both theories are most likely true, but I do wonder if perhaps he feels the need to redeem himself, to show that he’s learned from his past mistakes. Another important aspect this time around is the fact that he had no opposing candidate running against him for the presidency and he was therefore under no genuine pressure to outline his plan in great detail. Instead he came in, looked at the transfer market and signed the players that he could. Then he could look at rectifying the problems that in the end ruined his previous term.
The two negatives that stand out from Perez’ first time at the club are the lack of homegrown players making the first team and the lack of defenders and defensive players in general. The arrival of Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa indicates that Perez is aware of the need for defensive reinforcements while Xabi Alonso represents a player who will bring a lot of stability to Real Madrid’s midfield. On the other hand, Perez’ faith in the likes of Esteban Granero, Toni Adan, Miguel Torres and perhaps Alvaro Negredo shows that he wants to keep Real Madrid’s kids close to home.
All things said and done, one thing is for sure: nobody knows how to throw a party in world football like Florentino Perez. Almost a decade ago he took control of Real Madrid, promised a team of “Galacticos” and invited us all to ride along on the journey. He’s back now and the invitation is still as fresh as ever.
Roll out all the stars. Roll out Xabi Alonso, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Raul and Benzema, but above all roll out Mr Galactico. In his hands there is always the rolled up match programme, as he sits in the president’s chair at Bernabeu. Cracking an ear to ear grin every time Real Madrid score a goal.
Welcome back uncle Perez and thanks for inviting us to the most expensive party in the world.