Generation Next is our regular feature on Just Football profiling the best young talents in the world. And here’s another to keep an eye on – Atalanta’s bustling midfielder Franck Kessie… Last summer, when Genoa former coach Gian Piero Gasperini made the move to Atalanta, after seven wonderful years spent in Liguria (interjected by spells […]
by Asif Norat
Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez has enjoyed making the most out of the Galactico policy, using the unlimited transfer funds to bring in at least one expensive signing every year. During his first spell as the club’s president, the Bernabeu stadium witnessed the arrival of Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and others as the individuals brought immediate success to the club.
Although the Galactico rule became more popular in the early years of the 21st century, it effectively started as early as the 1950s. Santiago Bernabeu, one of the most important men in Real Madrid’s history, transformed Los Blancos into one of the most successful football teams in the world. In his period as the club’s president, world-class players like Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano came in as Real Madrid enjoyed their era of supremacy.
Going back to the summer, the big clubs were splashing the cash during the transfer window whilst Real Madrid’s only major signing was Alvaro Morata – a player who’d already been at the club.
Just days after Morata initially left for Serie A side Juventus in 2014, James Rodriguez’s £63million move from AS Monaco to Real Madrid became official. The Colombian is the last Galactico to be signed by Real Madrid and, at the moment, he is struggling to find a specific role in the first team.
Ahead of Zinedine Zidane’s first full season as Real Madrid’s manager, he revealed he was pretty much happy with the current squad and added that it would be difficult to improve it. The club have done well to tie Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Gareth Bale down to contract extensions keeping them with the Spanish giants until 2022. Despite the rumours of Isco and Kroos leaving, Jese Rodriguez was the only familiar face that was sold in the summer.
Following Paul Pogba’s move to Manchester United, Zidane admitted that he wanted Pogba although it would have been tough for him to get into Real Madrid’s best line-up. Modric and Kroos are the regular starters in the midfield, whilst Casemiro is also selected in the XI due to his ability to break up play and add steel to the midfield. The Frenchman’s arrival would have meant the departure of Kroos, which may have led to a negative vibe within the squad.
With Real Madrid undefeated in La Liga so far this campaign and FIFA Club World Cup winners this weekend, Zidane looks to have made the right decision to not bring a Galactico in, which could have disrupted the harmony within the team. Also, keeping in mind that Zidane is aiming for consistency, the team is a UEFA Champions League winning side; no big changes were needed during the summer.
Despite it being club policy under Perez, signing a Galactico may have hampered the development players like Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Casemiro have made in recent months. Zidane has put a lot of faith in the former, making the attacker take the first penalty in the Champions League final last season.
Forget James Rodriguez, since returning from his loan spell at Espanyol, Asensio has become the go to man for the Real Madrid manager. Finally, due to Casmeiro’s style of play, he provides the perfect balance for the club allowing Kroos and Modric the freedom to attack.
The only regret Zidane may have is going into the season with only one defensive midfielder in Casemiro, who picked up a fibula fracture in October and was sidelined for the last two months. During the Brazilian’s injury, the side has suffered a bit without any natural replacements for him. Real Madrid could have done with a defensive midfielder, either a back-up for Casemiro or an upgrade if they wanted, however it didn’t have to be a Galactico signing.
Regardless of the criticism that they have an ageing team, Real Madrid have one of the best squads in the world with impressive competition in each position. With both Sergio Ramos and Pepe into their 30s, Raphael Varane is pushing to be a guaranteed regular starter whilst Nacho is comfortable filling in at centre-back when necessary. The Spanish media have kept going on about Real Madrid’s leaky defence, yet they have only conceded 14 goals in 15 league games.
What makes Zidane’s decision not to sign a Galactico in the summer more interesting is that Real Madrid could be facing a transfer ban for the next two windows. Both Madrid clubs have been punished for illegally signing young players and they also appealed to The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
— Real Madrid C. F. (@realmadrid) December 18, 2016
Atletico accepted their ban from January, but Real Madrid feel they have more of a case than their rivals. With no verdict yet, Los Blancos will be able to sign players in January, though the CAS have until the end of the month to make their decision.
Real Madrid fans have been used to the impressive presentations of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Kaka over the years, but everything is starting to change under Zidane. The Frenchman is slowly killing off the Galactico era. It might not be good news for Perez, someone who loves the Galactico policy dearly, albeit the manager is focused on a more balanced philosophy.
One of the main reasons Rafael Benitez failed at Real Madrid was because of a preference for star names over team shape. Regardless of whether the Spaniard was fairly treated or not, Zidane is proving a lot of critics wrong as he shapes Real Madrid to his image.
Being a Galactico signing himself during the early 2000s, Zidane will know that not every star signing lived up to their expectations. Following the departure of Claude Makelele and the arrival of David Beckham, Zidane questioned: “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”
Allowing Makelele to leave for Chelsea was one of the big mistakes made by Perez as the Frenchman played an integral role to the English club’s back-to-back league titles in the 2004/05 and 2005/06 season. Immediately, Real Madrid lost their balance as a football unit and individual players failed to work as a team.
With the Galactico policy not paying off Perez stepped down as the club’s president, whilst Real Madrid were performing below standards for quite some time.
Instead of making the same mistake twice, he should allow Zidane to have the transfer control which he has had done so over the last few months. Back in 2014, when the manager was once a sporting director at the club, Perez mentioned to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, “He (Zidane) will decide which players will be sold and who we will try to sign.” It’s a policy that is paying off in trophies.