Is club President Florentino Pérez the one to blame?
He declared it a failure and nobody contradicted him. José Mourinho sat in the pressroom of the Santiago Bernabeu as outside they celebrated La Decima. Real Madrid have been longing since 2002 to win the Champions League for a 10th time-‘La Decima’-but on their pitch, in front of their fans was a team and not just any team but their city rivals, who had failed to win a derby in 14 years, celebrating their 10th Copa del Rey victory, their very own Decima. Mourinho wanted out and the fans wanted him gone too. A few days later club President Florentino Pérez announced that the Special One would be leaving and he also added that he would be standing for election again. Chances are he will win as most likely his name will be the only one on the ballot but two big questions should be asked; why is no one standing against him and how come no one points out that despite the fact that he has spent millions in search of Europe’s biggest football prize and come up with nothing, he is not labelled a failure or anything remotely close to it?
Florentino Pérez is somewhat of a Teflon President: nothing sticks. Off the pitch there can be no denying the great work he has done. He was elected President and promised to erase the club’s debt. How did he go about doing so? By introducing the Galácticos. It was to be a new era or so he said. His original plan was to have a system of Zidanes and Pavones. The Zidane part needs no explanation but the Pavón part maybe does. Francisco Pavón came up through the youth ranks at Los Blancos and it was the idea of Pérez to mix both superstars and academy players to forge one of the world’s greatest teams. Problem was things didn’t go to plan and he was forced to abandon that idea. Shirt sales went through the roof as the club signed the likes of Luis Figo, Zidane, Ronaldo and Beckham and the first few years were successful, with the club claiming league titles and its 9th Champions League in 2002. The club is now the richest in the world. The Santiago Bernabeu was given a major facelift, making it one of Europe’s and possibly the world’s best stadiums. A new training complex was built and the club had a bright future. Tourists flocked to the famous stadium for tours and games. Yet, the club lost something. It was if the club had lost or sold its soul. The football element started to give way to the business element and Real Madrid started to resemble something more like a Starbucks or an Apple store than a football club, although at the start no one was complaining. Even stranger is that since 2002 very few still do.
In terms of the Press, Florentino enjoys a golden status. The Madrid based media take his word as gospel. Not only did he reform the club’s facilities but he also opened the club up to a grateful Press. Since then he has been treated as king. Success is his doing, failure is the coach’s. He can do no wrong in the eyes of journalists. This is what makes things very interesting at the moment. For all the mistakes and mud that has been thrown at Mourinho lately, not one has questioned Pérez.
Pérez had always defended his man, even at times when his actions were indefensible. Pérez stood by his coach when he stuck his finger in Tito Vilanova’s eye and has done so on other occasions too by declaring that they had the best coach in the world that would deliver the coveted ‘Decima’. Yet, since the last time that Real Madrid won ‘Old Big Ears’ seven managers have been appointed by Pérez (in June it will be eight) to win the trophy and when they don’t, the blame is always laid at the feet of the Coach. Surely Pérez needs to be held into account especially when, apart from Mourinho, he has been involved in the club’s transfer dealings. Pérez has come close to spending over €1bn on just transfer fees alone. In that time he has won 3 leagues, 1 Copa del Rey and a Champions league. Is that value for money? Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in eight years, yet in the same time as Pérez they have won 2 leagues and 3 FA Cups. To make things worse, in the time that Los Vikingos have been searching for No 10, El Clásico rivals, Barca, have won the title three times. What’s more is that Barca have won those titles with a little help from Pérez!
As Graham Hunter explained in his brilliant book: Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, Florentino Pérez played a major part in helping Joan Laporta become Barca President which led to the creating of one of the greatest sides of all time. Laporta and Sandro Rosell, who were friends at this time, were struggling to convince Barcasocios that they could manage the club and attract big players. Whilst everyone knew that David Beckham was on his way to the Spanish Capital, Rosell knew that Beckham was a name that would prove that both he and Laporta meant business. Manchester United didn’t care where he went, as long as the fee was met. Beckham had met with Real Madrid and signed all the paper work but here was Rosell announcing before Barca fans that United had accepted Barca’s offer. Real Madrid did not refute the claims. There was nothing said and everything stayed calm as Rosell was rumoured to have spoken to Pérez behind the scenes and asked for help. Real Madrid’s silence was a major error and since then Los Culés have won 6 leagues, 2 Copa del Rey and 3 Champions League titles. Still in Madrid nobody talks about this misguided adventure.
In June Pérez will stand alone in the election like he is accustomed to doing so. Off the pitch it can’t be denied the success he has brought the club but it must also be pointed out that the debt he came to erase in 2000 is still there. He, to a point, revolutionised football and brought it sprinting into the 21st century. On the pitch is where it matters though and with another Coach going and Barca winning another title, one would believe that it can only be a matter of time before fans start to question his management. Eventually the Teflon does wear off.