THE ULTIMATE SUPER CLUB
HOW FLORENTINO PEREZ PUT TOGETHER THE BEST SQUAD ON THE PLANET
How do you assemble a team? You build your team mostly based on financial power. It makes the difference between assembling Avengers or Agents of Shield (Marvel) / Justice League or Legends of tomorrow (DC). There are 3 models mostly prevalent with most clubs being some variety of it.
- Clubs who develop youths from academies or bringing in rough diamonds and polish them.
- Feeder clubs who get loan players and flop ones
- And there is the giant in the room, super clubs who buy the best players.
No one follows it 100% of course. The problem with these models is that none of them is perfect with all having significant disadvantages. Youth developing clubs get their revenue by selling their best players. Because of it, it will affect their ambition of being a top club if they ever want to be. They do win trophies occasionally but most likely will not be able to sustain it. Super club model is becoming more unsustainable with the increasing transfer inflation. If you take any best teams in the history, it usually would be followed by a downward curve when the set of players retire or move. The teams would have to take some significant time to reach their previous levels. How do you solve it? How can any super club continuously maintain their dominance? Enter Florentino Perez Rodriguez.
The Real Madrid Don has mostly been defined by his mistakes and his Galacticos policy. He made stupid football decisions like selling Makelele, sacking Ancelloti, del Bosque, appointing Benitez, etc. But he is also the God Father who brings in world class player like no club ever could. He made the impossible by bringing in 2 of 3 Balon d’Or player in the same window. Putting together the 2002–03 team was a gift given to mankind from the Gods. But his bad things always outweighed the good things until recently. His career more or less mimics Casemiro’s development as a player. Perez was really good with financial prowess just as Casemiro with defending. Perez made the club debt free, unlike the other top revenue clubs. But just as Casemiro with his frustrating attack, Perez was not so good with football decisions initially. Luckily, both had chances to correct their mistakes and they are constantly improvising.
To understand how Perez improved and made the best squad in the world, you have to understand the problem with the Galactico policy is that he never was able to fill the remaining pieces in the puzzle with players who could complement the Galacticos. He had an idea ‘Galaticos and Pavons’. He couldn’t be efficient with Pavons part as much as he was with the Galacticos part and replacing the aged Galacticos couldn’t be done easier either. To combat all these things, he improvised a new model that will combine the best of both youth developing clubs and super clubs. Keeping world class talents was no longer a problem in super clubs. He could replace the superstars by the youth products, thereby continuously having the best team every year.
The overall model can be divided into four steps:
1. Add talented players to the rosters/Castilla
2. Sell players and make profit
3. Loan players who are very young / Selling players with buyout clause
4. Buying Galacticos if essential
1. ADD TALENTED PLAYERS TO THE ROSTERS/CASTILLA
I will divide this into two parts: players who were brought from top 5 leagues and players who were brought from lower leagues in top 5 and other leagues
Part 1: Top 5 leagues
This part includes players who break through with the top flight teams who you can buy at somewhat normal rates. Real Madrid traditionally did these signings like Ramos, Benzema, Isco, Varane, etc. But now Real Madrid has started to do in a much more aggressive manner. Signings of Theo, Ceballos, Kovacic, etc are a testament to this approach. They are mostly brought in to replace the starting XI in the future or make their place in the starting lineup in the starting team like Isco did. These players mostly make up the so called ‘B team’ (There is no such thing as A team or B team. All of them could potentially play in the first team). This is what made a huge difference in Real Madrid’s last year double. This wouldn’t be possible without Zidane. One of the Ancelloti’s mistakes was his inability to rotate. If not for Zidane’s rotation, this model could have failed. Even if Zidane goes in the future, it is necessary to replace him with someone who is not afraid of rotating his roster (I am looking at you, Guti Hernandez). Another thing to note is the atmosphere these young players get in the dressing room. They are groomed by players like Ramos, Marcelo, Cristiano, Modric, etc. The leaders make it much easier for them to adapt to the club. Real Madrid always had this negative egotistical atmosphere. All credits to Zidane, things have changed a lot. This team looks more like a family than a group of players professionally playing together.
Part 2: Other leagues and lower leagues of Top 5
Real Madrid has so much revenue that they can have a better scouting network than youth clubs essentially looking for players who are breaking out in smaller clubs. Real Madrid traditionally never look for these type of players because if they turn out to be good, they will get them at the top level. But with the growing inflation, they decided to buy stocks directly from the manufactures and build it themselves. Spending money less than 10 million will not affect Real Madrid as much as it does with other young developing clubs. Even if the player fails or is not of the top quality, Real Madrid can easy shoehorn them by means of loan moves and sell them. Vallejo(€5m), Asensio(€5m), Odegaard(€2.8m) (Remember he was not signed by Ancelloti in fact he was against it. It was the club who made the move), Vinicius(€45m) (youth Galactico signing), Valverde(€5m) are shining examples of this type. There are lots of small transfers like this happening at the lower levels. Cristo Gonzalez(€750k), Augusto Galvan(€3m) are some of the players who have been brought in such ways this year. These players are not brought into the first team instead to Castilla. Playing at Castilla could keep media’s exposure as less as possible which allow them to develop freely as a player. If they already played at higher levels than Castilla, they are most likely loaned out. These two parts significantly adds to the fact that there are 11 spanish players in the current squad.
2. SELL PLAYERS AND MAKE PROFIT
Look at those two highlighted ones. Last season was the first season when Real Madrid made a profit since the beginning of this era. It was a small sum so it can easily be removed as a glitch. But this season Real Madrid has a profit of €75m. Some people could argue Real Madrid sold them for Mbappe. Mbappe is a generational talent so it could further extend Real Madrid’s dominance. He was not a necessity though. These players were sold as a result of the model. Because of the sheer number of talents Real Madrid has, it was always inevitable that some players had to leave the club. Players like James, Morata, Danilo* etc are top class and they feel they deserve more minutes.They could start at almost all clubs. As a side product of the current model, Real Madrid is going to get huge amounts in profit. This could easily be a one off. There is not enough sample size. So, I arranged the above table in descending orders of departures.
Every time there has been a huge departure, there have been huge arrivals except for the current year. All players in the team deserve equal minutes. Some continue to fight for it. Some can’t do it anymore. This system will always lead to selling players, some of them will be favourites (James is a fan favourite) especially having those loan players to replace them readymade. Some will be contented with whatever minutes they get because for them playing for the batch is more important aka Vasquez, Nacho (underrated). I salute them but I also understand players who want to move and I don’t blame them or the club.
3. LOAN PLAYERS WHO ARE VERY YOUNG / SELLING PLAYERS WITH BUYOUT CLAUSE
Real Madrid has somehow mastered the art of loaning players. Loaning players is not easy. It is always important to find the right club. Marcus Llorente was never touted to be in the current position last year when he was loaned. A part of the success came because he was loaned to Alaves. Sure they were not all great (Mayoral to Wolfsburg). But the number of top class players produced is very high. Castilla and other youth levels always have talented players. In the current roster, you have Oscar Rodriguez, Dani Gomez, Franchu, etc. As discussed earlier players brought from lower leagues and other top 5 leagues needs to condition themselves for the higher standards in the first team. To introduce them directly into the first team is not ideal as it usually takes a long time to reach their destined levels playing in the bench. Marcelo took so much time to become the best left-back in the world. Loan moves give them a platform in the form of a lower team where they could get a huge chunk of first team minutes. They would also be a main player in the team, leading the team and developing their game in the meantime. Real Madrid sell players with a low buyout clause most of the time. So if they turned out to be good, they could be brought back. The players who are sold out could always believe there is a chance to get back to the first team if they do well. It is like sowing seeds every season and reaping the rewards. This year’s seeds are Febas and Valverde. Achraf and Mayoral could also be loaned out although it seems very likely. Vasquez, Asensio, Vallejo, Llorente, Morata, Casemiro are all rewards to this scheme. If you think it is not a big deal, look no further than their rivals Barcelona. They have talented players in La Masia and they did loan out some players. There is not one example where the loaned player turned out to be great and so an exodus of their talents to find the right system to develop. Real Madrid has a plan for each player going out and they are in constant touch with them. Recently, Odegaard said that he is always in constant touch with Real Madrid. It gives the players more confidence to succeed and come back to the main team.
4. BUYING GALACTICOS IF ESSENTIAL
Who would have thought Real Madrid buying Galacticos would be inessential? Sure, Real Madrid would buy Galacticos but not regularly. The main reason behind it is that most of the young players in the roster would eventually replace the main players. Asensio, Kovacic, Vallejo, Theo will most likely replace Ronaldo, Modric, Ramos, Marcelo in the future. The striker position is somewhat unstable but Real Madrid has at least a year or two to find a replacement for Benzema with Cristiano replacing him in many matches already. Another reason for this is a switch from 4–3–3 to 4–4–2/4–4–1–1 which emphasizes on more midfield players than attackers. Real Madrid has an abundance of midfield talents. A switch of formation would also help Real Madrid defensively. Most of Galactico signings were attackers. The move to more midfield players reduce this although nowadays midfield players are also going for Galactico price. It has been three years since we made a Galactico signing and I don’t expect Real Madrid to make one this year.
To conclude, Florentino Perez deserves a huge ton of credit for doing this. He definitely balanced the scales for all his bad moves. He made this team continuously dominate despite spending less money than before. A lot of clubs could essentially follow this model and Real Madrid would be the pioneer. Many clubs see Real Madrid’s bench as the reason for success and are starting to replicate it by spending money like Manchester City. Manchester City has one of the best academies if not the best and are invested all around the globe. They fail to understand that these things took place because of the underlying work and the time it would take for them to reach there. They are only looking at the outcome of the solution rather than the entire solution. It took years at least 4 years (I think) for all things to fall in place to build this dominant squad. Unless some clubs are able to replicate Real Madrid’s squad strength, Real Madrid would effectively be the favourites in the Champions league. In the past, everyone would be against young players joining Real Madrid. But the current plan will change that perspective/myth. The number of U23 players is constantly on the rise and I don’t expect it to go down. Most of this is relatively unknown for many people except those who follow the club. The system is not perfect. Nothing really is but you can try to reach the level as close as possible(Perez please remove Solari). Real Madrid got themselves a huge head start to domination. Most clubs have to play catch up even if they understand this. Earlier teams were judged based on their XI they can field and less on their bench strength. Real Madrid has quashed it. They would not be daunted as much if they lose a player to injury/suspension something no team could do so. Sure they would miss that player but they could be replaced with a top quality player. The success will always be there as long as Real Madrid follow this system. As for Madridistas, we are already in a great ride.
This is my first article. All of these are my opinion. I could be wrong too. Thank you for reading it.