Real Madrid: Galactico Era 2000-06
Tuning back to the start of the millennium, Real Madrid were amongst the most decorated sides in world football. A powerhouse of the continent, the ascension of Florentino Perez as club president, at the time, made way for the beginning of a new dawn at the club. Amongst the agendas following his appointment included significantly bolstering the squad by recruiting world-class talents every summer and promoting youth players in a bid to challenge for all competitions.
Between 2000 and 2007, Real Madrid spent €276 million on transfers, however, failing to convert their expenditure into sustainable success on the pitch. Part of the problem included Perez’s denial to address the squad’s weakness and rely on the abundance of world-class individuals to guide them to continental glory whilst boosting the revenue of the club.
The Galactico era began with the signing of Luis Figo from rivals Barcelona for a then world-record fee of €62 million at the turn of the century and ended with Perez’s resignation as club president in 2006. For their envious roster of players, Real repeatedly failed to channel their commercial ambition into a sustainable model on the pitch. Perhaps, a former club director at the time encapsulated the era in a simple statement, “they wanted to sign Ronaldinho, however, because of his ugly looks they went for Beckham for his good looks”.
‘Papa Perez’ And His Puzzling Transfer Policy
In his book, “White Angels: Beckham, Real Madrid and the New Football,” an account of Real Madrid’s 2003/04 season, published in 2004, reporter John Carlin writes about Perez’s modus operandi to inspire success on the pitch, “Football for the Real Madrid president was a simple game. The formula for success boiled down to this: the greater the players/ the greater the spectacle/ the greater the success/ the greater the club’s global reach/ the greater the profits/ the greater the capacity to buy more great players.” And, arguably, that is philosophy Real’s club president stood by until his resignation in 2006.
Following a scintillating period of success between 2000-03, which saw the club win two La Liga and one Champions League title, Real were on the precipice to achieve greatness in the coming years. Besides recruiting players such as Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and Luiz Ronaldo, it was manager Vincente Del Bosque who cultivated a competitive yet healthy environment amongst a team brimming with talent. Following his egregious sacking at the end of the 2002/03 season, Perez failed to recruit a manager capable of handling Real’s roster of world-class talents, while he focused on acquiring marketable players and ignoring the team’s requirements.
Throughout his first stint as Real Madrid’s club president, Perez infuriatingly stood by his policy of recruiting prestigious attacking players while being unwilling to address the defensive side of the pitch. Perez refused to spend money on defensive players, which ultimately resulted in Claudio Makelele departing in 2003 owing to the club’s reluctance in increasing his relatively low wages, at the time. And although Perez succeeded in acquiring the club’s most marketable asset in David Beckham that summer, in addition to Del Bosque’s sacking, the club also witnessed the departures of players such as Fernando Hierro, Steve McManaman, and Makelele, among others, soon after.
Lack of Cohesion and Managerial Instability
In the seven years under Perez’s first stint as club president, Real failed to perform to their potential. For all of their financial muscle and alluring potential, Los Blancos only has 3x La Liga, 2x Supercopa De Espana, 1x UEFA Champions League, and a solitary International Cup title under Perez’s first reign as president. Following the sacking of Del Busque, Perez’s interference remained the primary cause of instability within the managerial department, inadvertently harming the results on the pitch while the squad lacked cohesion, with reports suggesting a test of temperament amongst the big egos in the dressing room, at the time.
Asked by a journalist in São Paulo for his views on David Beckham joining Real Madrid, Roberto Carlos had this to say: “Now that Beckham’s coming there are finally going to be two good-looking guys in the team. I am so glad, because I felt so lonely being the only handsome player in such an ugly team.” In the summer that saw key players depart the club, Beckham’s signing boosted the club’s commercial revenue, making them the richest club in the world in 2005/06. However, for their star-studded attack, Real significantly lacked in defensive.
Following the appointment of Carlos Queiroz as manager ahead of the 2003/04 season, Real went in as favourites for all competitions. Francisco Pavon was promoted from the youth team as a replacement to Hierro that summer. However, at the time, reports suggested, Quieroz was forced to pick a star-studded line-up in a bid to boost marketing revenue and picked players regardless of form and performance throughout the season. Quieroz was eventually sacked at the end of a trophy-less campaign as Real Madrid struggled to win major silverware and regain stability in subsequent years under four different managers and football directors following Del Bosque’s departure.
In a bid to strengthen the defensive and midfield positions, Perez’s sanctioned the signing of several players such as Jonathan Woodgate, Thomas Gravesen, Walter Samuel, and Sergio Ramos, among others, in the years following Quieroz’s departure. While Sergio Ramos fulfilled in potential following Perez’s resignation, Woodgate was amongst the only defensive signings during the time to have impressed on the pitch. Pavon left the club in 2007 following an unnoticeable career at the club.
Real Madrid remained trophy-less for three seasons following their Copa Del Rey final loss to Real Zaragoza in 2004. Michael Owen was signed as the final and alternative galactico signing to Samuel Eto during the first era, however, the striker left the club following an underwhelming season after failing to cement his spot within the starting line-up. Luis Figo departed the club in the summer of 2005 while Zidane announced his retirement four months following Perez’s resignation. Ronaldo moved to A.C Milan in December 2006 and Beckham’s departure to L.A Galaxy in the summer of 2007 marked the end of Real’s first galactico era.