For all of his affluence and influence, Florentino Perez is deemed by the majority of the football world as a man with little sense. That’s in the financial construct of the word, anyhow.
The civil engineer, turned Real Madrid president, has carved a reputation out of paying incredible sums of money for the best football players in the world, and is solely responsible for ushering in the infamous ‘Galacticos’ era at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Florentino Perez at Madrid
Football has plenty to thank Perez for, let’s make no bones about that point. The mouth-watering array of global superstars annually on show in Madrid provides at the very least great entertainment for neutrals, and the tantalising dreams like that of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale pairing up probably wouldn’t have been realised without him.
But there comes a point when one, Madrid fan or no, has to wonder whether or not Perez’s eagerness to maintain Los Blancos’ reputation of hoarding each summer’s in-form talent has finally got the better of him. When one has to question if the pursuit of on-pitch glory hasn’t been substituted for commercial success and the will to have an ever-changing project which proposes ambition through unpredictability.
If there was ever a time to sit on what he had and begin to prove that there’s far more to Madrid than simply breaking transfer records each year to ensure the best possible shot at dominance, this summer was it.
Last season's success
Ironically it was the arrival of the £85million Bale which provided the final piece of the puzzle in Madrid’s bid to win La Decima, and the Welshman’s emphatic header gave them the initiative in last season’s Champions League final which culminated in them being crowned conquerors of Europe for a tenth time.
Despite not having achieved La Liga success, surrendering that accolade to city rivals Atletico, Carlo Ancelotti had managed what no Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho included, had accomplished since 2002. Perez had delivered what he promised, the squad was arguably the most complete it has been during his two tenures as chief, and there was a world-class player sitting in virtually every position on the pitch.
And yet that wasn’t enough for the Spaniard. Though his intentions may have been clothed in a desire to win, it’s fair to say that he decided fairly early on that he wanted to spend big once more.
The first major summer import was Toni Kroos, which in itself doesn’t merit any criticism. The German international, fresh from winning the World Cup, shares many traits with Xabi Alonso, and is a far younger model who can grow into the role he’s been presented with at the Bernabeu without causing much fuss along the way.
€25million was a relative snip considering his abilities and reputation, and with him anchoring in the midfield alongside Luka Modric it’s fair to say Ancelotti may have found a roundabout way of improving a central partnership which was already world-class.
Then there’s the other huge transaction of the summer though, and the one which stokes the fire of the argument at hand and gives fuel to those who say Perez lacks any sort of sense with his expenditure for Madrid: The purchase of James Rodriguez.
A big mistake?
Drawing short parallels with the circumstances surrounding Bale and Ronaldo when they were first being lined up to make huge moves to the Spanish capital, the Colombia playmaker was the most talked about name in football following the World Cup. Six goals and the consequent Golden Boot award saw James lauded as a player whose ability far exceeded his own currently.
The 23-year-old, all things considered, is supremely talented for his age, but that doesn’t detract from the notion that Perez took a huge gamble when he chose to spend £63million on a player who was rated highly, but untested in one of Europe’s elite leagues, off the back of his performances in the world’s biggest international tournament.
But that’s not what makes the James deal perhaps the most ridiculous of the summer, it’s the departure of the man he was brought in to replace. There can be no question that heading into the latter months of the transfer window Angel Di Maria had proved himself amongst the most gifted attacking players on the planet.
Sale of Di Maria
The Argentine had defied critics who purported he would be the primary casualty of Bale’s arrival and went on to enjoy his most successful season at Madrid last term, completing 73 key passes, 17 assists and winning 36 tackles, as opposed to respective stats of 39, six and 20 the season before.
Coincidentally it was Sir Alex Ferguson who handed him his man of the match award for a scintillating display in the Champions League final win; Di Maria was the perfect supporting act to the Ronaldo and Bale masterclass.
An eye-catching World Cup with Argentina followed and still it wasn’t enough to persuade Perez that he was an asset that ought to be retained. Even a personal campaign by Ronaldo, in which he approached the Madrid president to try and talk him out of selling Di Maria, failed and he was transferred for £59.7million to Old Trafford.
You don’t need to be a biased Premier League advocate to state that the 26-year-old has been a revelation on English shores since. Having settled in virtually no time at all he has set about adding that devastating attacking awareness which is so often a trademark of Madrid alumni, and he already has three goals in five appearances to his name.
In contrast James hasn’t looked nearly as explosive in his matches thus far. Sure, you can argue that Ronaldo and Bale are the major outlets for Ancelotti’s side, but even so the former Monaco man looks as though he may take a while to replicate the sort of form which earned him his lucrative move in the first-place.
The future could serve to make an embarrassment of this opinion should James come good and Di Maria hit a block in momentum, but it’s beginning to look like the decision to buy the latter, which was obviously made after the plan to sell Di Maria was put into motion, proves Madrid, by association with Perez, don't have sense to match their millions.