Real Madrid and failure are not two words that appear in the same sentence too often.
The Spanish club are arguably the most famous sports team in the world. They were voted the club of the 20th Century and with 10 European Cups to their name it is hard to argue with that.
They are a financial machine and a marketing genius. The iconic white shirts and the world record signings all contribute to their image as the most glamorous club in football. But as profitable as they have become off the field, does their model ultimately limit their success on the field?
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This article is not a knee-jerk reaction to the team's 4-0 loss in El Classico. Rather it is brought about by looking back over the career of Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
The Portuguese star’s time at Real is rumoured to be coming to an end. The individual accolades and awards have come thick and fast, but team success has been harder to come by. Since Ronaldo joined Real Madrid in 2009, he has one La Liga title. That’s right, one.
Add that to two Copa Del Reys and a Champions League and that is it. In terms of the big three competitions that every top team competes in; being the league, the domestic cup and European competition, Ronaldo has won four of them in six seasons. To put that in perspective, Real have won four out of 18 attempts. For one of the biggest and best clubs in the world, is that really enough?
In the same time period, Bayern have won one Champions League, four Bundesliga titles and three domestic cups. Chelsea have won one Champions League, two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. Inter Milan have the same record as Real since 2009.
If we consider league titles more important than domestic cups, then if Paris St Germain win a Champions League in the next four years, they will have surpassed Real Madrid’s record over these last six seasons. The same applies for Juventus and Manchester City. In fact, Ronaldo actually won more during his formative years in Manchester than he has since arriving in Spain.
Six seasons is a long time - in football it is even longer. Such a short period of time has not been selected to prove a point. 2009 is the year Florentino Perez returned, Cristiano Ronaldo joined and the second Galactico project got underway. However, if you go back further, it doesn’t make for much better reading.
Across the last ten years, Real have only won an additional two league titles. That then makes it six out of 30 trophy attempts. One would have to go back to the turn of the century to really improve the statistics, when Zinedine Zidane and Raul were the stars of the show. When you add in the amounts of money the team spends, it really doesn’t look like enough. Imagine if Arsenal or Dortmund spent the kind of money Real have. You would definitely expect more than one league title.
As much as Real Madrid wanted La Decima in order to cement their place as kings of Europe, without it, their whole project looks pretty embarrassing for a club of its stature. The Champions League - which was a few minutes away from never happening - is the one outstanding achievement in what has been a barren six-year spell for the club. So why are Real falling short and can the club, with its current model, be successful?
Madrid, in their defence, have very high expectations and are not afraid to mix things up when it isn't going well; which has contributed to their revolving door policy. The problem is that when things aren’t going well, it isn’t the star players or the president who feel the brunt. It is always the manager.
Since 2003, Real have had 12 different managers. They have the best players, best facilities, most money but unfortunately, with that kind of managerial policy you simply cannot have the best managers. There are just not enough great managers around.
The club has had some great managers too, Jose Mourinho, Fabio Cappello and Carlo Ancelotti, whom have two titles and a Champions League between them. But on the other hand, they have also given jobs to Juande Ramos, Bernd Schuster and Carlos Queiroz. Managers that you wouldn’t expect to get a top job like Madrid’s, but sometimes when you sack a manager you don’t have much choice. They seem to end up with managers they don’t want, Rafa Benitez being exhibit A. That kind of strategy is always going to limit a team's success.
Until Real slow down on the firings, will they have be able to build a successful club? Probably not. All managers have bad runs and no managers can win a trophy every single season. It’s just unrealistic.
With players like Ronaldo and Gareth Bale they can always be a threat and will win some trophies, but in terms of sustained success it would appear more patience is necessary.
We all secretly admire Real Madrid’s transfer policy. Every football fan dreams of their team signing the biggest stars in the world and Real do it every single summer. The problem is how do you fit all these top players into a balanced team?
Following the World Cup in Brazil, Perez set his sights on the brightest spark in a very good tournament, James Rodriguez. Quickly the Colombian attacking midfielder was signed, but did they really need him?
They had signed Isco a year before, one of the most exciting number 10s around but due to the hype around Rodriguez Real just had to have him. Should they have strengthened elsewhere?
More importantly, it seems that due to the star quality of these signings, managers can’t drop them. Galacticos are brought in because of their marketability and as a result - they need to play. As a Real manager, your role is to find a system to fit all of these stars in rather than one that will win football games. Making the life of a manager at Madrid even harder
You can’t consider Real without also looking at Barca. Just like their star players Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, you can’t help but compare the two.
Since 2009, Barcelona have been relatively unstoppable. They have had blips when you think the team's cycle was over but they have managed to reinvent themselves while retaining some core players to be successful over a longer period of time.
If Real ruled the 20th Century than the 21st Century belongs to Barcelona with four Champions League titles. Maybe the reason Real’s last six seasons have been meagre is simply that Barcelona have been brilliant. In fact, they have been better than brilliant. Quite possibly the best we have ever seen. Real’s policy, even if it were perfect, would have still struggled to compete with the Blaugrana's sustained dominance.
Given that, maybe we should give Real a break. They may have just been the second best team of a generation. The Real-Barca rivalry does have similarities to the Messi-Ronaldo rivalry. Maybe we should give some credit to Real then.
They did win their tenth European title and although they have only the single league title, it was a very impressive season in which Real Madrid racked up a record points total against a very good Barcelona side.
Overall, the financial success of the club has masked the on-field troubles. For a club of that stature and allure, it has consistently underachieved for the best part of a decade. That alone should be enough of a reason for the club to rethink its policy.
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