Spanish Football’s Real Madrid has been losing matches the same way for over a decade now. The formula begins with club president Florentino Perez holding the team’s reigns firmly and making two consistent decisions.
The first, is that the way to succeed in soccer is to pour money over a collection of stars and let them figure out how to play together once on the pitch. The second is to find a coach at either end of the notoriety spectrum—a relative to totally unknown one, such as Julen Lopetegui or Santiago Solari—or a globally known quantity such as Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti, and then tell them how to do their job. The Perez formula.
Taking a single example of the Perez formula at work, let’s look at the team’s 0-3 loss to Eibar today. The game began as it often does for Madrid when they play away to a lesser team, the officiating crew determines how they will handicap the visitors and then allow the game to play out with those constraints firmly installed.
La Liga officiating of Real Madrid matches
Today, it was free-fouls-for-all time on Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. Fouls on all others would be called but it would take six on the former and four on the latter before any cautionary words left the mouth of referee Juan Martinez Munuera when addressing Eibar tacklers. In fact, Bale got a yellow card for complaining about an elbow to the chest quicker than any Eibar player got his for egregious fouling. Though the official match stats had Eibar with 17 fouls to Madrid’s 8 it only seemed proportionate that the home team got two yellows to the visitors’ one for Bale.
Coaching and Administering at Real Madrid
On the Madrid coaching-administrative side, their contribution to the flop was to play Karim Benzema (four gimme goal opportunities missed, twelve called off sides) along side speedsters Bale and Asensio. The problem with the latter duo is that when you are accustomed to using your speed to assert yourself and the field you are playing on is 615 square yards smaller that your home field, or for that matter than any other field in La Liga, those six feet less of width on each side make it a bit harder to use speed as an asset. Did Perez counsel anyone on this?
But doubtless the inexperienced Solari did not factor in the happenstance that Ipurua Stadium, capacity 7,083, would probably contain a field with somewhat smaller dimensions than the one his team practices at, the Bernabeu, with an 81,044 capacity. Similarly, Perez probably felt today like he has ever since purchasing Benzema, that the mannequin is a star. Someday, when the Frenchman is traded it will be interesting to see what the club gets in return, not just in terms of money but in terms of what his replacement brings to the productivity of the team.
Real Madrid Roster
So, to ask the question in your mind, if one adds a now healthy Marcelo and Dani Carvajal to the mix does one not have enough stars on the pitch, with Bale, Asensio, Modric, Toni Kroos, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, and Thibaut Courtois on your side? Well, yes, but the biggest scoring threat and the field marshal were the two players the officials were going to allow get mugged. And with Dani Ceballos an ineffective game-long substitute for Casemiro and Alvaro Odriozola a similarly poor 54-minute understudy for Carvajal, replays will show that left defensive wingman of the match Marc Cucurella and right midfielder Fabian Orellana had a field day on both sidelines.
There are so many obvious problems with the Perez formula that it should have long become clear it is a recipe for disaster, only for that past decade the team has managed to win every title they have pursued at least twice and some three times. The question might well be asked –how is that possible?
Well, the answer is that about a decade ago a certain Portuguese striker joined the Bernabeu crowd and he managed to score 311 goals in 292 appearances and help bring home 16 trophies. He did so with the sublime assists of Kaka and Mesut Ozil for a few seasons and without their services for many, many more. He did so while his career referent had the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Neymar, Suarez, Villa, Ronaldinho, Eto’o, and Henry, setting the table for him at the Camp Nou, where many of those not-won-by-Real trophies are displayed.
Now perhaps the solution at the Bernabeu is to buy another goal-scoring galactico who will again serve as camouflage for another Perez-decade, or maybe it is time for the club to realize what needs changing isn’t the Emperor’s clothing but the Emperor.