Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Return Of San Florentino

It seems that the patron saint of part of Madrid is not San Isidro after all, it's Florentino Pérez. At least if you're a Real Madrid supporter, judging from the reactions to the announcement by Pérez that he intends to stand for president of the club. With the team already virtually out of the running for the title, a situation finally confirmed last night, Pérez could announce his candidacy last week without being accused of disloyalty. The immediate reaction has been almost overwhelmingly favourable, with huge expectation being created about who might be signed if Florentino embarks on yet another "Galacticos" era. The names being mentioned are hardly surprising, Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo are always on the list of possible Madrid targets. Ribery, Villa and Alonso have also been added.

This favourable reaction is curious for a number of reasons, the main one of course being that Pérez resigned as club president a few years ago after it became clear that his star studded team was going to experience a third succesive season without winning a trophy. He'd achieved economic success through marketing, but without it being accompanied by equivalent success on the field. He did also manage to wipe out the club's massive debt with the complicity of Madrid's administration, and the four huge office blocks that occupy the site of Real's former training ground could really be regarded as the main trophies from his previous period. Apparently they are having trouble filling them in these times of crisis.

Now he is back with more promises of the same amidst talk of a 300 million euro spending spree. The main problem with this plan is that the sum talked about is more or less the same as the gloomier estimates of the club's current debt. Given that now is probably not the time to engage in yet another dodgy property deal involving the Bernabeu stadium the question arises of where the money will come from? It's hard to find anyone willing to deal too closely with these questions, or to question whether a repeat of the previous experience is really the way for Real Madrid to compete with Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. What we are seeing is a variety of voluntary amnesia as if too close a relationship to reality might be harmful.

Pérez certainly shows no sign yet of having learnt from previous experience, and it will be interesting to see who his choice of team coach is going to be. There is talk of it being Arsene Wenger, but Wenger would be crazy from a footballing point of view to assume the job under Pérez. He would go from a job where he has almost complete control over the team to one where he would simply be presented with a random assortment of big name players that Florentino has chosen for him. He would of course be well paid for putting up with this, but it seems to go completely against his philosophy of the game. The success of Guardiola's team this year is not based around expensive purchases, indeed you could easily argue that getting rid of some of them was the basis of Barça's resurgence. It remains to be seen whether that lesson will ever be learnt in Chamartin.

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