There is little to be surprised about with the exit last night of Real Madrid from this years's Champions League. It is after all the sixth year running that they have been eliminated at this stage of the tournament. It was all supposed to be different this time, following the return to the club of Florentino Pérez as president and the huge outlay on players now that Real Madrid are the only entity which the banks will still lend money to. Instead Galácticos 2 looks like it could go the same way as the first version, and for much the same reasons.
Even with a perfect start to the game, and a good first half, Madrid were unable to overcome Olympique Lyon and could easily have lost both games if it hadn't been for some slack finishing by the Lyon strikers. So what, some people might say, there is still La Liga. But the expression on Florentino Perez's face as the game ended suggests that this was the end of the season for him. The final of this year's Champions League is to be held in the Bernabeu stadium, and winning the trophy in their own stadium was intended to be the launch pad for years of domination by the new model Real Madrid.
Instead Madrid's supporters are now faced with the horrific prospect that it might be the captain of Barcelona lifting the trophy at the end of that final. Barcelona president Joan Laporta says that he is waiting until June to announce his political intentions, and I have no doubt that he has calculated just how many points in the opinion polls it might be worth to win the Champions League in the home of their greatest rivals. There are of course a few other teams less fragile than Madrid who still have something to say on the subject.
Madrid were beaten by opponents who played as a team rather than as a random collection of stars, a simple idea but one that Pérez and company still seem to treat with disdain. It's a hugely satisfying result for all those who see football as being about more than the price of the players. As happened in his previous reign, the new Madrid has come to depend on players who were unappreciated or on the list of likely discards; Van der Vaart, Diarra, Higuaín. Then there is the case of Raúl, who Pérez reportedly regards as having had far too much power inside the club. When the ineffective Kaka was substituted by Raúl last night we should have been treated to Florentino's expression - when things get tough the expensive imports are often nowhere to be seen.
Nobody should be fooled by the routine support given to trainer Manuel Pellegrini who was always unlikely to survive beyond the end of the season. Not because he's bad at his job - he's not - but because Pérez still seeks someone with a profile to fit his notion of the team. Remember Vicente del Bosque's exit from the Galácticos first version? Apart from anything else, one constant in Madrid is that the directors of the club take the credit for all success, and the blame for any failures is always passed to someone further down - usually the trainer. Pellegrini will survive, especially with the payoff he will get, and will probably be happier in a more modest team where he is allowed to pursue his own project.
Who was beside Pérez in the "palco" at the Bernabeu last night? Esperanza Aguirre, already in full electioneering mode and always desperately keen to get into the picture if there is any chance of glory to be celebrated. Any club with friends like that deserves all that it gets.