I wonder how many fans truly care that Real Madrid have already spent a couple hundred million euros in the summer transfer market without yet addressing their serious need for energy, drive and control in midfield.
It’s an even stronger bet that only a tiny percentage of football supporters give a hoot that, according to financial fair play, every club is allowed a maximum “overspend” of €100 million when outgoing transfer funds are measured against transfer income in a given financial year. So if, as seems likely, Madrid will spend a minimum €400m on their targets this summer, they’ll theoretically need to ship out players for at least €300m — or at least make it look that way.
While transfers have always been deeply fascinating, offering frissons of thrill, glimpses of a glorious future, juicy opportunities for jealousy and delivering shock factor, modern transfer windows have gradually turned into pure theatre — sometimes of the slapstick variety.
For all their grotesque numbers, for all the utter nonsense that some branches of the media knowingly disseminate, for all the speculation published in response to the latest story reported by a rival outlet, the fact is that the public gobble all this up — or large sections of the public, anyway. And it’s a great way for clubs, sponsors and agents to generate publicity and, obviously, vast sums of money.
Real Madrid are the chief actors, of that there can be no question.
From the early 1950s, they believed in Galactico signings; only it wasn’t called that then when president Santiago Bernabeu and his right-hand man Raimundo Saporta revolutionised football with the idea that if Madrid wanted to be No. 1 in the world (which even then they most certainly did), they’d need a policy of pursuing and signing the best individual talent regardless of nationality, age and, in some cases, price.
It may seem like old hat now to anyone either not born or not fully engaged with football back in 2000, but it’s impossible to overstate the shock and awe inspired by Madrid, with Florentino Perez newly installed as president, gleefully ripping Luis Figo from Barcelona’s disbelieving and powerless hands by paying a world-record fee that covered the release clause in his contract.
But if, like me, you’re someone who’s more attracted to the beauty of a long season well fought that ends in trophies, teams that show character, development and unity, then this summer needs to be more than an entertaining pantomime. In summary: if you look beyond their quite fantastic Champions League record, domestically, Madrid need a good, firm kick up the backside.
They’ve lost eight of the past 11 Liga Clasicos at home by an aggregate score of 14-29. That’s an astonishing statistic. They’ve been Spanish champions twice in the past 11 years. That’s nowhere near good enough, but it’s better than their Copa del Rey record: twice champions in the past 26 years.
Not only have Atletico Madrid pipped them to second place in each of the past two seasons, it’s also true that Madrid each time finished significantly closer to fifth place than first. The gap between Los Blancos and the title winner in 2018 and 2019 was, aggregated, 36 points. Last season they needed three coaches — a sign, regardless of the club, of deep divisions and problems.
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