On 4th January, Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez announced the departure of Rafa Benitez as the head coach of Real Madrid. He also announced that Real Castilla head coach and former Madridsta Zinedine Zidane as the new head coach. This will be the 11th coach of Real Madrid.
Yes during the tenure of his presidency, 14 trophies were won, including 2 UEFA Champions League tittles (which included the famous La Decima). Madrid have broken the world transfer fee records several times. During his second spell, Madrid have generated the most revenue of all football teams and have the highest brand value of all football teams since 2012.
Yet, he is not without controversy
Perez envisaged a Real Madrid that is well managed and is capable of fielding the most talented XI in the world. He was elected president in 2000, on promise of better club management, fielding the most talented attack and he lured Luis Figo from Barcelona. Every year, new players including Beckham, Zidane, Owen, Ronaldo all joined the ranks to create a formidable side. Yet if there was one perpetuality, it was his intolerance of any loss of control over the management of the club or the dressing room.
The most evident was the sacking of current Spanish Boss, Vincent del Bosque. In Bosque’s 4 seasons, Real Madrid were by far the greatest side in football. Yet despite winning 2 Champions League and 2 La Liga titles, being able to manage the egos of the Galaticos, Del Bosque was sacked, and many players who openly backed him departed over the next couple of summers. This included club captain Fernando Hierro, Morientes, Claude Makélélé and Steve McManaman, all key members of Real Madrid.
The rumors were of a political rift between Perez and del Bosque. It should be noted that Perez was the man making the calls in the transfer window and not the boss. Despite this, Del Bosque was able to manage the team well.
It was something that the fans did not appreciate given the level of consistency shown by the team and the sentimental value Del Bosque commanded as a former Madrid player himself. Despite an influx of the most talented attacking (and marketable players), Madrid were not as consistent.
He would be re-elected in 2009 and would continue on the same policy of the Galaticos. James Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Kareem Benzema, Kaka, Xabi Alonso were some of the many high profile transfers involving huge sums of money. Yet, his relationship with the fans has soured, especially during the treatment involving long time club servant, Iker Cassillas.
He seems to have a certain disdain for defensive players. They would always be paid a fraction of the midfield and forward positions, despite their immense contributions. The most notable example was Claude Makélélé. The Frenchman revolutionised the defensive midfield role and on encouragement of other teammates, asked for an improved contract, which was flatly denied by Perez. He would hand in a transfer request and would depart for Stamford Bridge in 2004.
What shocked many was the comments Perez made regarding Makélélé.
We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten
This would never happen.
The attacking players bought over the next couple of years, provided little defensive contribution. It was one reason why Madrid fared poorly for a few years. Many players voiced their displeasure over his sanctioned sale of the Frenchman.
Zidane said “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine”
Steve McManaman remarked in 2006,
I think Claude has this kind of gift – he’s been the best player in the team for years but people just don’t notice him, don’t notice what he does. But you ask anyone at Real Madrid during the years we were talking about and they will tell you he was the best player at Real. We all knew, the players all knew he was the most important. The loss of Makélelé was the beginning of the end for Los Galacticos… You can see that it was also the beginning of a new dawn for Chelsea. He was the base, the key and I think he is the same to Chelsea now
A similar incident happened in the Summer of 2015, with Perez unable to come out on top. Sergio Ramos who has spent the last decade at Madrid wanted a better contract, which was initially refused by Perez (his disdain for the backline was that obvious). Eventually, Ramos’s hard stance would pay off, as he would be awarded with a new contract.
Out of the pitch, in 2000 when he contested the elections, he had promised to increase the brand value of the club and decrease the significant debt of the club. While the value and exposure increased, especially in the Asian Markets, his claims of the reduction of Debt were refuted by the then chairman, Ramón Calderón.
Real’s debt is still significantly high, at over €130 million. The expansion plans of the Santiago Bernebau, have been halted by the city of Madrid as they feel it is not working in public interest, dampened his architectural and expansion aims of the stadium.
There are other claims, that the debt is significantly higher than what is being reported, which if true can shake his hold over the club. He has been criticized for heavy marketing of the club and not giving adequate consideration to their performances. His 2009 Election was actually a walkover, as he was the only candidate capable of securing a €58 million guarantee to run for president (should be expected from a man valued at over €2 billion).
He is also quick on the firing button. Del Bosque and Ancoletti were some managers, who despite winning some of the biggest trophies in the sport, were sacked earlier than necessary. This shows his ruthessnes and focus on the short term rather than developing an overall approach to the game. Maybe this is why Real Madrid have only 3-4 youth academy graduates in their team.
He is likely to remain President given his financial power over the club for at least the current term, but his tenure’s at the helm seem to get more troublesome with every passing year.