Florentino Perez is an odd fellow. There are times when it almost seems like he knows what he’s doing. That it’s all stacked so far in his favor that it can’t possibly mess up again. And then it messes up again. He’s either suffered some very bad luck with managers, or he truly is one of the most clueless presidents in football. And that’s a fairly long list of clueless people.
The Galactico mark II experiment is jogging along well enough domestically, but it’s European glory that Perez really covets and it’s in Europe where his charges have failed again, and someone needs to pay for that. The humiliating (or hilarious, depending on your view point….mainly hilarious I’d say) sight of the UEFA Champions League quarter final draw being held so lavishly and fawningly in Madrid must have been hard for Florentino to stomach. With the final set to be staged in the Bernabeu and UEFA deciding to make each final specially themed like a fancy dress party or public holiday or something, the draw began with romantic images of the Spanish capital’s most famous stadium and club accompanied by clichéd Spanish guitar music and finally, a shot of Madrid lifting various incarnations of Old Big Ears. Then an old Madrid legend – Emilio Butragueño – was wheeled out looking alarmingly like Dracula’s dad, accompanied by a VT of his glorious achievements (which never included the European Cup oddly enough) before he was interviewed at length for some reason whilst everyone watching at home screamed in Python-esque frustration – “get on with it”. The notable absence of Real from the actual draw would have been a huge embarrassment for their president, especially with all the fanfare he loves so much and went to great trouble to show us all in his maddeningly ridiculous presentation ceremonies this summer. And so it was that he, and everyone else with a vested interest in the Decepticon, sorry, Galactico project, set about trying to find someone to lay the blame on.
That person, so far, happens to be none other than Madrid’s premier performer – this season and last – Gonzalo Higuain. Signed by Florentino’s predecessor Ramon Calderon, he’s kept Perez signing Karim Benzema out of the side with a string of match winning performances and a glut of goals. Despite this, he’s oddly been lambasted in Marca – Madrid’s biggest selling and unashamedly pro-Madrid sports daily – a fair few times already whenever one of those performances doesn’t materialize. Whereas Rooney was being crowned defacto king of the world by the British press after four goals against Hull, Higuain’s form was being downplayed by the usually hysterical paper. “It doesn’t matter unless he scores in the Champions League final” was the general gist. The eventual exit from that competition two weeks ago was the tipping point. With Higuain missing two great chances, this was the opportunity Marca wanted – although probably not the circumstances – and they tore into him with vigor for not passing to Cristiano Ronaldo in the build up to his second chance. What’s interesting about this – for those that don’t understand where I’m going – is that Perez has a very close association with Marca, and always has. It was they who engineered the controlled demolition of Calderon which lead to his resignation and Perez’ eventual triumphant white horsed return. When intermediary president Vicente Boluda was interviewed by the paper, the quote they chose to run as their headline was “Florentino Perez’s management of the club was magnificent”. The hatchet job on Calderon and the hagiography of the first Galactico era set their man up on a plate. When Calderon resigned, his final words were that it had been “victory for evil and injustice”. He meant Perez and Marca. It was brilliantly engineered so that all he had to do was step in, as a savior, and it looked like he was doing the club a favor. They needed him, and he obliged like the caring, parental messiah he is. Clever, yes. Bonkers, undoubtedly. It’s also partly Marca’s influence that sees manager after manager sacked for failing to make flesh the lofty dreams of their president rather than any kind of change in the way the process is run. So it’s a fair assumption that Marca’s motives lie close to Perez. He’d rather his signings succeed over his sworn enemy’s, than Madrid prosper any which way but lose.
In his previous stint in charge, the famed first Galactico era, Perez got through six coaches, four directors and 20 players. All within 3 years. He was unable to let these people get on with their jobs. He thought he knew more. He was incredibly naive when it came to the on field running of a football club. It was famously the courting of Beckham that did for him in the end. Not David himself, who was a great performer for the Spaniards, but the President’s willingness to let Claude Makelele – the glue that held the team together – leave in order to make room and funds available for golden balls. It was a classic footballing mistake, and one which he’s making all over again, driving out needed assets to accommodate his signings, or more accurately, his ego.
Marca will never openly criticize Perez. It’ll be manager Pellegrini who faces their wrath and consequently the axe if Madrid don’t win La Liga, and likely regardless of it anyway. Whilst Liverpool’s fans are busy blaming their owners over their operators for the troubles at Anfield, Madrid’s fans are being led down the opposite route by their favorite rag. And we’re already off again as Madrid’s failure to progress passed the 1/8 stage for the umpteenth time has not been greeted by assurances of calm, but of rancor to sign Rooney, Fabregas Ribery, Villa and Roy Race (that last one might not be true).
Once again Perez has brought in a wealth of famous names and then expected someone else to sort out how they’re all going to fit in. And when they can’t, he throws his toys out of the pram and demands new ones. He’s treating a real club like a video game. Again. Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, both jettisoned in the summer, are both proving themselves elsewhere, both still in the Champions League, and both the primary reasons why their respective clubs are after both putting in match winning performances in the last round. An insightful footballing person would’ve held on to both. Perez has no clue, so they were off.
It’s absolutely farcical but if Madrid do manage to win La Liga this year – and they’re in a very promising position – then nothing will change. No mention will be made of the incredibly deluded running of the club by anyone inside Madrid. It’ll be onward and upward with more stars, more shiftily acquired loans and more absolute madness. And to be honest, that’s fine with me. They’re welcome to their madness, but I just wish they’d do it quietly in the corner somewhere because it’ll be other clubs that suffer when Perez sets his sights on a new vanguard of superstars to bring home “their” trophy at Wembley in 2011. And then what? Messi & Rooney won’t ever leave, Fabregas would rather play for Barca, and whatever stars they’re likely to coble together next would probably mean the exit of some others. It can stunt careers making a move to a big club with eyes bigger than their stomach and no real idea of what to do with you. Just ask Sean Wright Phillips and Scott Parker. Everyone suffers. It’s a crazy carousel, and no one wants to tell the person with the lever to stop it. So we’ll keep going round and round and round until everyone’s sick. I’m already feeling a bit queasy myself to be honest.