After Kaka’s press conference yesterday in Recife, there are no more doubts. He is a Real Madrid player, moving from A.C. Milan 59 million pounds, or 68 million Euros. It is a new transfer record in UK pounds but not in Euros, with Zinedine Zidan’es 73 million Euros still on top of the list. Blame a crappy exchange rate and the whole complex financial system for this trivia bit.
Kaka’s transfer is no doubt a huge declaration from Florentino Perez, Real’s re-elected president. Real Madrid missed out on the title last year by a pretty large margin, finally knocked out of the title race with a huge 6-2 KO’s in the super classico by Barcelona. They were also knocked out in second round of the Champion’s League for the 5th season in a row.
With Cristiano Ronaldo the next target for Perez and Real, it’s apparent the dawning of a new galacticos era is upon us. It’s a chance to take a look at the four prime examples of the previous Galacticos era.
The first Galactico. Real Madrid just finished a third straight season without a title, with Barcelona winning in 97/98 and 98/99 while Deportivo winning the first one of the new millennium. Florentino Perez was just elected to be the Real Madrid president and started his tenure with this huge signing, the most expensive in the world at the time.
It’s been rumored that Real signed Figo to a contract which said that if Figo wouldn’t be able to convince the Barca execs to sell him to Real he would be forced to pay a huge fine to Real Madrid.
Figo’s transfer was especially huge because of the club he played for, Barcelona. No need to tell anyone how big the rivalry between the two clubs is, and Luis Figo moving to Real was considered an act of treason by Barcelona fans. Each time Figo arrived at the Nou Camp to play there he was received with boo’s and flying objects, with the pig head thrown at him being the most famous incident.
Pig or now, Figo’s transfer to Madrid was huge success, bringing the title back to Real in his first season and also in the 2002/03 season, after a couple more Galacticos joined in. Figo moved on to Inter Milan after the 2004/05 season, and finished his career with Madrid owning two league titles and one Champions League trophy in 2001/2002.
When Zidane arrived in Madrid in 2001 that was the real beginning of the dream team that lasted for 2 years more or less. He came from Juventus for the highest transfer fee ever and still is, depending on the currency you use. Zidane’s arrival was a proof that Real could land any player, including the best in the world, and Zidane was the best at the time, missing only a Champion League title in his closet.
Zidane was the prime example of Perez’ take on soccer and the whole Galacticos project, coining the phrase “el Zidane’s y Pavones” referring to Francisco Pavon who now plays for Real Zaragoza. Perez meant that he wants his team to be built of high profile stars like Zidane and Figo and young, home grown player like Pavon to do the dirty work.
His first season, 2001/2002 saw him and Figo as well fill that gap in the resume. Zidane scored an amazing volley kick in the final against Leverkusen, leading Real to a 2-1 victory and their 9th European Champions Cup and also their last to date. He led Real to the league title in 2002/2003, the last galacticos championship. He retired after the 2005/2006 season and the 2006 World Cup with one championship and one Champions League title for Real.
Today saying Ronaldo usually means you’re talking about Cristiano Ronaldo. Until no too long ago, that single name meant only one player. Today he is also the old Ronaldo, or the fat Ronaldo, or the real Ronaldo. Ronaldo was the first galactico to be brought onto Real Madrid, returning to the Spanish La Liga after 5 mostly injury riddled season in Italy playing or doing physiotherapy for Inter.
He wasn’t the same lightning fast player as he was when he played for Barcelona 5 years before but he was still an amazing scorer, and in his first season for Real scored 23 league goals, helping Real to the league title. Despite not winning the Champions League that year, this was Real’s dream team at it’s best, with Figo, Zidane, Raul and Ronaldo leading the team to some amazing soccer performances with the 3-1 win over Manchester United in the Champion League quarter finals being the best example of the team’s potential.
Ronaldo played four and a half seasons in Madrid, winning only one league title but scoring 83 goals in 127 games.
When David Beckham arrived in the summer of 2003, it was the beginning of the end for the Galacticos project. It took Real another 2 years to realize and face the facts that the concept has bombed, but it really began falling apart with Beck’s arrival.
Why? David Beckham wasn’t and isn’t a bad player. He’s a really good one actually. His one fault – he’s a huge icon, with his influence and reach far beyond the soccer world. That is why he was bought, not because he was what Real needed, and they didn’t need another player on the right, where Figo was playing. He was bought to sell shirts and a whole lot of other stuff, and that’s why everything it didn’t work out.
Beckham was a good, very good player, but on the wrong team, at the wrong time. He spent four years at Real, winning a league title only during his last one, in 2006/2007 before leaving to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Florentino Perez is obviously trying to recreate the dream team ideal, but the question if he has learned from his mistakes from the first dream team remains to be seen. Barcelona of the last three seasons is a great example to learn from, good and bad.