Two Words For Real Madrid

Two Words For Real Madrid
July 29, 2009 Paul Tomkins

Florentino Pérez, the Real Madrid president, is not happy with Liverpool. “Some people obviously thought that, because we said we wanted more Spanish players, they could ask for fees which don’t correspond to reality,” he said. “A year ago certain players we’ve asked about would have cost less than half the price we’re being quoted now.”

I would therefore ask him: if Xabi Alonso was such good value in 2008, why didn’t you stump up the money then?

Ah, but Pérez has a foolproof back-up plan. “If necessary, we’ll find the Spanish players we would like for the squad in our youth side.”

To which my suggestion would be: go on then. If you have the talent, use it.

Players don’t have values that are set in stone. They fluctuate with their form, and with the need of both the selling and buying club.  Before his excellent season in which he scored over 40 goals, Cristiano Ronaldo’s value was far lower than the incredible £80m he moved for; maybe closer to £20m.

Between 2006 and 2008, Xabi Alonso looked like a £15-20m player, with his value a bit down from the high at the end of his first season. By 2009 he looked every inch a £30m+ player, after a superb campaign.

Pérez had no problem paying just £10m for Michael Owen a year after he’d been worth £25m, before his contract ran down to just 12 months. Real Madrid had no problem taking Steve McManaman on a free 12 months after he’d been worth millions. They have no problem taking Alvaro Arbeloa on the cheap because he only has a short time left on his contract.

£30m+ is Alonso’s worth to Liverpool. Indeed, if you told anyone connected with Liverpool that Alonso was the key to winning the title, then he’d be worth £100m; basically, he’d be priceless. As the new season nears, his value should actually increase, as it’s harder to then find a replacement and bed him in.

If Alonso’s worth to Madrid is not as great, then to them he’s obviously not worth £30m. Fine. Walk away. Just don’t say that Liverpool are “not living in reality”. Also, don’t state to the world, in courting Alonso, that he’s a player with rare gifts (controlling games with pinpoint passing and dictating tempo), and then make out that he should instead be priced like Robbie Savage.

To Madrid, Alonso is brilliant, and unique, and worth unsettling and pursuing all summer long. But he’s not worth that much money. Okay….

Apparently Benítez is taking a hammering in the Spanish press for not bending over for Real Madrid.

Which is funny, as he has taught Madrid how to build a football team with foresight, planning and discipline; a lesson they should have picked up at Anfield last season, when a team took apart a collection of expensive individuals.

Instead, rather than learn the lessons, they’re just looking to pick up various parts of a team that picked them off at will in March.

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, the saying goes. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. In Real Madrid’s case, they just want to buy up all the fish, fishermen and fishmongers. That way they don’t have to learn any lessons or use any intelligence, just try to buy the result.

I find it richer than a wealthy man called Rich dunking a rich tea biscuit for Madrid to lecture Liverpool on how to run a football club, when they’ve recently spent almost £200m on just four players –– especially when they’re only now trying to offload about 150 expensive extras who, funnily enough, are not holding their value very well. Who is living in the real world now?

“In some cases the players are resisting and in others there are no offers,” the Real sporting director Miguel Pardeza said of the likes of Van Nistelrooy, Drenthe, Robben, Huntelaar and Sneijder. “The sale operation may seem simple but it’s not. It’s not easy convincing them to leave Real Madrid for what is generally a lesser team,” he told the Spanish daily Público.

Well, tough shit. Stop buying so many players for big fees and high wages, and then buying another load 12 months later, then thinking “oh, what do we do with the old lot?”. Stop changing coaches every few months, as inevitably they’ll want to bring in their own players and alter the system. Get a master plan. And stop inflating the transfer market by smashing the world record twice in a month and then go around moaning about it.

I find Madrid so soulless, their team-building so lacking in imagination. I detest the presidential system whereby people get elected by promising to bring in players who belong to other clubs, who have yet to be approached in any official capacity.

Historically I’ve had no preference between Real Madrid and Barcelona, but I can’t help but admire the Catalans as I find myself increasingly loathing their rivals. Barca have spent big money in the past, but they have taken to appointing bright young managers (and giving them more than a few weeks in the job) and bringing through their own players.

I respect Xabi Alonso for not forcing the issue beyond what’s acceptable; all players manoeuvre with a strategy if they feel it’s time to move on, and it’d be hypocritical of Liverpool fans to get too uppity when numerous players have used the same tactic to engineer a move to Anfield. What I cannot abide is players going on strike, or going public with disruptive claims, or blackmailing the club.

I also don’t feel there’d be a problem if Alonso was forced to stay. Perhaps right now he’d prefer a move back to Spain, but I don’t get the sense that he’s anything short of a top professional. Life at Liverpool is good for him – he likes the city, the fans, the club, and he’s been playing some great football in a top team. His place in Spain’s plans has been strengthened in the last 12 months.

We’ll see what happens from now on, but I sincerely hope he stays. With Alonso, Liverpool can win the league. Without him a lot depends on who arrives, and the time it takes them to settle in. And that’s an uncertainty that I feel we can do without. It might end up working for the better, but crucially, it might not, and a trip into the unknown always involves risk.

Therefore I’d pass on a couple of words to Real Madrid and the unseemly Pérez – but I’ll leave you to guess what those words are.

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