divendres, 12 de juny del 2009

Florentino (del Guardian)


Money no object as Pérez fast-tracks his rebuilding of Real

Florentino Pérez is wasting no time in piecing together his second team of galácticos as he tries to revive the Real 'brand'

Four days, two world records and €150m spent. Crisis, what crisis? Recession is something that happens to other people, not Real Madrid. On Monday, they signed the 2007 Ballon d'Or and Fifa World Player winner Kaka for €67.5m. Today they had an £80m (€93m) bid accepted for Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2008 Ballon d'Or and Fifa World Player winner. Florentino Pérez's second coming at Real Madrid looks much like the first, only on fast-forward.

We have been here before. During Pérez's first spell as president at the Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid boasted – and boasted is the word – four winners of the Ballon d'Or: Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Michael Owen. None of them won the award for what they achieved in a Madrid shirt; they pulled on a Madrid shirt because they had won the award. It was as if France Football was doing Madrid's scouting for them.

Pérez has now paid the four highest transfer fees of all time. He used to buy a star a summer. Now, he has bought two at once and this is likely to be just the start. The model has not changed but the urgency has. This is a kind of galácticos-express; a drive-thru version of what went before. Pérez insists that Madrid must "do in one year what we would normally do in three".

On the face of it that means at least another superstar. With Ronaldo secured, Franck Ribéry seems to have taken a step away from the Bernabéu, Perez last night admitting that "as Bayern Munich do not want to sell, we will respect that". But Madrid do want another big name signing and, although he only bought one Spaniard during his last mandate – Sergio Ramos from Sevilla for €27m – Perez has talked of providing a national spine to the side. David Villa fits both categories.

Pérez has intimated that Madrid need to buy as many as six or seven players and is prepared to spend around €300m – €50m more than Chelsea spent in 2003, the most lavish of summers under Roman Abramovich. Last time, there was an evolution; this time there will be a revolution.

When Pérez took over in 2000, Madrid had just won the European Cup. Signing by signing, departure by departure, with each passing year the team became more his own. When Pérez took over this time, Madrid had just finished nine points behind Barcelona and been eliminated from the Champions League at the first knockout stage for the fifth successive season. This time he wants it to be his team immediately. There is certainly work to be done. And quickly.

But it is less about building a team, more about building an identity, a brand. Pérez has talked rather less about Madrid's football than he has about recovering "their place in the world". Today there is no doubt that they are the centre of attention all over the planet.

He has talked less about the footballing model as an economic one. His vision now is the same one as underpinned the galácticos project – a vision so graphically demonstrated by the signing of David Beckham. The Englishman was always deeply uncomfortable with suggestions that he was only there to sell shirts, but it was his iconic status, not his crossing ability, that truly seduced Pérez.

Lessons must surely have been learnt from the failure of the original galácticos, even if the only mistake Pérez has admitted to publicly was walking away. But the framework is non-negotiable. Even the director-general Jorge Valdano, so often portrayed as a paragon of football purity, has spoken of the game as an entertainment industry. Having gone on about the strategic value of Kaka in one recent interview, Valdano hastily added: "He has an important footballing value too."

That model explains why Pérez believes Madrid can afford to spend €300m. In fact it helps to explain why he believes Madrid cannot afford not to spend €300m. As they were when Pérez last came into power, Madrid are in debt. In 2000, the figure was €278m; now, according to research by José María Gay at Barcelona University, the figure could be as high as €500m. Last time Pérez sold the club's training ground for €447.7m (around £298 at the time), using the money to clear the debt and finance transfers. This time he has secured a deal with the Catalan bank La Caixa.

Short-term credit provides cash flow to buy players, just as Madrid hope that player sales will do. Long-term stability comes, or so the theory goes, from buying star players who increase the club's value as a brand. After all, over 40% of the club's income comes from marketing. "The cheapest player I ever signed was Zidane," Perez says. "Signing stars is not spending money, it is investing it."

He once claimed Madrid's annual income had doubled in three years from 2000 to 2003. And while some question the figures, not least the Barcelona director and economist Xavier Sala i Martin, one study suggests that Ronaldo and Kaka could bring an additional £107m a season to Madrid in revenue. "You buy big players because they pay you back," Valdano says. And he doesn't mean in goals.