With the return of Florentino Perez as president of Real Madrid and the record breaking £56m capture of Brazilian star Kaka, it is no wonder that “galactico” is fast becoming the watchword of this summer’s transfer window. Perez was of course the man who brought such players as Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham and Figo to the Bernabeu during his last reign in charge of the club and if rumours are to be believed has returned with similarly grand plans.
Incessant links with the capture of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United and Perez’s admission that he would like to sign the Portuguese certainly suggest that he is aiming high, as the capture of Kaka and Ronaldo would unite two of the ‘holy trinity’ of world footballers at Madrid, with only Barca’s Leo Messi missing from the set. And with strong links to Bayern munich’s French winger Franck Ribery and Valencia striker David Villa also doing the rounds, a new galatico era could be underway.
In my opinion though, Kaka actually isn’t a galactico, and that could be good news indeed for Madrid’s fans.
First things first, in saying that Kaka isn’t a galactico, I’m in no way casting any doubt over his ability. I think Kaka is a wonderful player, is skill and invention is second to none and he is one of only a handful of players in the world who can win games on his own. However, in my opinion Kaka is not a galactico purely because his ego is not greater than his talent. He is a guy who will play for the team, and will focus on winning as a team rather than as an individual, something that couldn’t be said for many of the last generation of galacticos.
Because although they were very talented players, I watched Madrid a lot during that era and I never thought that they played very well as a unit. The likes of Ronaldo and Figo and Zidane especially, seemed often more concerned with outdoing one another on the pitch than they were with playing together, and I think this is why the galacticos era was ultimately a failure on the pitch.
It made Real Madrid a lot of money commercially, as naturally shirt sales were high, but ultimately they failed to perform on the pitch. Despite the obvious talent in the side no manager was ever able to fit them all into a team that worked as a cohesive whole, there was no balance to the team and essentially, there just wasn’t enough room for their collective egos in a functioning side.
Indeed, it seemed that even Florentino Perez himself may have recognised this, as he resigned from his post in February 2006 after they crashed out of the Champions League once more. Previously he had seemed sure of himself, confident that his policy for the club would pay off, but ultimately his resignation seemed to act as an admittance of defeat and slowly the galacticos were shipped off to other clubs as the era ended.
However, with Barcelona’s great success last season, Perez has returned to the club in a blaze of publicity seemingly hoping to reignite the galacticos era to counter the spectacular success of their great rivals. But seems a little bit odd to me though, given that the last time they went down this avenue they failed to achieve any real success on the pitch, and so you’d have hoped that Perez and the club as a whole would have learnt their lesson from last time.
However, Kaka’s arrival leaves me with a little bit of hope that perhaps Perez has learnt his lesson. Because as I said above, Kaka isn’t the sort of arrogant, overwhelming player who will demand the ball and will put personal glory ahead of the team. He will play as part of the whole, and will help the whole team to function more effectively, he’ll be the focus through which their play is directed.
In essence then, Perez has made a sensible signing. Because last season Madrid had a lot of talent, but despite adding Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van Der Vaart to their squad, they didn’t really have that ultimate cutting edge, that little bit of dynamism to cut teams open. Kaka can provide that, and so for once Perez could be said to have spotted a weakness in the side and attempted to fill it. Either that, or it’s a huge coincidence.
We will only know for sure when Real Madrid’s other signings are completed. If, as is being strongly rumoured, Ronaldo joins the club, then there will be no doubt that Perez is reviving the galacticos. And if that is the case, Madrid fans could begin to worry. A team with Ronaldo and Kaka and other big stars like Ribery and Villa would almost certainly encounter the same problems as the previous generation did. They’re all stunningly good players, but I just don’t think that they all fit in one side.
If however, Perez can content himself with signing players of proven quality but with less ego, with the willingness to work hard for the team, to track back and contribute in every department, then Madrid may be on the verge of a successful new era. There’s no doubt that Perez has the financial ability to make Madrid a force to be reckoned with again, and there are a lot of talented players around who would do a good job for Madrid. However, Perez needs to retain a sense of reality, learn from the lessons of the past and not just chase the big names if he really wants his club to succeed on the pitch as well as off it.
So is Kaka a new galactico? Not yet. He could well become one, but for his sake, I hope that he doesn’t. He is down to earth enough to do a lot of great things at Madrid, the fact that he turned down Man City proves that. However, if he is surrounded by the heavy egos of some of the other leading lights of the world game I can’t help but think that he will be stifled and dragged down with them. It all depends then, on whether Florentino Perez has learnt lessons from the past or whether he is as determined as ever to create a dream team that is the stuff of nightmares for the club’s real fans.