Cristiano Ronaldo. Kaká. Lionel Messi. Sergio Aguero.
These are just a few of the names that have been mentioned as transfer targets for Real Madrid during this season.
Chances are, if his name was on any "World Player of the Year" ballot over the last two years or so, he's being courted by Los Merengues.
Ronaldinho must feel so left out.
Embroiled in scandal for much of the current campaign, the first item dominating world headlines was Bernd Schuster's lackluster results as manager, which came only a few months after he crowned Madrid with its second consecutive La Liga title.
Mounting pressure from management, fans and media (and a juicy clause in his contract which promised a monster buyout should he be fired) pushed Schuster to passive-aggressively state that his team had no chance of beating Barcelona in their next derby match.
He was fired soon after in favor of Juande Ramos.
President Ramón Calderón was rendered a lame duck amidst accusations of fraud and ballot stuffing in the 2008 election that secured his power. He was forced to resign.
With new elections scheduled for this summer, interim President Vicente Boluda has stated he will step aside come June, which effectively creates a wide-open race for top office in Spain's most decorated side.
Possible candidates, looking to inspire support, have taken the Gospel of Florentino Pérez to heart, promising fans and official socios (club members who will vote in the elections) nothing short of cloning Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskas.
With eternal rivals Barcelona a dozen points ahead in the league standings, injuries claiming Ruud van Nistelrooy and Mahamadou Diarra for the season and the aforementioned scandals tarnishing the club, these men are appealing to the growing desperation among the Real faithful.
Channeling Los Galácticos (The Galactic Ones), starring Zidane, Beckham, Ronaldo in the earlier part of the decade, a new stable of stars are being presented as saviors for the team.
"Buyer beware" would remind us that while Florentino's darlings obtained silverware for the club, the deadly mixture of egos and stratospheric salaries ended in an ugly, multi-pronged divorce that cost Madrid years of rebuilding, and oh, Pérez's job as President.
While any club in the world would surely be elated with any one of these players, the fact that it's Real Madrid makes it at least somewhat possible to get Messi, Aguero, Kaká, or Ronaldo.
Or all of them. Or is it?
After all, if you can't beat 'em... distract 'em.
Calderón was already very publicly rebuked last summer when he attempted to pry Cristiano Ronaldo away from Manchester United, despite the Portuguese player's pouting.
The verbal sparring between Madrid executives and United boss Alex Ferguson left the Scotsman victorious and Calderón without his prized signing. No doubt after Ronaldo's continued success and multiple awards in 2008, he will continue to be the big fish in the pond for any potential Real Madrid prez.
However, Ronaldo has since changed his discourse and Manchester United threaten to repeat a double of the Premiership and the Champions' League, extending their dominance as on the world's best teams in recent times. The question now begs: Would Ronaldo be risking prestige should he leave his English juggernaut and join a team with so many questions?
Sensing a changing market, emerging teams backed by obscenely rich owners and recognizing that he, not Ronaldinho, was the team's most important cog, FC Barcelona padded Argentine standout Leonel Messi's contract with a buyout that, according to conflicting reports, could cost a potential suitor between 150 and 254 million Euros when all is said and done.
A few weeks ago, Madrid's interest in the Olympic gold medalist was revealed, and quickly derided by Barcelona executives as a cheap tactic destined only to stir the player's emotions in a manner reminiscent of Ronaldo, and also, as a last-ditch effort to distract his team who have been cruising towards their first La Liga title in three years.
Since the frenzy, Messi has publicly stated his intentions of staying in Barcelona, frequently exchanging admiration from his Barcelona supporters in an outright love-fest.
Add to that the growing market powers in teams like Manchester City, and should Messi ever become available, a bidding war could very well knock Madrid off.
A joke currently circulating around Milan states that should Real Madrid ever want to entice Kaká to join their ranks, they should change their club name to Real Jesus F.C., in order to appeal to the Brazilian's very fervent religiosity.
Again, interest from Madrid prompted a very public response from AC Milan's management, with owner and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stating that after his experience with Manchester City, and prior talks with Real Madrid, he would never sell Kaká to the team.
Kaká's contract also poses a contract for Real Madrid, as Manchester City were not able to convince Milan to sell even after offering upwards of 100 million euros. Having been locked up by way of a contract extension through the 2013 season, Milan will be in no rush to negotiate should anyone approach them to sell.
Diego Maradona's son-in-law has been receiving rave reviews and global attention since joining Atlético Madrid in 2006.
Aguero's name has not only been linked to Real Madrid in recent times, as Spanish papers have made notice of teams across Europe expressing interest in the Argentine prodigy.
After his father-in-law stated a desire for him to move on to a bigger club (say, Inter Milan in El Diego's words) in order to be of greater use to Maradona in the Argentinian national team, Real Madrid jumped in the discussion as well, offering him an equally big move with a much shorter physical distance.
Again, a large contractual buyout, seething opposition from club executives and an apparent love of the player's current surroundings (Aguero has said that he wishes to spend the rest of his career at Atlético) are major hurdles.
Perhaps "buyer beware" should be made clear to the men wishing to take over Real Madrid, with these stars all but out of their reach in the near future.
Thanks to a very sharp downturn in a short amount of time, Real will be left to ponder Plan B come summertime. Maybe that should be emphasizing solid, albeit not as bankable players like Huntelaar, Diarra, and Julien Faubert as the next generation of stars.
After all, you don't need an entire galaxy to conquer Spain.
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