The name Real Madrid is synonymous with trophies. Since the creation of La Liga and the European Cup/Champions League, Real Madrid have held the records for both the tournaments.
Those days are gone, what is going on with Real Madrid recently?
By recently, I mean ever since the 2003/2004 season. This was the fourth season that Florentino Perez was building the Galacticos. He had has just signed David Beckham after capturing Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and Ronaldo.
Ever since, Real Madrid have been woeful on the pitch, although they enjoy dividends off it. A report today (from Goal.com) states that Real are enjoying record profits.
On the pitch, they have won two la ligas, both in the previous two years, but have been eliminated from the last 16 of the Champions League for five consecutive seasons.
This is not good enough for a club like Real.
This June, Real have Presidential elections again, after Ramon Calderon was forced to resign, and Vicente Boluda does not want to, and will not be allowed, to continue after this season.
The Spanish press reports that Florentino Perez is making a sensational return and will win the Presidential elections with almost no competition.
Whoever is the president, Perez or otherwise, Real need to rebuild a team which will once again win trophies—in style.
Firstly, as a Real fan, I do not want to see Carlo Ancelotti as coach, even though he seems the most likely.
In eight years at Milan, Ancelotti has won one Serie A title and two Champions Leagues, but with the squad he has, any coach would win more.
Over the years, Ancelotti has enjoyed the likes of Maldini, Nesta, Dida (in form), Cafu, Jankulovski, Albertini, Pirlo, Gattuso, Seedorf, Rui Costa, Shevchenko, Rivaldo, Gilardino, Kaka, Ronaldinho, Inzaghi, and Pato. Milan should have won lots more.
For the most part, these players were at the top of their game, making Ancelotti's job easy.
In the cases of Rivaldo, Gilardino, and Ronaldinho, Ancelotti never managed he would get the best out of them.
Cesare Prandelli is working wonders with Gilardino at Fiorentina, and Rivaldo continues to defy age, playing fantastic football in Uzbekistan.
Back to Real Madrid though. Firstly, Madrid need to keep a consistent coach.
The fact that nine different coaches have coached the Bernabeau outfit in the last six years alone says a lot. Changing coaches gives neither confidence nor stability to players.
No matter who the coach is, whether it be Juande Ramos (who I think will do a good job), Ancelotti, Mourinho, or the recently linked Manuel Pellegrini, Real need to keep the coach for a long period of time. They can't sack him just because he fails to deliver silverware for a single season.
Let us also not forget that Real sack coaches who win trophies as well, as we have seen with Jup Heinckes, Vicente Del Bosque, Bernd Schuster, and twice with Fabio Capello.
Another policy I dislike about Real, and Spanish football in general, is the idea of Sporting Directors choosing which players to buy rather than coaches.
Schuster complained all summer to Predrag Mijatovic about the players he needed, but his pleading fell on deaf ears. Mijatovic was unable get the only signature he was looking for—that of Cristiano Ronaldo.
We have also seen the mistakes made by Jorge Valdano and Arrigo Sacchi in the past, so the best thing would be for the Real coach to choose the player he wants, not the Sporting Director.
The final part is the most exciting part—the rebuilding of the squad.
Real have to rebuild the squad, to make it better equipped to compete with the other top teams in Europe, especially the English sides. When Liverpool beat Real 5-0 on aggregate last month, Real’s lack of pace and physicality was glaringly obvious.
Let me now analyse where Real need to rebuild, position by position. The players mentioned are those who would be available in the summer, for a decent price, not the likes of Kaka, Messi, Torres, Terry, or to put it simply, the players on Manchester City’s wish list.
Let us start with the goalkeeper. Iker Casillas is the best stopper in the world alongside Buffon, and there is no change required in that department.
Jersey Dudek will leave on a free transfer this summer, and let him. Jordi Codina is a good young talent, and Real can then promote another stopper from Castilla.
This department needs some rebuilding. Real’s defense, though it has been excellent in La Liga under Juande Ramos, is extremely weak. The strongest sides in Europe, like Liverpool, can easily break it down.
Fabio Cannavaro, in my opinion is still a great player, but for the national team and maybe in Serie A, not in La Liga.
Gabriel Heinze is another who has to go. Most of the goals Real have conceded this season have been due to Heinze’s inability to play football, at least in the Spanish league.
Salgado has been a loyal servant, but it is time to say goodbye now. Maybe a move away could benefit him as well, he could finish his career by playing competitive football and not just training.
The players who have to stay are, of course, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, Real’s best defenders.
Metzelder has been plagued with injuries, but I think he still has the potential to do well at Madrid.
Miguel Torres can hopefully stay and rediscover the form of two years ago. He can be a utility defender, albeit on the bench.
Marcelo has been in fantastic form recently, and could continue to be deployed as a winger. Drenthe on the other hand could probably bounce back stronger after the offseason and forget about the demanding Bernabeau faithful’s whistles.
The dead wood would earn Real at least around $8 million from the defenders.
Who should they bring in? Maybe someone strong like Bruno Alves, who could partner Pepe in the heart of the defense. The Portugese team mates could form a formidable understanding and partnership as they have done before.
Surely, it would help the team. Or someone like Mertesacker of Werder Bremen would help Real equally, as he brings both aerial prowess and speed.
Spending around $20 million on one of these players is a must.
Ezequiel Garay returns from loan next season and could play on the left or in the center to cover for injuries.
A defensive line of Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Bruno Alves/Mertesacker, and Garay would possess greater pace and strength than the current one. Torres, Marcelo, Drenthe, and Metzelder can wait on the bench or train harder if they want a chance.
I also do not want to see Douglas Maicon come to Real.
Although he is a fantastic player, he will have a heavy price tag, and over the years I have noticed that defenders from the Italian league do not do well in Spain. Cannavaro, Walter Samuel, Ujfalusi, Thuram, and Zambrotta are just a few examples.
Games are won and lost in the midfield they say, and we have seen that with Madrid plenty of times this season.
The decision about which players to offload from this department is an extremely difficult one. Real have great midfielders, but they have been well below their best.
The likes of Sneijder and Van Der Vaart maybe should be given at least another season. They are, without doubt, great players, but have been off form or unsettled.
Gago is not as god as Redondo, but the lad is just 21 and has to be given a little more time.
Guti is a legend and on his day is one of the finest creative players in world football. Although he is inconsistent, he should stay, at least from a fan’s perspective.
Lassana Diarra has been one of Real’s best buys for a long time. He has a long future at Real and will help the back four for many years to come.
The midfielders who need to leave are Mahamadou Diarra and Julien Faubert.
In the case of Faubert, no one knows why he was bought as he is simply not good enough. Maybe he could go to Cadiz or Burnley as I do not think even Zola would take him back at West Ham.
Mahamadou in the other hand has never lived up to his price tag. Whereas Essien continued shining after his departure from Lyon, Mahamadou has been on the decline. Selling him should help Real generate $10 million for new signings.
In my opinion, Real need to sign just two midfielders, both possible, but with a hefty price tag.
The first one is to partner Lass in center midfield, Xabi Alonso. Alonso is a proven talent in La Liga already, having been a great player for Soceidad.
Benitez was willing to sell him last year, and could still sign Gareth Barry as a replacement, and Alonso would not need convincing to join Real.
Also, he is Spanish, which will add to Real’s meagre total of good Spanish players. Benitez would sell Alonso for Barry’s price, around $25 million.
The other midfielder is Frank Ribery.
Ribery has stated many times before that Real is the club which attracts him most. Uli Hoeness, the general manager of Bayern Munich has also accepted that keeping Ribery will be difficult.
Ribery on one wing and Robben on the other would be exciting and entertaining. It would also be a nightmare for opposition defenders. So Real would have to part with at least $40 million to buy the Frenchman. If not Ribery, then David Silva.
Guti, Gago, Sneijder, Van Der Vaart, De La Red, and others would have to fight hard for their place. But hey, they are playing for Real, so they should expect to fight hard.
Many argue that Real need to buy a striker, someone like David Villa who has pace and can tear any defense apart. I disagree.
I personally feel Real need no new players in this department. After Van Nistelrooy’s injury earlier this season, Higuain has come out of his shell and shown what he is capable of. Next season he will get better.
Real also have Klaas Jan Huntelaar, an excellent forward. His record of eight goals in his last six matches may not prove everything, but his goal scoring record over the years do.
In Madrid too, after a first unhappy month, he has settled down. His row with Arjen Robben has also been cleared and you can see how Huntelaar is enjoying life in Madrid. He has plenty of goals to score in the upcoming years for Real.
Van Nistelrooy will return too. Although, I believe he will not be the same player as before, Van Nistelrooy has never been the fastest or most skillful player, so his goals will continue.
Then there is Captain Raul. I am sorry, but I have to think with my head, not with my heart. Raul has to start from the bench now.
On the departure list Real have Javier Saviola.
I do not think I need to give any explanations for this. The only positive part of Saviola’s Real Madrid stint will be that he will generate more transfer money for Real than what was paid for him, even though he has contributed nothing.
With that said, he has also enjoyed a hefty pay check. Around $6 million would be enough to get rid of Saviola.
So it looks like Real Madrid would collect at least around $24 million to $25 million, just by getting rid of their under par players.
This money could be invested in Xabi Alonso. As I said before, Benitez would be willing to let Alonso go for that price, as Aston Villa want a similar sum for Gareth Barry.
Then Real would have to spend around $20 million on a reliable central defender and around $40 million on Frank Ribery.
Sixty million dollars is a lot of money, but not for Real, especially if it would rebuild the squad for a good number of years to come.
The team would be more competitive than it is now, and would add a lot of pace to a pretty slow Madrid side.
There would be greater strength in depth and the team would be more complete. This would be a better solution that signing Cristiano Ronaldo for even more money.