Florentino Perez is the man behind the Galacticos. He is loved and loathed in equal measure. Anyone who is not a fan of Real Madrid will hate him and despise him. The Madrid fans treat him like their new God.
The most pressing question that comes to mind immediately when his name is mentioned is:
Under him, can Madrid really upstage the Catalan giants?
To answer that question, we have to take a peak at how the previous Galactico era turned out.
The first Galactico era is considered synonymous with Perez's presidency years of 2000-06. Perez won the presidency election after defeating Lorenzo Sanz, under whom Real Madrid had won two Champions League titles in 1998 and 2000.
Perez won the presidency with the promise of an aggressive transfer policy, which included the signing of one star player every year.
In this timespan of six years, Real Madrid won two La Liga titles—in 2000-01 and 2002-03—and the Champions League in 2001-02. The notable signings made by Perez during this time include:
Luis Figo (£38.7m from FC Barcelona) - joined in 2000.
Zinedine Zidane (£46m from Juventus) - joined in 2001.
Ronaldo (£26m from Inter Milan) - joined in 2002.
David Beckham (£25m from Manchester United) - joined in 2003.
Real Madrid were expected to continue their dominance after the 2002-03 season, with the signings of Luis Ronaldo and David Beckham. However, there was a sudden and steady decline, as they failed to win a single trophy for the next three seasons running. Many attribute this to some of the major errors made by Perez, which are:
The Makelele Issue
Claude Makelele was considered the best defensive midfielder of all time. However, Perez considered paying high wages to defensive players as a waste. As a result, he refused to increase Makelele's relatively low salary and allowed him to leave the team. This was considered Perez's biggest blunder of all.
The Sacking of Vicente Del Bosque
Del Bosque was sacked just after the league triumph of 2002-03. There was rumored to be a split with Fernando Hierro, Fernando Morientes, and Steve McManaman supporting Del Bosque and a wage rise for Makelele, and Perez on the other side.
Del Bosque had managed to keep the inflated egos of many of the Real Madrid stars in check. After his departure, the stars failed to play as a cohesive unit.
Treating Players Like Commodities
Perez was, and still is, a firm believer that players are to be marketed. The amount of shirt sales a player can generate seems far more important to him than talent. This explains his shocking decision to ignore the signing of Ronaldinho, and sign David Beckham instead.
Perez claimed that Ronaldinho was "too ugly to market". Barcelona jumped in and signed Ronaldinho, and that man was later given a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu by the Real Madrid fans when his brace and stellar performance consigned the Galacticos to a 3-0 mauling at the hands of their most bitter rivals.
Thus, despite the early successes, the first era of the Galacticos was mostly a failure. Perez resigned in 2006 and immediately, Real won the 2006-07 and 2007-08 La Liga titles, and success seemed to be returning to the Bernabeu.
The Second Coming
However, Real's 2008-09 season was atrocious. Ramon Calderon spent the entire transfer summer haggling with Manchester United over the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo. This meant that while rivals Barcelona spent their summer making clever signings like those of Dani Alves and Seydou Keita, Real were mostly inactive and actually weakened by the exit of Robinho.
Add to this Bernd Schuster's comment that Barcelona could not be beaten at the Camp Nou, his subsequent sacking, president Ramon Calderon's sacking in January 2009 following allegations of vote rigging and the 6-2 slaughter meted out by Barcelona at the Bernabeu in the second Clasico, it seemed that Real could not hit a lower nadir.
Thus arrived the proverbial saviour, with Florentino Perez announcing his candidacy for presidency on May 14th, 2009. His arrival was greeted by Real fans with joy and expectancy, as he made the same promises of aggressive and ambitious signings.
Florentino Perez was voted president of Real Madrid for the second time, and he appointed Jorge Valdano as sporting director and Zinedine Zidane as advisor. Just 12 days after the announcement of his presidency, he was able to sign both Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo for fees of 60 million and 80 million pounds respectively.
But once again, his naivete has shone through. He has placed nine of Madrid's current players on the transfer list, including the talismanic Arjen Robben and the prolific Ruud van Nistelrooy. Robben has in fact been threatened by Valdano that he should leave or else he will not be registered along with the squad for the next season.
In fact, the whole image of Florentino Perez is of a man in panic, who desperately needs to patch up something that has gone horribly wrong. This is shown by the signings of Kaka and Ronaldo. These are two players who cannot take to the pitch at the same time, because they both play in the same position.
And all the players Perez has been linked to are attacking players. There is once again, almost no emphasis on defense. The only defender that Real Madrid have shown any interest in signing is Alvaro Arbeloa.
To the Real fans screaming "Hala Madrid", you were the same people who were cursing Perez when he resigned in 2006, don't forget. I remember talking to a friend of mine in school, just after the resignation of Perez.
He told me, "Man, thank god that a****** resigned, he didn't know a thing". It seems as though adversity has made them forget all of Perez's little mistakes that translated into big problems the last time out.
The answer to my above question is thus simple, uncomplicated and straight—unless Perez is able to avoid his huge blunders of his last term, there is absolutely no chance of Real upstaging a far superior Barcelona side next season.