Real Madrid: Why the Current Crop of Galacticos Has the Potential to Be the Best

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Real Madrid: Why the Current Crop of Galacticos Has the Potential to Be the Best
Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press
James is the latest Galactico to join during Perez's second tenure at the Bernabeu

The footballing term Galacticos was coined in the early 2000s after Real Madrid president Florentino Perez made it his personal mission statement to collate the world's best footballers all into one destination—the Estadio Bernabeu.

Galacticos Part I

This project commenced in July 2000 with the the acquisition of Luis Figo for a then world-record fee—£37 million. The move caused a huge stir as the 27-year-old swapped the Camp Nou for the Spanish capital. 

One year later Perez was at it again, this time with Zinedine Zidane. If the signing of Figo was a coup, adding the Frenchman to the roster was a masterstroke. Italian giants Juventus could not let a world-record transfer (£45 million) slip through their fingers and they reluctantly agreed to let their talisman go. 

It only took 12 months for Zidane to pay back a huge chunk of his fee, by scoring an exquisite winner at Hampden Park as Real won their ninth European Cup/Champions League—their third triumph in five seasons.

That summer, a previously injury-ravaged Ronaldo rediscovered his fitness with eight goals during the 2002 World Cup and Perez wasted no time in reaching for the Los Blancos chequebook. Real, the kings of European football, now had an all-star playing roster to look the part.

DOMENICO STINELLIS/Associated Press
Ronaldo's first season yielded La Liga success and Perez was the toast of the town. He had taken control of the club in 2000 with no Galacticos and an asphyxiating €270 million of debt. David Beckham was added in 2003 and with a midfield of the former Manchester United winger, Figo and Zidane behind a front line of Raul and Ronaldo, Real were the envy of all football fans.

However, the success did not continue and three barren seasons followed. Both Perez's reign and his Galacticos era came to an end. 

Galacticos Part II

After an absence of three years, Perez returned as President and immediately rekindled his notorious transfer policy with the record purchases of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo during the same summer (Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso also joined). While the Brazilian failed to replicate his Milan exploits, Ronaldo, in just five seasons, has scored more than 250 goals and won the coveted Ballon d'Or last season.

After the intense summer of 2009, Perez's expenditure settled in the sense that there were no more monster signings for the next three to four seasons.

Yet, Perez's stance changed last summer with Gareth Bale. The president eclipsed Ronaldo's world-record transfer by paying £86 million for the Welshman's signature. 

At first, there was scepticism. Bale missed pre-season due to the protracted transfer negotiations, meaning his lack of conditioning resulted in minor injuries early on in his Real career. This adversely affected his initial performances, compounded by the first El Clasico of the season where Bale played as a striker and, to the Catalans delight, proved to be hugely ineffective.

However, he had the last laugh as his improvement culminated at the business end of the season through a sensational solo winner in the Copa Del Rey final against Barcelona. Bale then toiled relentlessly in the Champions League final, succeeding in scoring the all-important second goal in their 4-1 extra-time win over Atletico Madrid. 

The European triumph means in five seasons at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo has only won one La Liga and one Champions League title (not including Copa del Rey wins).

Pep Guardiola's Barcelona dominance was the main factor behind this, but now Barca are in a rebuilding phase following changes in management, plus the significant forced changes on the pitchmost notably Carles Puyol's retirement and Victor Valdes' desire to move for a fresh challenge.

By contrast, Perez has further strengthened Carlo Ancelotti's La Decima winners by adding two additional superstars to the Bernabeu roster this summer.

Fresh from scoring the fastest brace in World Cup history, 24-year-old German midfielder Toni Kroos has signed from Bayern Munich, and the World Cup's top scorer and arguably best player, James Rodriguez, joined for £63 million. This means the second Galacticos' era is official, since Real, as per the Daily Telegraph, possess three of the four most expensive players in world football.

If Karim Benzema is selected as an orthodox striker, sitting behind him is likely to be the devastating trio of Ronaldo, Bale and Rodriguez. With then two to select from Kroos, Luka Modric, Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso sitting behind the said three (assuming Ancelotti employs a 4-2-3-1 formation), it is anyone’s guess as to how opposition coaches will tackle this intimidating problem.

What makes the second era unique to the first is age. At 29 years old, Cristiano Ronaldo is the odd man out as the remaining superstars are 26 and under. Compared to the previous set of Galacticos, Figo was 27 when he signed, while Zidane was 29 and Ronaldo was 25 but injury-plagued.

Yet despite the current crop's strength on paper, Ancelottias per The Guardian's James Riach, has voiced concerns over the virtues of signing marquee players.

The answer is not always to sign the best. I wouldn't sign anyone because I have the players I like. The most important thing is to go for the same objective, to value Madrid more than anything else in this case. You win as a team, not as individuals.

Perez will know from experience Real must deliver on the pitch through quantifiable results—multiple La Liga and Champions League crowns. He has one of the best coaches in the business at his disposal who has already endeared himself to the Bernabeu fans by delivering La Decima at the first attempt.

If the club does not build on last season's success, the second Galacticos' era will all but end in failure. 

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