After spending nearly £250milion in the summer on players, you would expect a club to be excelling in every competition. Real Madrid, arguably the biggest club in the world, did exactly that this summer; Florentino Perez was re-appointed President of the club and was keen to replicate the Galactico era of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo.
In an attempt to repeat the actions of his first reign he signed two of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, for a combined fee of around £150million. As well these two major signings he bought Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa from Liverpool, Karim Benzema from Lyon, Raul Albiol from Valencia and Esteban Granero from Getafe.
What can go wrong for a team full of high profile players already including Raul, Gonzalo Higuain, Guti, Iker Casillas and Rafael Van Der Vaart? Surely nothing, or so you’d think
Well, half way through the season, no change in fortunes is recognisable. Los Blancos sit two points behind current league champions Barcelona, who beat Madrid in the first El Classico of the season 1-0, thanks to a Zlatan Ibrahimovic second half strike. Although they have 11 wins from 11 games at home in the league their away form once again is cause for concern.
You might think, for a normal club, this is a good position to be sitting. But for a club with the fan base, stature and money available they must be doing better in their domestic league. Yes, Barcelona are probably the best team in the world right now, and did spend a large sum of money during the summer, but everyone at Madrid knows the club should be topping the league with the players they have.
The club have won the Champions League a record nine times. Their last win though came during the Galaticos era of 2001-02. One of the greatest ever goals from Zinedine Zidane sealed a 2-1 win over German giants Bayer Leverkusen. A glorious side like Real would be expected to have added to their successes in the eight year period since that triumph yet it hasn’t come.
Madrid topped their group this season with 13 points, finishing ahead of AC Milan, although Milan took four points off them, even beating them at the Santiago Bernabeu. They progressed to the last 32 and were drawn against Karim Benzema’s former club, Lyon.
Due to winning their group, they played the first leg away. A poor performance from the big names including Ronaldo and Kaka meant the side lost 1-0 and now have it all to do in the second leg. Should they lose this game, Manuel Pellegrini, only appointed in the summer, will have to fear for his job.
Pellegrini’s position was under threat as early as October. The first humiliation of the new era was caused at the hands of lowly Alcorcon, who ply their trade in Spain’s regional second division B, Group II, in the Copa Del Rey. The 4-0 defeat is one of Madrid’s biggest embarrassments in a long time, and there have been a few. A strong side including Guti, Raul, Benzema and Van der Vaart were unable to prevent a defeat which rocked the Spanish footballing world. Even if Madrid had named a team full of youths they would still have been expected to win.
Even should Madrid have overturned the deficit in the second leg, it would not have made up for the defeat. They won the game 1-0, with another shocking performance and crashed out the competition. One they haven’t won since 1993. Last year was a similar story. The club from the capital was knocked out in the second round to third division side Real Irun.
Before the first leg Pellegrini had said: “We want to win every competition we play in.” Based on the performances in the two legs, Pellegrini may be speaking only for himself as it was clear the players didn’t share his determination. They looked lacklustre and uninterested in the competition.
Madrid still need to tighten defensively; they have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Casillas and two of the best holding midfields in Lassana Diarra and Alonso – there is only so much these players can do. The defending is erratic and unorganised. They need a leader, a John Terry for example, who can organise and keep a cool head, even when they are under pressure.
Rumours of Jose Mourinho becoming manager in the summer will give fans hope. He is a very special manager – he himself knows it. He will be able to make sure the players do the exact job he wants them to do. He’d also have money to be spent in the summer. With youngster Sergio Canales already agreeing terms with the club Real have shown their willingness to spend continues.
Only time will tell as to whether Pellegrini and Madrid can mount a serious league challenge against Barcelona; the home tie against them will be make or break. In the Champions League they are going to need a big performance if they are to progress, Lyon will not make it easy for them.
The biggest club in the world are going to need big performances in every game if the new Galactico era is to start with a bang.