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Why Real Madrid’s misery is good for football
By Abdalla M. Taryam April 14, 2010
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340 million dollars is the figure that was on everyone’s mind before the football season started. Fans around the world were jumping on the Madrid bandwagon due to the second tenure of the Florentino Perez circus. 

The global stars that were enticed were the last two Ballon d’Or winners amongst other well renowned players, to form not only a fearsome eleven but endless possibilities on the bench. This was extremely necessary in Perez’s eyes. He needed to build a team that could win everything en route to the Champions League Final, which was going to be played in their own stadium.

Scores of sports journalists and football analysts struggled to find a balanced formation to fit all the soon to be disgruntled Nuevos Galácticos. Even the newly appointed manager Manuel Pellegrini couldn’t engineer a way to fit all of his attacking players in the same team. The obvious result was to trim down the squad and lower the staggering wage bill.

The guillotine fell on the Dutch duo of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, a decision that may come back to haunt them at the Bernabéu on the 22nd of May.

Early season jitters and stumbles were excused as a period for the team to adapt, but nothing prepared the Blanco faithful for the first humiliation of the new epoch. At the first stage of the cup tournament, usually reserved for youth players and bench warmers to stake a claim for more regular action, Madrid were facing Alcorcon of the 3rd tier of Spanish football. Desperate to emulate Barcelona’s record breaking treble season, Pellegrini fielded a team consisting of no less than seven internationals.

The result: a 4-0 annihilation that turned into a lesson for the entire football world. Not only did lowly Alcorcon produce a massive victory but the manner in which they laid siege to the Madrid goal was an epic in itself. Skill, talent, player price tags and tactical superiority were all thrown out of this match while only team morale and passion were left fighting on the pitch. Traits that seemed missing from Madrid since the first Galáctico era.

Four months after the great debacle, Madrid found themselves facing their Champions League curse again. They have not progressed past the 2nd round of this tournament since 2004 and now for the sixth consecutive year were staring at another early exit. Well the curse continues, 2 down 1 to go.

Now defeat to Lyon is hardly a humiliation but the fact that they lost to a team with a tenth of their budget, let alone the fact that Lyon’s best player now plies his trade in the Spanish capital must be a victory to all fans of the so called small teams. The game itself showed the difference between individual brilliance and team unity and we all know what football requires.

Moving back to the league again and while Madrid’s hierarchy kept reminding people that they are topping the standings (albeit on goal difference) of the only tournament they are still playing for, Barcelona are quietly racking up more points than in their previous record breaking campaign. Cue the grand ‘El Clasico’: The game billed to be the decider only laid claim to the fact that purchasing a team will not guarantee trophies.

Is it already 3 down and out for Real Madrid? Some might disagree, but one thing for sure, it is Barcelona’s title to throw away.

Looking back at the teams that have turned Madrid’s season sour: Alcorcon, Lyon and Barcelona. We must not write off Alcorcon’s victory down to luck because anyone watching that match would realise that organisation and teamwork overcame arrogance that day. Lyon on the other hand have always produced world-class players but are known to be a selling club. They have adhered to their strategy and have reaped tremendous rewards. With Barcelona, many might argue that they are in the same category as Madrid, but I beg to differ. I point out the match against Bilbao a couple of weeks ago where Barcelona fielded ten academy players. Yes they do buy to fill the voids that their academy couldn’t provide but that’s normal. What is absurd is spending nearly half a billion Euros in four years and getting massacred by a 3rd division side. 

Whether Madrid find a way to salvage their most expensive season ever or not, this experience will always remind the fans, and most of all, the decision makers at other clubs to forget the idea of outspending their rivals and to focus on forging a team built around a football philosophy and not on glamour.

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