Real poised for election fever

January 26, 2009

Potential Real Madrid presidential candidates will be trying to decide whether Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi is the player most likely to deliver them the majority of votes in this summer’s election campaign.

Ramon Calderon was forced out of the presidency earlier this month, setting the wheels in motion for another six months of rumours and speculation as rival candidates manoeuvre behind the scenes to take power at the Bernabeu.

The nine-times European champions are ‘owned’ by the thousands of club members rather than a small group of shareholders, and they get to chose their president every four years.

As a result, candidates need to splash the cash with full blown election campaigns complete with manifestos, lists of promises, advertising campaigns, and rallies to win over the voters and the local media.

Florentino Perez set the benchmark high in 2000 when he snatched the presidency from Lorenzo Sanz, who had just won his second European Cup in three seasons, with the audacious promise to buy Portugal midfielder Luis Figo out of his contract with arch-rivals Barcelona.

He won the vote and delivered on his promise, setting what was then a world record by splashing $56 million on Figo.

Perez’s famous “Galactico” project saw him add Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham to a star-studded side, but despite a landslide victory in the 2004 election the results did not follow on the pitch.

He walked away unloved in 2006, setting in motion another election campaign, and this time it was Calderon who triumphed in a hotly-disputed and controversial vote, with promises to land Arjen Robben, Cesc Fabregas and Kaka.

Kaka and Fabregas never came, though Robben was landed in 2007. His failure to land Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United last summer was added to the list of broken promises which always dogged him. Although he delivered two league titles, the glamour had gone.

The Madrid-based press have gleefully started linking the club with a host of players who could bring the spectacle back to the Bernabeu, and a worried Barcelona have felt the need to say Messi is happy where he is, while Atletico Madrid have rushed to say Sergio Aguero is going nowhere.

Perez, who always got his man, has remained silent on whether he will stand again but is already being seen a a front-runner. It is a foregone conclusion that Real will now be linked with every big name in the game.

Will Cristiano Ronaldo finally complete his wish to play for Real or will Perez find a way to complete the ultimate coup by sneaking Messi away from Barca? Kaka spurned Manchester City, but can he resist Real if AC Milan want to talk? Or have Real lost their allure?

PHOTO: Former Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon speaks to the media at the Bernabeu Jan. 14, 2009. REUTERS/Susana Vera

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Real Madrid would do well to concentrate on building a balanced side rather than throw money away on big-name signings, but given that it’s election time and the sheep-like mentality of most of the socios, it’s likely to be a forlorn hope.

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