Great teams evolve … they’re never bought off the shelf

June 11, 2009

One of the cruellest insults thrown at Florentino Perez during his first spell at Real Madrid was that the president had turned a great team into football’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters.

For Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon read Figo and Zidane. For Wilt Chamberlain and Marques Haynes we had Ronaldo and David Beckham to bring gasps from the crowd and bamboozle the  opposition.

First time around, it took Perez three years to assemble the All-Star cast that came to define his project, and another three for it to collapse under the combined weight of the salaries and egos, and those damned image rights we heard so much about.

In his second spell, Perez seems intent on proving that the only thing he did wrong at the start of the decade was move too slowly.

In the past few days he has pledged 162 million euros in transfer fees alone to sign Kaka from AC Milan and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

If Marca and As are correct, David Villa will be the next to come, with Xabi Alonso, David Silva and Franck Ribery among the other targets.

The total outlay could be 300 million euros — plus the agents’ fees and the salary commitments for the next half-decade or so. Whether you feel that sort of spending is justifiable in the current climate, and there are plenty who will see it as plain wrong, this is not going to bring Real back to the position they once held as the neutral’s favourite.

The Bernabeu should certainly be an entertaining place to be next season, as Manuel Pellegrini tries to find a way of getting all the new signings playing together (and leaving any of them on the bench will not be an option).

But even if the coach finds the magic formula and Real win their 10th European Cup at their home ground come next May, they are unlikely to generate the sort of admiration and respect that Barcelona have inspired under Pep Guardiola this season.

Great teams are left to evolve over time and are often based around a nucleus of home grown players (think United’s European Cup winning team in 1999 or Guardiola’s Barcelona).

Some are brought together by a coach’s philosophy or force of personality and yes, it often takes a big-name signing to bring out the best in those around them.

Great teams come together in all sorts of ways but they are never designed with marketing in mind, and they are never just bought off the shelf.

GLOBETROTTERS: A member of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team nicknamed Airport hangs on to the hoop after he makes a dunk during an exhibition match in Budapest February 28, 2008 REUTERS/Karoly Arvai

RONALDO: Cristiano Ronaldo is seen celebrating Manchester United’s victory against Porto after their Champions League quarter-final, second leg match in Porto, in this April 15 2009 file photograph. REUTERS/Miguel Vidal


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

I totally agree that great teams evolve and obviously Perez’s last attempt failed. On this occasion though, if he manages to get Ribery as well, I think a Ronaldo, Kaka, Ribery midfield really would work (with Diarra or whoever in the deep holding role)Huntelaar will get better, and with that midfield you wouldnt always need two upfront.

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

Funnily enough, I agree they may very well be successful Real fans are convinced they have the new makelele in Diarra and they should be a very exciting team to watch. I just don’t think they’re going to be loved. (And no, I don’t suppose that will bother Florentino…)

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

i must admit i agree with what has been said i just feel that when players are the main man for a team and they leave for a team where they will not be they never re-capture the form of their previous club such as shevchenko, henry, huntelaar and i also feel that although i think ronaldo is the best player in the world right now he will not show the form he has showed for united over the past 3 years and also kaka was immense for ac milan, he has got to do something really special to beat the feats he achieved there. Also i dont see real madrid as a good move for ronaldo or kaka as real have achieved very little in europe in reacent years and i honestly believe the top four in england will still dominate europe for the next few years to come.

Posted by Jamie Eblett | Report as abusive

This is a great move for Real Madrid, They needed something special after goig out of the Champiosn leauge so early every year and now they have the best player in the world.

Posted by jacks | Report as abusive

The question is how United will replace him. There;s no one out there who is as good. Except for maybe Kaka and he;s gone to Real as well.

Posted by jacks | Report as abusive

Hi jamie. It will be interesting to see if Ronaldo can replicate the form he showed in England at the bernabeu. It often takes players a while to adjust but I think he’ll do pretty well … certainly better than Henry and Shevchenko after their moves.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Nicely written but an idealistic concept in this extreme world. I think it’s entirely possible that Real Madrid could both unseat Barca and capture the hearts of football fans – in one season. And I’m a Barca lover. Let’s not judge now. Let’s judge later and hope for great, beautiful football to come out of all of this cash.

Posted by Bestplayerintheworld | Report as abusive

hello Kevin thanks for the comment and admittedly if there is any player out there who can perform to the standards that ronaldo did for united then it is ronaldo himself. it will be very interesting to see how he fits in at real and how players such as raul, ramos, and casillas who are worshiped there take to him as his ego is as big as anyones, although it is what probably makes him so good.

Posted by Jamie Eblett | Report as abusive

I fear the Perez project will end in big failure in a couple of year’s time and they (the club and its fans) will rue the day they re-elected him as president. The problem Real had last season was a weak defence, so what does Perez do? Strengthens the attack. Ronaldo will turn out to be a bad buy. I read this week that last season Ronaldo made 16 tackles. I couldn’t believe it. He will surely not get that level of luxury from his new teammates, who I fully expect not to do the donkey work on his behalf. Real Madrid will regret paying so much for him, of that I am certain.

Posted by Mr Twilight | Report as abusive

We know soon enough when they come to RFK.We’ll see if they can handle DC United better than Chelski did after they had spent their gazillions for instant success.

Posted by jtw | Report as abusive

I happen to think Carlton Cole is in fact a very good player.

Posted by Laura Maidment | Report as abusive

[…] work still to come from Benitez if Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa are allowed to leave to join the Real Madrid party (and who knows, perhaps Javier Mascherano along with […]

Posted by Benitez spends big, but does Johnson fit the bill? – Posted In English Premier League | Soccer News Info – Soccer News Info | Report as abusive