A quarter of a billion euros doesn’t get you much these days…
Uncomfortable questions are being asked about Real Madrid’s policy of forking out a quarter of a billion euros on players following their shock elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Olympique Lyon on Wednesday.
Florentino Perez returned for a second term as president pledging to end Real’s five-year run of failure in Europe’s elite club competition but the nine-times European champions’ dream of a 10th triumph in May’s final at their Bernabeu stadium was shattered by the French side.
The construction magnate spent a record 94 million euros to bring Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United and 67 million on Brazilian playmaker Kaka but neither were able to step up on Wednesday when it really counted.
The Spanish papers were severely critical of Perez on Thursday, dubbing his project a “galactic failure” and accusing him of focusing too much on glamour and spectacle at the expense of sporting success.
Real were humiliated by third-tier Alcorcon in the King’s Cup in November and the domestic league is their only remaining chance of silverware this season.
“You don’t buy titles, you win them,” columnist Jose Samano wrote in daily El Pais. “When the ball is in play it’s the business of the players and Hollywood-style theatre is irrelevant,” he added. “Everything is possible in sport except for those who consider the pitch a stock market.”
Orfeo Suarez said in El Mundo: “The catastrophe suffered by this pharaonic Madrid team is as if an earthquake had destroyed the Valley of the Kings.
“Watching the competition to which they owe their legend from the sidelines will be their penitence and torment.”
It remains to be seen what financial impact the latest Champions League failure will have on Real, the world’s richest club by revenue.
They will miss out on around 16 million euros they would have got from UEFA for winning the final but will also save a considerable amount in player win bonuses.
Francesc Pujol, a professor of economics at the University of Navarra, said in a recent study on media brand value that Real’s huge outlay on players last summer would help them earn them more from commercial activities such as marketing and merchandise.
However, he warned that the initial boost would only be maintained if Real were successful in the Champions League.
Perez, who walked away from the club once already in 2006, now faces a stark choice: stick with the current crop of players and coach Manuel Pellegrini in the hope they will produce next season or take the club deeper into debt by splashing out millions more.
PHOTO: Real Madrid president Florentino Perez arrives at Mother Teresa airport, near Tirana January 20, 2010. REUTERS/Arben Celi.