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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.
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.
Manchester United said on Thursday they have received a world record 80 million pound ($131.2 million) bid for forward Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.
“At Cristiano’s request – who has again expressed his desire to leave – and after discussion with the player’s representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player,” a statement on the United website said.
The departure of Kaka from AC Milan to Real Madrid marks the end of the Italian era in European football. Not only can Italian clubs not attract the best players in the world to play in Serie A but now, when they unearth a talent like Kaka, they can’t stop them from leaving.
Italians used to describe their Serie A as ‘il campionato piu bello del mondo’ , the most beautiful championship in the world. It was not just because Italians love nothing more than talking themselves up — Serie A was the first league in the world to sign up top foreign stars, bringing in international talent at a time when the English league, for example, stretched no further than Scotland in search of players.
While Real Madrid were tying up their deal to sign Kaka from AC Milan, Barcelona seemed curiously ambivalent about the possibility of losing one of their big-name players, the Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o .
The 28-year-old has a contract until 2010 when he will be able to leave free of cost, unless an extension can be agreed or the club decide to cash in on him now.
They took their time getting there but Kaka is now officially a Real Madrid player.
The Spanish club and AC Milan issued statements at 0030 local time with the player due to hold a news conference in Brazil, where he is on international duty.
AC Milan’s PR machine has ground to a halt in recent weeks but it may have to leap into action shortly to explain to fans why they have sold Kaka for a good deal less than they could have in January.
Reports say a world record deal, worth between 65 and 80 million euros, has been agreed with Real Madrid but Chelsea have not been counted out yet.
Florentino Perez began his second spell as Real Madrid president on Monday and immediately signed up Zinedine Zidane and Jorge Valdano for the project.
Those appointments are all very well, but the question we all want answering is which players Florentino is going to bring in. Will he content himself with one major signing, a la Zidane, or will he, as some have speculated, sign basically a whole new team.
Florentino Perez is on course for an unopposed return to the Real Madrid presidency on Monday, and is promising to set in motion a major spending spree to build a “spectacular sporting project.”Speculation on who might be arriving has reached fever pitch in the Madrid-based media, and the architect of the ‘Galacticos’ policy has done everything he can to stoke their enthusiasm, short of naming names.“We are going to have great players to continue increasing the club’s income in as short a time as possible,” he told sports daily Marca.“We will go a bit further into debt because I think we have to make up for lost time by doing in one year what should have been done in two or three.”He told radio station Cadena Ser he expected to make five or six signings.With a war chest of up to 300 million euros being spoken about in the Spanish media, they have moved quickly to fill in the gaps.With Arsene Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho slipping off the radar, Villarreal’s Manuel Pellegrini has now emerged as a surprise front runner for the coaching role.As for players, all the usual names are present. Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, AC Milan’s Kaka and Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery top the shopping list, along with Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso, and Valencia trio David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata.But where do Real really need strengthening if they are win back the initiative from treble-winners Barcelona, and bring the spectacle back to the Bernabeu?Iker Casillas will continue between the posts, but Fabio Cannavaro’s departure for Juventus leaves them short of a partner for Pepe in the centre of defence. The injury-prone Christoph Metzelder cannot be relied upon.Left back has also been a problem position with first-choice Gabriel Heinze struggling.The area where they have suffered most this year is in midfield, where they have lacked the quality and pace to open up defences in the big games.Arjen Robben spends too much time on the treatment table, the ageing Guti flickers only intermittently, while Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Marcelo and Royston Drenthe have failed to step up when needed.In attack, Ruud van Nistelrooy missed most of the campaign with a knee injury and will be 33 by the start of next season. Raul will be 32. Gonzalo Higuain and Klaas Jan Huntelaar are not yet finished articles.Where would you splash the cash?PHOTO: Perez speaks during the presentation of his presidential candidature for Real Madrid, May 28, REUTERS/Susana Vera
Manchester United palpably failed to become the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era but few would bet against Barcelona managing the feat next season.
And where would be the perfect place for Pep Guardiola’s stylish side to achieve it? The Nou Camp? No, next year’s final is in Madrid and the Barca fans I spoke to in Rome after the game could not think of a better venue to show their rivals and world football that they are undisputed kings.
“Highly intelligent” and “Arsene Wenger” sit neatly together in countless newspaper columns outlining the exploits, achievements and travails of the cerebral Arsenal manager.
Consequently there was no elaborate deconstruction required following an interview with a French television channel at the club’s training ground this week.