Does Real Madrid have a problem restructuring first-team contracts?

Real Madrid pays all of its players handsomely. Just scan the list of contracts and the amount each players makes and you will see exactly what I mean. That begs the question, does Real Madrid overpay its backups and fringe first-team players? Let’s discuss!

To begin, idea for this article came around because of Mariano Diaz and his decision to not move to SL Benfica. The Portuguese club wanted to sign the player on a one-year loan deal with the option to buy, but Mariano outright said no.

In all honesty, Mariano might as well have been a Castilla player in 2019/’20.

He trained with the first-team, but was nothing more than a training dummy or an extra body to bring in for a meaningless match. Even then, the 27-year-old did not feature for Zizou. He made seven appearances and played just 89 minutes total despite the club’s involvement in five different competitions.

That was down from his lacking minutes upon his return from Lyon where he spent one season and thrived. Mariano played in 34 Ligue 1 matches and tallied 18 goals and three assists during that 2017/’18 campaign in France. That dropped substantially in 2018/’19 as Real Madrid had three different managers. Diaz only managed to feature in 19 matches for the three bosses and started just three of those.

So, why is a striker, valued at nearly 15 million dollars, approaching the age where a striker tends to hit his prime, unwilling to go to a large club where he will receive substantially more playing time?

It all has to do with the money and Real Madrid’s inability to restructure Mariano’s contract.

At the time of writing, Mariano is being paid ~€300,000 PER MONTH and €4.2 million PER YEAR to play 89 minutes of football across a 12 month period. Can you honestly blame the guy for being comfortable having a reduced role?

There are a lot of unsavory things millions of people around the globe would do just to make that much money in their lifetime. To make all of it in a year with very little stress or pressure is ideal.

Plus, Mariano can claim another league title (his second) and a Supercopa title for featuring in both competitions!

Keep in mind here that a player who has played a total of 685 minutes in two full seasons – for comparison, Casemiro has played 5,400 minutes in La Liga alone over the same period – has not discussed a contract restructure beyond the already agreed upon COVID-19 related cost cutting.

We as fans have now seen the same thing happen with Gareth Bale as well as James Rodriguez. Los Blancos have been trying to offload Gareth Bale for well over a year now, but neither the player nor his agent ever seemed too keen on finding a new home for the Welsh international.

It truly is hard to believe that I am comparing Bale to Mariano, but it only seems fitting since the two players have behaved the same way for the last few months.

Bale featured in just two of Real’s 12 matches after the season restarted. Instead of at least supporting his teammates and sitting on the bench, Gareth made a scene by pretending to sleep, using cups as binoculars, and drawing cameras and drama to himself.

(L-R) coach Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid and Gareth Bale. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Like Mariano, Bale just didn’t seem to have the desire to earn a spot in the starting XI or get on his manager’s good side. He was content making the second most annually – Eden Hazard has the biggest annual salary of the first-team at ~€20 million while Bale receives ~€18.5 million annually – and has decided he will be “loyal” and stay until he is sold by the club or his contract expires.

This is both smart and diabolical.

Gareth Bale put himself in a place where nearly no one in the world wanted him even if it was for free and he knew it! Yes, Real Madrid blocked a move to China last summer, but that was when they thought they could still earn some monetary compensation for a guy they spent over €100 million to acquire nearly seven years ago.

The good news about sending Bale back to Tottenham Hotspurs on loan is that the deal at least has an option to buy. And yes, the club will be paying half, if not more, of his wages for another year, but there is a harsh reality Real Madrid fans must first address.

The club struggles to rework contracts when/if a player starts to lose playing time or fall out of favor with the manager.

I can lump what has just happened to James Rodriguez in here as well. It has been rather clear since Los Blancos won the La Liga title in 2017 that the Colombian was no longer a regular starter in the middle of the park.

Although James was solid off the bench in 22 appearances which saw him contribute 14 goals – eight goals and six assists – his desire for minutes and the simple fact he was outclassed by Isco and Marco Asensio led to the two-year loan move to FC Bayern Munich.

It helped the situation for a bit, but ultimately, the move was all for not.

James has recently moved to Everton and according to one of James’ old clubs, it was on a free transfer since Rodriguez was considered “a free agent.” Real Madrid will receive nothing for the move. They just paid the attacking midfielder a year’s salary to hangout and wait for a permanent move.

These claims from Argentine Primera Division side Banfield have not been verified by any party involved as of yet, however, we already know that the reigning Spanish champions lost money on the deal.

President Florentino Perez paid in the neighborhood of $107 million for James after a stunning showing in the 2014 World Cup, but The Royal Whites will receive under a quarter of that if other rumors are indeed true.

Could Real Madrid look to further reduce the salaries of some players after already agreeing upon a club-wide saving initiative? It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but it could help tremendously in the transfer market.

James would have most likely tried harder to find a club that would pay for his signature, and Mariano would have been more inclined to leave for Benfica because he wouldn’t be taking such a hefty pay-cut.

As David Young said in A Little Guide to A Big Life, “Work as if you were the one paying your salary.”

Stay tuned to The Real Champs for more Real Madrid coverage.