Real Madrid: Florentino Perez’s transfer approach failed, and now he must admit it

Real Madrid, Florentino Perez (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Florentino Perez (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images) /

Florentino Perez opted to prioritize signing young players for Real Madrid in the hopes they would become the next big thing, but his haphazard approach has set the team back.

Years ago, Florentino Perez turned Real Madrid into the biggest brand in football – bar none – by signing “Galacticos”. The biggest stars in the world made the Santiago Bernabeu their home. Luis Figo, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo…the list goes on and on. Many of the larger-than-life stars of this era graced the pitch in Perez’s presidential reign, and the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale carried on that legacy en route to three straight Champions League titles with an old Galactico, Zizou, at the helm.

Zidane is the captain of the ship in 2020, but Perez is the man slowly sinking it from the command tower. Perez has given Zidane a squad that has holes, no true superstar besides the injured Eden Hazard, a host of disgruntled players who aren’t getting minutes, and a serious lack of goals.

Real’s biggest scoring threat is Karim Benzema, who has never scored 30 league goals in a season. Last season, Benzema’s 21 goals were the lowest by a top scorer on a title-winning Madrid team in the last three decades. Benzema is a well-rounded No. 9 who is as good at assisting as scoring. And who aided him as the second top scorer last season? A center back. The 34-year-old Sergio Ramos.

This team is not good enough, but Zidane is the one who must answer for it if the team fails to qualify for the Champions League. Not Perez, whose entire approach to transfer must be picked apart under a microscope. He must admit he has been wrong in how he has targeted signings, fundamentally misplaying his “Moneyball” strategy.

Perez was right when he said that it is no longer a wise strategy to pursue Galacticos. Teams cannot feasibly spend hundreds of millions on transfers each year on only one player. It is just not realistic. So Perez’s decision to pivot to signing young up-and-coming stars was a wise one.

The problem is that he didn’t do it the right way. Let’s take a look at some of the signings he made that are examples of the club wasting money to sign young players who won’t start for the team in the near future or who have not been used at all.

Vinicius Junior has the ability to become a great player one day. But in his third season after Real Madrid spent 46 million euros (Neymar is the only transfer from the Brazilian Serie A to cost more in history), Vinicius has yet to break into the starting XI regularly. Real Madrid spent over 100 million euros on a Galactico in the same position in Eden Hazard a year after signing Vinicius.

In 2019, Real Madrid paid 50 million euros for Eder Militao. He is currently the fourth-choice center back behind Nacho Fernandez, who was nearly sold to Sevilla a year ago. That same year, they paid 60 million euros to Luka Jovic, who has played 1,025 minutes with just 11 starts in two seasons for Los Blancos. Basically, they paid three times what Borussia Dortmund paid for Erling Haaland to sign a player who barely plays for them. He does not even seem to be a part of Real Madrid’s long-term plan.

Brahim Diaz is on loan at Milan. Reinier Jesus cannot get minutes on loan at Dortmund. The young players at Real Madrid are incredibly talented, but they are all years away from being stars or may never break into the first team at all with such a competitive club. If Real has to pay 50 million euros for these players, how are they going to make a profit off them? How are they going to get minutes to develop to their potential? And are they ever going to become starters?

In total, Real Madrid have spent nearly 200 million euros on players who aren’t even starters for the club. Think about that. With that same amount of money, Los Blancos could have bought two sure-fire superstar players, including a world-class goal-scorer on the wings that they needed.

There’s nothing wrong with signing top young talent. But you have to have a plan for them. You have to give them minutes. You have to nurture them. There’s a reason why young players flourish at Dortmund but stagnate at Manchester United. One team has a plan and a clear vision and can give the youth a chance to make mistakes and grow. The other team has no plan and too high expectations. Real is worryingly starting to go the United route.

For Real Madrid and Florentino Perez, the solution is to admit to the mistake. Keep signing young players, yes. But sign players who are part of the long-term plan and are players everyone can get behind, especially the coach. Commit to them. Don’t sign too many players at one position in the hopes that someone sticks, only to have to lose them because you cannot guarantee them minutes or to have them disgruntled like Jovic.

And moreover, have a mix. Go after undervalued young players like Takefusa Kubo, who is an absolute bargain for Real Madrid. Find veteran talents on cheap deals who can help plug holes into the squad for cheap and are willing to take backup roles to be at Madrid. Marco Roca, now at Bayern Munich, was an example of a missed opportunity.

Next. The 5 players Real Madrid should have never sold. dark

Perez has the right ideas, but he needs to rethink his execution. The good news is that Real Madrid have room to make mistakes and have the squad talent and brand value to recover. But they must be proactive in 2021. The next summer is the time to come up with a plan, identify the best targets, look for undervalued options, and execute. Real’s days of throwing 10 darts at the board, willing to wildly hit nine people in the crowd if it means nailing just one bulls-eye, are over. It’s time to get smart and build a team that can compete in 2021-2022 after what looks like three straight years of Champions League disaster after the three straight years of ecstacy.