Real Madrid president Florentino Perez received a lot of criticism from fans for how much pressure he put on club legend Zinedine Zidane during the 2020/21 season, when Zizou had the team in LaLiga title contention until the very last Matchday and into the semifinals of the Champions League despite working with an injury-ravaged, sub-optimal squad.
Perez’s entire transfer strategy was questioned, as the young forwards were struggling to make a difference, while high-priced 2019 signings Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard were providing close to nothing.
Yet one season later, Real Madrid won LaLiga and the Champions League. Those very same youngsters, including new center midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, were instrumental in the Merengue club hoisting their 14th Champions League trophy.
When PSG and Manchester City started ramping up their spending to chase a Champions League title in response to Madrid’s unprecedented three-peat, Perez began to put even more of a focus on signing prospects. He gambled on Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo Goes, spending nearly 100 million euros on both forwards. And he also made other signings like Takefusa Kubo, Brahim Diaz, and Reinier Jesus.
Florentino Perez’s youth plan has been economically successful
Only Vini, Rodrygo, Eder Militao, Camavinga, and Fede Valverde are squad regulars of the young signings, but those three were vital to Real Madrid winning both trophies. Vini was the second-best player in LaLiga and the matchwinner in the Champions League Final. He may even be the second-best player in Europe right now, after teammate Karim Benzema.
Perez had his plan and stuck with it. He knew that he would not be able to “hit” on every young signing, especially not when spending around 50 million euros to sign young prospects with limited experience in different leagues. But he also knew that if he trusted his head scout, Juni Calafat, and signed players the person in charge of evaluating talent approved of, then he would stand a good chance of succeeding. All he needed to do is find two future stars for the attack, for example, and any failed signings would be forgotten.
Even in the case of players like Brahim and Kubo who are flashing potential but not quite shining on loan, Perez is getting his return on investment. He paid 17 million euros to sign Brahim from Manchester City and has already earned 3.2 million euros from Milan in loan fees. So as long as he can make a sale of 14 million euros, he will have made a profit. And Kubo? He was essentially free!
Perez’s ability to come up with new ways to compete with clubs that have more money is impressive and sets him apart from the other elite clubs competing with Manchester City, PSG, and the Roman Abramovich-owned Chelsea. He is willing to take risks and trust the people who should be making footballing decisions to scout players. That may sound simple but look no further than Manchester United for an example of a club that sabotages key decision-makers and put footballing decisions in the hands of incompetent executives.
In the past, Perez was that myopic executive who solely looked at the marketing, missing the forest for the trees and was aloof to the importance of youth development. Now, Perez is putting his faith in Juni Calafat and in the young talent he signs. Even when fans were ready to give up on Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo, Perez never wavered, dismissing any and all transfer offers from the likes of PSG and Liverpool.
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And now, he is reaping the rewards of his strategy and his patience. It turns out, sometimes as fans, we need to take a page out of Perez’s book and understand that the people in charge of a successful club just might know what they are doing.