I’m so earnest about futbol, I could be a staff writer for Marca.
An Associated Press writer said this week that David Beckham’s departure from Spanish football club Real Madrid will mark the end of the Florentino Perez era. Perez devoted himself to buying the most expensive and popular players in the world so Real Madrid would turn into a global brand. In successive years, he purchased Luis Figo (£38.7m), Zinedine Zidane (£44m), Ronaldo (£26m), and David Beckham (£25m). These players sold a lot of jerseys, but they were too old and satisfied to give their all on the pitch. Since Beckham joined in 2003, each Real team has been an expensive catastrophe with no trophies to its credit.
It would be easy to compare the former Madrid GM to George Steinbrenner, but I think a historical comparison is more apt: Florentino Perez is King Felipe II. Perez, like the Spanish royalty, would have benefited from Machiavelli’s caution against using mercenaries for domestic battles. Madrid’s bankroll, like all Spanish treasuries, is deceptive; yes, the team is the richest by revenue in the world, but it is also constantly in debt. His Real Madrid, dubbed the “Galácticos” (Stars), first in praise and then in mockery, was the Invincible Armada. (Luckily, the only Madrileños who die during football season are the ones who bet the house on Atletico – or worse, the national team.)
Luckily, Perez is gone now, as are Figo, Zidane, and Ronaldo. The new management is still obnoxious and corrupt, but it is more competent. The team returned to first place for the first time in two years, and it has my support, for Madrid is my city now and forever. ¡Vaya Liga!