Politics, as you know, plays as much a part in Spanish football as the football itself. Especially with “the big two” – Real Madrid and Barcelona. The former have won only two La Liga titles in the past twelve years. What exactly is the problem with Real Madrid? They have a plethora of talent, more money than most clubs, and a colossal fan base.
Well, first things first, Real Madrid’s decline over the past decade or so is down to Barcelona’s prominence as a power house in both Spanish and European football. From the Ronaldinho era to the current Messi era, the Catalans have been extraordinary. But there’s other factors to consider as well.
One of the things to take on board is that since Florentino Peréz took over as club president in 2000, Real Madrid have been run more like a business and not a football club. He has even used the phrase “the Real Madrid brand” publicly on more than a few occasions.
In recent weeks, Peréz has been insisting that Rafa Benitez was the answer to the club’s on-field problems. He still sacked him, despite being second in La Liga.
Over the past 25 years, Madrid have gone through 27 manager – Barcelona just 14.
The great Zinedine Zidane takes over at the Bernabeu. The former French international was a joy to watch. One of the very best playmakers to ever play the game. With regards to his personality, he always came across as shy – sometimes even cold. Yet he had plenty of hot headed moments on the pitch and was sent off a few times for both club and country.
Zizou was previously in charge of the club’s reserve side, Real Madrid Castilla, who play in Spain’s third tier. He left them sitting in second place in the league after cutting his teeth for a year and a half, to now join the big boys in La Liga.
But that’s another problem with the big boys in Real Madrid. Some of the biggest names come with some embarrassingly big egos. Only this week, I heard one journalist say live on air that club officials asked him not to write about Gareth Bale’s club record fee because – and get this – Cristiano Ronaldo won’t like it. That’s the tip of the iceberg of the kind of egos Zidane will be dealing with.
He’ll be used to it. Himself once a Galactico, having played alongside other major names such as Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), Raul, Beckham, Casillas and Roberto Carlos to name but a few.
But how will he manage it now that he’s the boss?
Follow Rob Smith on Twitter (@robsmithireland)