Real Madrid’s transfer policies

Was Arjen Robben really worth 36 million?

Was Arjen Robben really worth €36 million?

I enjoyed this article’s analysis of Real Madrid’s changes. It’s interesting that from 2006-2008, the team imported a grand total of six Dutch players, presumably in the hopes of creating some sort of Total Football team. Then again, since the six players had very defined roles, perhaps I’m completely off-base.

But that’s not the point. The point is that when Florentino Pérez returned to power earlier this year, he brought with him the Galáctico idea of team-building. On the one hand, it’s easy to draw a line between buying up the Dutch national team and buying the brightest stars in the soccer sky. On the other hand, it’s really not that different when you take into account team goals and economics.

To me, it’s perfectly understandable that Real would target Dutch players: the Dutch national team was one of the best in Europe from 2004-2008. It had several world-class talents, especially in the attacking third of the pitch. In the end, Real spent €36 million for Arjen Robben and €27 million each for Wesley Sneijder and Klass-Jan Huntelaar, which is a not insignificant chunk of money. Based on economics, it’s hard to say, with a straight face, that Real were ever responsible spenders.

Florentino Pérez, of course, took that to another level this past summer. In spending €80 million on Cristiano Ronaldo and €59 million on Kaká, Real broke the world transfer record not once but twice. And then we have to take into account Raúl Albiol and Karim Benzema, neither of which came cheap. On the surface, then Real Madrid was setting a new bar for reckless spending. But was it really a new bar?

Aside from the higher prices, I think not. If Ronaldo is worth €80 million, there is no way Robben is worth €36 million because the former is significantly better than the latter (not to mention that he stays on the pitch a lot longer, too). So the Galáctico theory of team-building never really left the Real Madrid offices; it was just rebranded for a time as a Total Football-ish theory of team-building.

Real Madrid’s status demands that it spend money to maintain that status; that’s an economic reality. It’s the way it spent the money that has changed not how much money was spent. It’s important to remember that, no matter what the world economy is doing (excepting, of course, a crash on par with the Great Depression), the big clubs will, in all likelihood spend to maintain their status.

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