Tag Archives: Real Madrid

Much ado about nothing

Wayne Rooney in United colors

Wayne Rooney signed a new 5-year deal with Manchester United today, thus ending, temporarily, the speculation of him leaving.

This does not, of course, mean Rooney is United-for-life like Ryan Giggs or Paul Scholes. Both of them are probably rather peeved at the moment. Nor does it mean that Sir Alex Ferguson is changing. He is famous for cutting ties with players who want to leave, and cutting ties quickly. He did so with van Nistelrooy and Stam, to name two. There has to be more at work here, namely Sir Alex’s affection for Rooney.

That said, nobody involved comes out smelling like roses. Rooney is now perceived as greedy. Sir Alex caved (though he may be retiring the not too distant future). United have been saddled with the “unambitious” tag. Perhaps this is a stalling tactic, and Rooney will be sold in the summer, a more agreeable time for all involved. The new contract also gives United leverage in negotiations, meaning a player exchange + money deal with Real Madrid (I read Karim Benzema, Lassana Diarra, and cash for Rooney yesterday) would still be on the table. If that happens, both Sir Alex and Rooney are craftier than portrayed at the moment.

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Transfer round-up

Rafael van der Vaart

In which I publish a list of notable transfers, in no particular order:

Rafael van der Vaart to Tottenham: For a measly £8 million, Spurs added an excellent player in Rafael van der Vaart. He’ll give the offense a bit of class and a lot of punch. I never understand why he didn’t feature prominently at Real Madrid, not do I understand why he doesn’t play more for the Dutch national team. And I don’t understand why Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t all over this move, especially at only £8 million. Their loss is Tottenham’s gain.

Robinho to AC Milan: For €18 million, AC Milan added a supremely talented striker and malcontent. He’s one of those guys who needs constant attention, which must be exhausting, to be honest. However, I think he’ll provide a good return on the money because he’s motivated and he’s wanted at Milan.

Asamoah Gyan to Sunderland: Ambitious Sunderland added World Cup hero Gyan in a bid to give the offense a boost. I, for one, think it will work out just swimmingly.

Javier Mascherano to Barcelona: A terrible move for both club and player. Mascherano doesn’t fit Barcelona’s system at all. This is a vanity signing, pure and simple. And it’s destined for failure.

Raul Meireles to Liverpool: A good move for Liverpool because Meireles is a gifted player (despite his comically bad tattoos). I think he’ll work out fine.

Mario Balotelli to Manchester City: And City add another player. And overpay for the privilege, too. Of course, that’s been the story of the last couple of years. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Ramires to Chelsea: A good move by Chelsea. And cheap-ish, too.

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El clásico: Ibra is back! And so is CRonaldo!

Zlatan Ibrahimović scoring v. Real Madrid (AP)

The only clásico that really matters re-ignited its feud today at the Camp Nou in the wonderful city of Barcelona. And FC Barcelona proved to be quite rude hosts by defeating Real Madrid by a score of 1-0 on Zlatan Ibrahimović’s excellent goal (off an absurdly beautiful pass from Dani Alves) in the 56th minute. And that was after Real dominated the first 20 minutes – Cristiano Ronaldo, in his return, was outstanding – but failed to put one away.

After the 25th minute or so, Barcelona took over. They dominated possession by completing their trademark tic-tac-toe passes. Even Ibrahimović got into the act when he reset the attack by passing back in order to move forward. For anyone who is a fan of beautiful football, Barcelona is the team to watch (Arsenal can’t hold a candle to Barça’s passing, possession, and commitment).

Anyone who claims to be a fan of soccer owes it to themselves and watch this game, even though Barcelona isn’t at the top of its game for long stretches.

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Huzzah! The Champion’s League is back

milan v. real 2009 (getty)

Milan celebrating a goal v. Real Madrid (Getty Images)

Yeah, I’m overreacting to group games. But unlike some other killjoys, I actually like the Champion’s League.

Groups A through D are in action today with the most interesting game, IMO, taking place at the Giusepping Meazza, where AC Milan look to defeat Real Madrid again (recall that Milan won 3-2 in Madrid in the last round). You can be sure that Madrid will be out for blood while Milan and its fans will be pumped up. Should be a spectacular game overall.

Other interesting matches include Besiktas v. Wolfsburg, Marseille v. FC Zürich, and Atlético Madrid v. Chelsea.

At Old Trafford, United takes on CSKA Moscow following their 1-0 win in Moscow. Igor Akinfeev is excited: “We are playing a legendary team in a legendary stadium. It will be an inspirational game, the most important in our careers.” Personally, I hope he puts on a good show and gets used to the ground because I want him to join United when Edwin van der Sar retires. But that’s just me (and the priority for January should be a central defender).

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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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Saturday Night Links: New season edition

Cristiano Ronaldo scores v. TFC (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Cristiano Ronaldo scores v. TFC (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

We’ll start over at SI.com, where The Limey has their Premiership season preview. They predict the top 4 will be Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. I agree that Chelsea is probably the best team in the Premiership this year, esp. given how they looked on their US tour. I’m not convinced that Arsenal will be in the top 4, though I’m unconvinced that Manchester City will put everything together soon enough. Fergie agrees with me.

Real Madrid crushed Toronto FC 5-1 in a friendly on Friday night, a result that is only a surprise to those who are idiots. On the negative side, TFC got run out of the park. On the positive side, they got run out of the park by a vastly superior team and they looked far, far better than they did against Puerto Rico last week. That’s pretty much par for the course for Toronto sports: play to the level of your competition.

Michael Owen was left out of the England squad. The folks at F365 were somewhat surprised by that. I am not, mainly because Capello’s policy is to not select players who aren’t fit. A good run of form for Manchester United will put him back in consideration, methinks.

In sad news, Espanyol captain Daniel Jarque died of heart failure. He was 26 years old. RIP, Daniel.

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On salary caps and transfer limits

Cristiano Ronaldo cost Real Madrid a pretty penny

Cristiano Ronaldo cost Real Madrid a pretty penny

Two things have struck me recently about the transfer season. First, FC Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta suggested that Europe could use a salary cap. “There are interesting things that we have to study in Europe, such as a salary cap,” he said. “Maybe we have to establish some parameters for revenues and players’ salaries but maybe not as strict as in MLS.” While an interesting idea in theory – the NBA-style system of tying salaries to revenues – the biggest clubs, including Laporta’s, will never in a million years agree to that.

Following that, UEFA suggested today that it was concerned with Real Madrid’s and Manchester City’s spending. UEFA general secretary David Taylor said, “I would say in this financial climate, it is surprising – a little bit destabilizing of the market. It is certainly raising the ante in terms of the player costs, in terms of the general market place, which is not a thing that gives us a great deal of comfort in these difficult times.” I don’t think UEFA can actually do anything but Taylor makes a good point: Real Madrid and Manchester City are throwing the transfer system out of whack.

Economically, the fallout can go one of two ways. First, transfer prices continue to rise which creates two permanent groups of buyers and sellers. The biggest, most profitable clubs will perpetually buy both the best players and the best young players, creating a sort of oligopoly. Thus the Big Four (or Big Five, if Manchester City joins and nobody drops out) in the Premiership will be permanent and the Other 16 (or 15) will never have a shot at (a) winning the Premiership and (b) getting a spot in the Champion’s League. Clearly, that’s just one small step from a European Super League.

Second, the transfer prices continue to rise due to inflation but teams begin, in effect, extorting money from Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Manchester United, etc. by setting one price for that group and one price for everyone else. Take Karim Benzema. Lyon demanded £40 million from Real Madrid and Manchester United but perhaps they would have accepted £30 from, say, Wolfsburg (that’s not the case, of course; it’s just an example). The point is that two separate transfer markets would develop, one for the biggest clubs and one for everyone else. It is my position that this scenario is far more likely and is, in fact, already in effect.

What does that have to do with Laporta’s musings? Everything and nothing. Since most clubs are privately held, there’s really no way to verify finances and they have no incentive to make those numbers public. The salary cap is thus out of the question (set aside that everyone – except Real Madrid with its apparently unlimited line of credit – already has a salary cap: it’s called a budget). A salary cap can only work in a US-style closed league system; the European system, with promotion and relegation and its theory that anyone can found a club at the lowest levels and work its way up, means a salary cap is anathema.

Laporta’s idle musings were probably just that. Taylor’s concerns, while valid, may or may not be born out by the market. Either way, UEFA is essentially powerless to stop it since, to my knowledge, it cannot put a limit on how much teams can pay for player transfers.

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