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Florentino Pérez fails to learn from his past mistakes

The lack of an out-an-out defensive midfielder has cost Madrid this season, similar to when Claude Makelele left the club in 2003.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Florentino Perez has never cared too much for good old-fashioned defensive midfielders - just ask Claude Makelele.

The Frenchman was bombed out of the Santiago Bernabeu under a barrage of criticism from the Madrid president in 2003. "He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres," Perez said. "Younger players will arrive who will ensure Makelele is forgotten."

Reports suggested Makelele, a key cog in two Liga triumphs and a Champions League success, felt undervalued and asked for a rise in his salary - to take him up to half of what star man Zinedine Zidane was earning. Perez did not oblige and instead opted to get rid. Chelsea took advantage and Makelele became a key part of a Premier League-winning side under Jose Mourinho.

In Madrid meanwhile, the former Celta man was missed. He did the dirty work, the work that goes unnoticed when Galacticos are scoring wonder goals at the other end. Zidane himself put it perfectly after David Beckham came in shortly after Makelele's departure: "Why put another layer of gold on paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?".

Perez held firm but any lesson has not been learnt and the warnings were not heeded. The construction magnate enjoys splashing the cash on brilliant players to head the attack but he is not keen on bringing in players who do the kind of work that is vital in winning titles. The kind of player such as Sergio Busquets, in the shade of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez but who is almost as crucial as any of his Barcelona team-mates in making the team tick.

Fingers have been pointed at Iker Casillas, Gareth Bale and Ancelotti's tactics this season but they have not been pointed at Madrid's transfer policy. A lack of a ball-winning, defence-minded midfielder has been plainly evident this season, evident to the fans and evident to Carlo Ancelotti, who had to turn to desperate measures in using Sergio Ramos in the middle, with mixed results.

Jose Mourinho used the tactic before with Pepe and years on Perez has still to put his hand in his pocket for good money to bolster the middle of his team. Toni Kroos has enjoyed a good first season at Madrid but he is not an out-an-out ball-winner, he played deeper than he us used to in a midfield three that was often overrun and overpowered this season.

Luka Modric has done a job there but he, too, is not the kind of player to sit back, protect the back four, stick a foot in to win the ball and give it to others to take the team forward. He is a box-to-box player who has proved to be crucial to Madrid's success. He is the closest thing Madrid have to exactly the kind of player they need in midfield.

It comes as no surprise that the former Tottenham Hotspur man has missed half of the season through injury and through those periods Madrid suffered. Their form started to dip after Modric's first injury, suffered on international duty, and it dipped in the latter stages of the season when he was hit with another set-back. The alternatives were thin to non-existent.

Madrid acted but the way they acted still leaves plenty of question marks. The signing of Asier Illarramendi to fill Xabi Alonso's boots was a failure, Sami Khedira is destined for pastures new and Casemiro was sent to Porto for the season on loan. Lucas Silva played a few matches after his winter arrival from Cruzeiro but the Brazilian did not stand out. He is, if anything, one for the future.

Casemiro, by all accounts, has played well with the Portuguese giants but it is yet to be seen if he can cut it back in Madrid. He is expected to be handed his chance next season but that should not stop Madrid splashing the cash on a defensive midfielder. One who can start, perhaps in a new formation with a new coach, or one who can at least provide back-up for the world's richest club when one of their star players is injured. That back-up has been absent this term and it has cost Perez and Madrid.

In his autobiography, former Madrid midfielder Steve McManaman says: "Ask anyone at Real Madrid during the years we were talking about and they will tell you he [Makelele]was the best player at Real. We all knew." That kind of player let Madrid's star names off their leash in attack and gave an extra layter of confidence to the defence. Those qualities are required again for next season.

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