"Today we start a new era," promised Florentino Perez at the presentation of Rafa Benitez as Real Madrid's new coach. The Blancos' president meant it in more ways than one.
While Benitez's arrival will bring a shift in tactics off the pitch and a likely change in stigma off it, his arrival has also seemingly brought a shift in the transfer policy of his president, at least at this stage of the summer.
Perez is synonymous with the club's "Galactico" period but this summer the transfer policy has been in stark contrast to the Cristiano Ronaldo's, Zinedine Zidane's and Luis Figo's of the past. Five players have bolstered Benitez's squad ahead of the new season so far but none of them can boast being a big-name signing.
The biggest has been Danilo, from Porto, but with respect few full-backs can boast being "Galacticos", especially when Madrid already had a player of the quality of Dani Carvajal shining at right-back. After the Brazilian, Kiko Casilla has returned to the club from Espanyol, Madrid activated their clauses to buy back Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez, from Porto and Espanyol respectively, while Denis Cheryshev also returned to the Bernabeu from his loan spell with Villarreal.
Madrid are still waiting for their star summer signing in David de Gea from Manchester United and while that deal seems to be edging closer, it will not be the end of the world if Perez has to wait a year to get the Spanish international for nothing next summer. Given the expectation that it's a case of when and not if for the former Atletico man, it may not be the addition that will get fans off their seats such as the star names that have gone before him.
Given the cash that has been splashed by Perez during his two stints as president this summer's transfer activity brings with it a number of questions. Are Madrid waiting with some big-name tricks up their sleeves? Does the construction magnate not place the same trust Benitez as he did his previous managers? Are Madrid being intelligent in their summer spending given the squad is already world-class, as noted by the coach during his presentation?
Benitez may have emphasised the fact that he would only bring players in if they were better than what he already has but, purposely or not, Perez has not backed his coach like those who have gone before him. On Carlo Ancelotti's arrival, big bucks were spent on players such as Asier Illarramendi, Isco, Carvajal and Gareth Bale, while Jose Mourinho was greeted with stars such as Angel di Maria, Mesut Ozil, Ricardo Carvalho and Sami Khedira.
The former Napoli, Chelsea, Liverpool and Valencia coach has not enjoyed the same riches but Madrid have at least been pragmatic in their additions. Sooner or later De Gea will be Iker Casillas' long-term replacement but if Madrid miss out they have lured a relatively cheap alternative back to the club in Casilla to compete with Keylor Navas for the No.1 jersey.
Madrid were lacking some bite in the central midfield area so although they had to pay to bring Casemiro back from his loan at Porto, the Brazilian fits the criteria as back-up to the more attack-minded Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in Benitez's probable 4-2-3-1 approach.
Benitez will also use rotation to ensure his team can compete for silverware on all fronts this season and so bringing Lucas Vazquez back to the capital makes sense. The winger may not be the top-level player to own a regular starting role with a club such as Madrid but after shining in Catalonia last season he is the kind of player who can offer something different and be content with a back-up role. He will give more options to a Madrid attack that was "non-negotiable" last season.
It should also be noted that the majority of this summer's arrivals have been the ‘right' side of 25. Only Casilla, at 28, sits on the ‘wrong' side but in general goalkeepers play longer. Danilo, Vazquez and the returning Cheryshev are all 24, as is De Gea if he arrives this summer, while Casemiro is 23. Youth may be on their side but they also have experience at a good level.
It also sticks out that four of the five arrivals so far have already been at the club. Casilla came through the youth ranks and racked up the appearances for Real Madrid Castilla, as did Cheryshev and Vazquez. Casemiro played for both Castilla and the first team. They all know what it's like to play for a unique club such as Madrid - there will be no culture shocks. That ties in with the return of the coah, who also came through the Madrid youth set-up as a player and later as a coach.
Those points aside, it a strange and different approach from Perez this summer, especially given Madrid's failure last term. Not only does Perez usually spoil new coaches in their first year in charge but he would be expected to do so even more given how the last campaign finished. Madrid were without a major trophy and Barcelona finished with an historic treble. If Perez was going to spend big, this summer should have surely been it - rightly or wrongly.
It is an approach that carries on from last summer. Madrid may have spent big on Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez but they made their money back through sales, largely thanks to the departure of Angel di Maria to Manchester United. The year before, Bale came in but the departures of Ozil and Gonzalo Higuain amongst others allowed a large chunk of that money to find its way back into the Madrid coffers. With no big-money departure, there has been no big-money arrival.
Contract talks with Sergio Ramos may also have been pivotal. Ramos' future has yet to be decided but it has taken up a large chunk of the column inches in the Spanish papers and will be top priority for Perez, especially given the mess of Casillas' departure only weeks ago.