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The Real Madrid Way: Exploring why Real Madrid Ticks

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How Values Created the Most Successful Sports Team on the Planet

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Steven G. Mandis, American investor and author, has published an eye-opening book about Real Madrid’s financial machinery, and how their values and attention to detail has churned them into the most successful football club on the entire planet.

Managing Madrid was granted access to review the book before it was published, and in agreement with Steven, has decided to provide our viewers with a brief snippet of the book.

Florentino Perez and the board gave Steven full transparency and access to information which enabled him to write about a lot of interesting facets of the club from a unique perspective. One of the many interesting snippets from the book is below, where Steven talks about the ‘too tired effect’ - something that Madridistas can relate to in its entirety with the perpetual FIFA virus, and all:

Statistics are kept on injuries. Soccer has a relatively high injury incidence (seventeen to twenty-four injuries per 1,000 playing hours) compared with many other sports.177 According to the UEFA Elite Club Injury Study 2013–14 season report examining twenty-nine teams: on average, teams had 213 training sessions (19.7 per month) and fifty-nine games (5.5 per month) over an almost eleven-month season, and “on average, across all clubs, each player missed 2.2 training sessions and 0.6 matches each month because of injury.”178 Professors Nader Rahnama, Thomas Reilly, and Adrian Lees published a paper in February 2002 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that analyzed the injury risk associated with soccer games from the English Premier League from 1999–2000. They concluded that “playing actions with high injury risk were linked to contesting possession. Injury risk was highest in the first and last fifteen minutes of the game, reflecting the intense engagements in the opening period and the possible effect of fatigue in the closing period. Injury risk was concentrated in the areas of the pitch where possession of the ball is most vigorously contested, which were specific attacking and defending zones close to the goal.”179 The highest risk of injury is in the second half and in the last fifteen minutes of the game. This is most likely why some coaches prefer to substitute players at the end of games when leading. However, the Real Madrid community typically doesn’t like to see substitutions of star players.

Despite widespread belief that Real Madrid has more than its share of injuries, according to official reports, over the last few seasons the club is generally average with top contenders for the Champions League trophy in the main injury parameters, namely incidence, burden, and players’ availability. Obviously, it is not just the number of injuries that matters but which player(s) and the quality and availability of the replacement(s) that also matter. This is particularly true if a team doesn’t rely on a consistent system that players are familiar with and instead relies more on improvisation required with familiarity of the other players, which is mostly true for Real Madrid.

And furthermore..

Playing too often can happen for the best athletes playing for the best teams, especially when considering their national team commitments, which are during the season and off-season. An example of the potential conflict between national teams and European professional soccer team priorities is when, in November 2014, Real Madrid was without the services of then-twenty-nine-year-old star midfielder Luka Modrić for months after he suffered a thigh injury in Croatia’s 1–1 draw in an international game against Italy. Modrić’s versatility and work ethic are important to Real Madrid’s performance as well as the team chemistry. After Modrić came back from injury, he was injured again a few weeks later. The Croatian national team doctor said, “Ancelotti [Real Madrid’s then-coach] did not spare Luka at all after he returned from a long-term injury...He played ninety minutes in every game. Ancelotti put Modrić under a lot of pressure, instead of giving him minutes bit by bit...Modrić was not injured because of the knocks he received but because he was not 100 percent fit. If he hadn’t been overworked, his lower leg would not have moved to the side under that tackle.” The national team doctor is unquestionably putting the national team’s priorities over Real Madrid’s, but he is also identifying that the player is too tired as a result of playing for both teams, which led to another injury.

Injuries during international soccer games caused many Real Madrid players to miss multiple games in 2014–15 and 2015–16. Interestingly, there appears to be a specific time period where this happens more, from August to November, the first months of league competition and when national team commitments are the busiest during the season.

After winning the World Cup in the summer of 2014, Toni Kroos, the German midfielder, started thirty-six of thirty-eight of the La Liga games for Real Madrid in the 2014–15 season, and was an unused substitute in the other two. Some argued that Kroos was not the only player who’s been overused at Real Madrid—he’s just the one to have remained fit enough to keep accruing minutes. If everyone was available, critics argued, then-coach Ancelotti invariably tended to pick his favored starting lineup week in and week out. At the same time, the community expects to see the best players and a fluid game, which requires players to be familiar with playing together to win, so it places the Real Madrid coach in a difficult position. By the end of the 2014–15 season, Real Madrid’s performance started to drop off.185 The club is more focused on maintaining a balance in the team and replacing star players as they pass their peak age, while relying on a coach to use a system of rotation during the season as well as conditioning during that season. The one thing the club can’t completely control is the players’ national team commitments.

Archrival Barcelona took a different approach. In midfield, where Real Madrid appeared to suffer the most from fatigue and injuries in the 2014–15 season, the Barcelona coach rotated players more regularly. That coach was heavy criticized for this rotation policy at first, especially as the club had some disappointing losses.186 Throughout all competitions, the coach went nearly thirty games without naming the same starting lineup. By the end of the season, having endured the early criticism, Barcelona was comparatively full of life, in part because of that rotation.

This snipped from Steven’s book, ‘The Real Madrid Way’, should give you a good idea of some of the interesting content that lies within the book as a whole. If you can, you should definitely consider supporting Steven by purchasing the book. It’s very reasonably priced for how informative and well written it is.

Some fun tidbits..

Our man Gabe Lezra endorsed this book on the inside cover, and he’s in some great company alongside Ray Hudson, David Stern, and Sir Alex Ferguson. Steven was also kind enough to invite us to his book launch in Madrid. I was introduced to Florentino Perez and Emilio Butragueño, both of whom now know about Managing Madrid and were super impressed with our reach and coverage outside of Spain.

A photo posted by Kiyan Sobhani (@kiyanso) on