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Stability the Key to Real Madrid Success

Florentino Pérez has Learned from Past Mistakes

Real Madrid v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Success is not built overnight.

Florentino Pérez is a maverick, an innovator, and most of all, a visionary. He holds Real Madrid to the highest of standards and creates what others in the business simply cannot see or fathom. Much of the blame for the on-field failure of the first era of Galaticos can fall on Florentino, but arguably, much of the success for the second era should also fall to Florentino.

For the first time in their illustrious history, Real Madrid has now qualified for back-to-back Champions League finals. This squad can also boast a trophy haul of two Spanish Super Cups, two Copa Del Rey titles, one La Liga title, two Champions League titles, two Club World Cups, and two European Super Cups –- all within the last six years. The current squad is a mere three games away from possibly securing another La Liga title.

The on-field success has come in large part due to a core group of players and personnel within the club. Players like Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Pepe, Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo who are now veterans. This core group has been instrumental in elevating the club to the trophy-laden years that have always been demanded. Each of these players has been with the club for over seven seasons. They have spent their peak years at Real Madrid. In contrast to the Galactico years of Florentino Pérez’s first reign, which led to summer after summer of spending massive amounts of money and the changing of managers and ideas. Galacticos were brought in, but often at 28, 29, and 30-years of age with their peak years mostly behind them. Each year would bring new hope, but by the time new players had settled and manager’s ideas had begun to take form, it was too late. February would have come and gone and Madrid would have crashed out of the Round of 16 of the Champions League for what amounted to six consecutive years. The Champions League heartache would also involve third and even four place league performances, as well as humiliating losses in the Copa Del Rey to teams like Alcorcón. Six managers had been cycled through like laundry. The Galacticos –- Ronaldo Nazário, Figo, Zidane, Beckham, Owen, Robhino -– for all their glamor lacked the stability and chemistry of their successors.

Many could argue that Florentino and his team redefined global sports marketing with the Galacticos and despite the lack of on-field success in his first reign, he brought tremendous financial success. There are many who doubt "El Presi's" decisions, but everything he does is done for the good of the club and to uphold the Real Madrid values. A man who sacrificed millions of his own personal money to keep Real Madrid from bankruptcy in 2000, Florentino did so for the good of the club. He has recognized past mistakes from his first reign, and evidence to that lies in the number of trophies the team has won in his second term, specifically two Champions Leagues and a third final on the horizon. Florentino bought superstars once again, but bought them with their prime years still ahead of them (i.e. Cristiano Ronaldo: 24 years old when purchased; Benzema: 22 years old when purchased) and kept crucial members like Sergio Ramos, Pepe, and Marcelo. The latter two were bought by former President Ramón Calderón and many felt Florentino would sell all of Calderón's recruits regardless of their quality.

Patience has never been the number one virtue of Real Madrid nor of any of their Presidents, as the hunger for success is insatiable. Though, by keeping faith with a group of players and allowing them to grow with the club, even despite trophy-less years like the '09-'10 season and the '12-'13 season, the core players remained. Because those players were not shipped out and the team was not completely revamped with seven new starters every year, we have seen the players and the team evolve into European and World champions in two of the last three seasons.

The initial Galactico project was built around the “Zidanes y Pavones” policy. This policy entailed the mixing of Galacticos and academy graduates from Real Madrid’s youth system to form the first-team squad. One of the glaring problems with the policy is that it does not function if the Academy Graduates level are not high enough. Pavón, Mejía, Portillo—these players, as talented as they may have been, were not of Real Madrid standard. The academy has been strengthened and been given significant investment since Florentino first took over in 2000. Graduates like Nacho, Carvajal, Morata, and Lucas Vázquez are players of the highest standard. All four are full Spanish internationals, they have proven to be Real Madrid quality. Between them, they have 45 years of experience at Real Madrid. They grew up with the club, grew up following every Real Madrid match, and have dreamed of playing with the white shirt in the Santiago Bernabéu. Every Champions League winning side has had an integral part of the squad be made up of players from the youth academy. The team chemistry and balance is not just made up of the core players. Stability is a reoccurring theme; the faith that has been shown in them and the chemistry those players have between each other and the club transcends onto the field and more often than not, results in success.

And then there is Zidane. Florentino has groomed Zidane for the Real Madrid coaching position. Few, if any, know the club like Zidane as so few have held the various roles within the club that Zidane has managed. Signed by Florentino in 2001, Zinedine Zidane is a man who has written multiple chapters within the club's history. The Frenchman was one of the best players to ever don the white shirt and one of the few legends to retire while still playing for Los Blancos, not even a feat Casillas or Raúl managed. His various roles for over 16 years with the club include being a player, advisor to the president, sporting/technical advisor, assistant manager, manager of Real Madrid Castilla, and now the first team manager. It is not luck nor should there be surprise to the success that Zizou is having as a coach. He has been with the club consistently for over a decade. He knows what is required at the club and how to handle virtually any situation.

Florentino Pérez, Zidane, the core veteran players – Ramos, Marcelo, Pepe, Ronaldo, Benzema, and the Canteranos — have formed the backbone to the success and current success of the last five to six years. Football will evolve and policies will change, as evidenced by Madrid’s latest transfer policy of signing the best young talents in the world. Real Madrid are preparing for the next generation. A generation to be led by Asensio (21), Kovačić (22), Vallejo (20), Llorente (22), Mayoral (20), Odeegard (18), Vinícius Júnior (16) and may include targets like Mbappe (18) or Dybala (23). All these young talents may not make the grade at Madrid, but the core that are good enough should be given time and faith like their predecessors in order to ensure stability and success for future years.

Too often the club, managers, players, and especially Florentino are quick to be blamed. The current club model and squad deserves recognition. Real Madrid may not always be at the top of the rich list as they compete with the new-found riches of the EPL and the Chinese Super League, but by investing in these young players and laying the ground work for the next crop of stars, they ensure that further domestic, European, and global success will be within grasp. It is stability and gradual transitions, what was once the club’s and the President’s greatest weakness, is now the key to their success.

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