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Real Madrid should be thinking ahead to pre-season

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Once this latest round of international matches are over Real Madrid’s players will be able to enjoy a well-deserved break.

Previews - UEFA Champions League Final Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images

Having got the latest round of World Cup qualifiers out of the way, most of the team will be able to unwind at last and enjoy a few weeks away from the club before meeting up again on July 10th; but once again a fair proportion of the forthcoming pre-season time will be spent away from Madrid.

Another commitment to a USA trip will this time involve matches in late July and early August against Manchester United, Manchester City, Barça and an MLS select.

The game against Barça in Miami will be long before the two-legged affair for the Spanish Super Cup is due in the week leading up to the new season; and means the two clubs will have faced each other three times before the season proper has even started.

After USA trip is over, Real will have a few days in Madrid before facing Manchester United once again in Skopje for the UEFA Super Cup; meaning a return to Macedonia for Real’s international contingent who turned out for Spain there on Sunday night.

These occasions always provide good opportunities for Real Madrid followers outside of Spain to see the team in live action; but as always these matches don’t sit too well with the home support; the majority of whom were denied the chance to be at the Champions League final thanks to UEFA’s ticketing policy.

It’s become a regular part of the club calendar to undertake these commercially-based trips in pre-season. Although the venue for the UEFA Super Cup match is out of both clubs’ control; Manchester United themselves are commercially proactive when it comes to touring overseas.

The concept of playing attractive fixtures in different continents isn’t a new one but it’s certainly becoming more and more common.

This usually brings a mixed reaction from the players and it’s not always based on the destination alone. Some players will look forward these trips more than others – particularly the younger ones hoping to become more involved at first-team level.

Often, though, for the older and more seasoned travellers who are regularly away on international duties one hotel room can be pretty much the same as another.

There comes a time when all the different hotels roll into one and after training has finished for the day, players can be at a loose end. The challenge then is often to keep them occupied constructively which is why the choice of venues can be so important.

The hosts usually go out of their way to make sure everyone is welcome and extend their hospitality accordingly. Most hotels will arrange tourist activities which often involve getting the players and staff out to meet the local supporters. For many fans in different countries, this can be a once in lifetime opportunity to meet the players in the flesh.

With Real Madrid being such a ‘global brand’ this part of the game has taken on a whole lot more importance in recent years; and in the age of the internet and accessibility to televised matches the world over, it’s hardly surprising that the clubs are taking advantage of this.

I don’t think Florentino Perez would be too happy if the marketing people weren’t maximising each and every commercial opportunity. However, the down side for clubs like Real Madrid is in deciding how far to go with this; and that’s not only in terms of air miles either.

As far as the clubs are concerned these fixtures have become a necessary part of their commercial enterprises; but like everything else it’s all about striking the right balance between getting it right on the playing side while promoting the club in other ways.

We all know that jetting to the other side of the world to play an often-meaningless friendly in the middle of the season can be counter-productive but each event has to viewed in its own right before any decisions are made.

The trip to the USA last season was arranged with the full approval of Zinedine Zidane and he obviously felt that it was the right thing to do at the time.

It’s great when the coaching and management side of the club are involved in the decision-making process for these trips because there’s nothing worse than being told you’re going anyway and that’s the end of it.

Real are fortunate in that the club are able to make the decisions regarding which invitations they accept and to which countries they will go.

Other clubs are not so lucky and often it’s a question of having to take what’s on offer if the financial package is right and if that means going to play somewhere in pre-season that might be less appealing on paper than some of the more attractive destinations then so be it.

Whether we like it or not, the situation is unlikely to change in the future. Overseas tours and pre-season tournaments have become the normal; and not just for the big clubs either.

The only difference lies in the frequency of these and it’s now generally accepted that at some point in the future Real Madrid will be coming soon to ‘a venue near you’.

It’s fair to say that the days of the summer break as we used to know it have long gone.

Not that there was ever much of a break anyway; but in a global market, maximising the available opportunities fits in well with today’s pre-season schedules.