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Florentino Pérez’s Evolving Transfer Strategies Keep Real Madrid Dominant

Flo always seems to be one-step ahead of the market.

Zinedine Zidane Announced As New Real Madrid Manager Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Football’s transfer window is subject to mixed feelings from fans. While some look forward to seeing exciting new signings, others dread two entire months of drama, and the seemingly never-ending rumours that come with it.

No matter what your opinion of the summer window is, we all know that being able to successfully navigate and manage the transfer market is paramount to a team’s success. In a world where English clubs have all the money in the world, it is becoming increasingly important for massive non-English European clubs to be savvy with their purchases.

Fees that only Madrid would pay 10 years ago are now becoming rather commonplace. Inflation has played the biggest role in this, as the massive amount of money coming into football has made situations like the present inevitable. Luckily for Real Madrid, they have a brilliant business mind in their club’s president: Florentino Pérez. But the Spanish president deserves more credit than just assembling the current project that looks set to dominate football for years. If you go all the way back to his first term as Real Madrid president, Flo’s strategies have always been one step ahead of everyone else on the market.

His first term as Real Madrid president began in the year 2000. Financially, Real Madrid were a mess, and despite 2 Champions League triumphs in 3 seasons, Flo was about to take the club to new heights. Thus began the fabled Galácticos era at Real Madrid. Flo managed to bring in superstar players like Zinedine Zidane, the OG Ronaldo, and David Beckham while stealing Luís Figo from arch-rival Barcelona. These players were bought in their prime, to help build a “win now” type roster.

Many of these players were already around 30 years old, and the future was not of the utmost concern for Pérez. Back then, it was all about dragging Real Madrid out of its financial mess while signing the most marketable players around. Pérez wanted to restore Madrid to the same level of greatness that he witnessed as a child in the 50’s and 60’s.

The first 3 years of this policy were filled with success, as Madrid won 2 out of 3 La Ligas, and yet another UEFA Champions League. But winning was not the only thing that Flo bought when he paid for the Galácticos. The marketing monster that he formed caused Real Madrid to overtake Manchester United as the richest club on planet Earth.

Despite the obvious flaws of the next few seasons that included Makelele’s transfer, and the revolving door of coaches, Flo had made Madrid unquestionably the biggest Football brand in the world, and had laid the groundwork for even more success in the future.

Cristiano Ronaldo Receives the Golden Boot Award
The Crown jewel of Flo’s project
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

It was Florentino’s Pérez’ second term as Real Madrid president where you saw the first evolution in his transfer strategies. The Galácticos in the first term were all older players that were either in their prime or quickly approaching the end of it. Once his second term began this policy shifted to younger players. Pérez brought in guys like Kaka, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso, Modric, Kroos, Bale, and James.

None of these purchases had hit their prime yet, as Flo wanted them to peak at Real Madrid. This strategy maintained the marketing machine that Real Madrid had become but also ensured the longevity that his first term did not.

Forced to compete with a historically great Barcelona side, it took a few years before Madrid experienced the fruits of their labor. Winning the La Liga title with 100 points tallied in 2012 was just the beginning. The 2013 transfer window kicked off a historical run with the purchases of Gareth Bale and Isco. That season saw Real Madrid win La Decima in a thrilling final over cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid.

But then the next 3 years showcased that Flo had yet another trick up his sleeve. After watching Barcelona hoist a treble in 2015, and seeing the English Football League secure a lucrative TV deal, Florentino realized he needed to shift his focus yet again. At the beginning of the short Rafa Benitez era, Flo purchased Danilo, Casemiro, and Marco Asensio, while Lucas Vázquez returned from a promising loan spell.

None of these players’ fees were over 30 million Euros, and yet all four had played significant roles in the clubs’ successes over the past two seasons. This was the beginning of Flo stockpiling young talent and forming a tactically versatile side that was two-deep at every position and could also play many different kinds of football.

Juventus v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final
The fruit of Flo’s labor
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

The following summer saw Alvaro Morata return to the club to spearhead Madrid’s team of reserves. The rest is history, as Madrid won back to back Champions League titles while being able to rotate its “B” team in many La Liga matches. Flo had managed to build an incredibly deep squad with a perfect mixture of veterans and young talent, and this terrifyingly beautiful concoction appears to be just the beginning.

Somehow this summer, the squad is set to get even better. The focus on youth has continued with loaned players returning such as Marcos Llorente and Jesús Vallejo, while young talent is currently being brought in: Dani Ceballos, Vinicius Junior, Theo Hernández, and potentially even Kylian Mbappe.

This new focus on youth is a direct response to the massive influx of TV money into the English Premier League. When players hit 24 and older and enter their prime, their price skyrockets. To combat this and avoid bidding wars, Flo has started buying them even younger than he used to, but at discount prices.

The project is appealing, and players know that. So appealing, that Ceballos rejected at least the role of first midfielder off the bench at Barcelona in order to potentially be 6th or 7th choice at Madrid. One of the brightest talents in Spain, to Madrid, for less than 20 million.

When one looks at how clubs spend money, it must remind them of a Madrid from days past. A 29 year old may soon go for 40 million Euros, while a 24 year old just went for 75. Now that I’ve put that thought in your head consider this: Flo did all of this already. He’s stayed ahead of everyone else in the transfer market for years, and if one goes off what we are seeing now, Flo was possibly even a decade ahead of every other team in the transfer market.

But then again, one step ahead may not be the correct phrase for Pérez because it almost seems as though he is two or three. It’s one thing to have money, but an entirely different thing to know how to use it. Florentino has been ruthless in the transfer market, but not reckless. Everyday he watches English teams overpay, and he’s over in the Spanish Capital buying Dani Ceballos for less than 20 million.

Real Madrid are lucky beyond words to have this man as their president. During a time when money is becoming everything in football, having someone who knows how to deal with your finances becomes critical. Whether it’s the original Galácticos, the Galácticos of his second term, or his new focus on young talent with high potential, Florentins Pérez has shifted his transfer strategies over time in order to be better than everyone else, and it’s hard to argue with his results.

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