Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where Are They Now: Galacticos

When Florentino Perez started his first term as Real Madrid's President in 2000, he created a new policy of signing a galactico (superstar), or the best player in the world at the end of every season, no matter how much money it would take.  This policy began the period in Real Madrid’s history known as the Galacticos Era.

Zidane still has hair! ...but why is his shorts so… short?

The principal Galacticos were:

Luis Figo:  retired on May 2009
Zinedine Zidane: retired after the 2006 World Cup
Ronaldo:  recently retired (February 2011)
David Beckham: playing for Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer

Post Galactico Careers:

Luís Figo: joined Real Madrid in 2000 for £38.7 million from Barcelona FC

Figo left Real Madrid to join Intern Milan on a free transfer on the summer of 2005 when his contract with RM expired.  He stayed with the club until his retirement.  His last game was against Atalanta, and captained the team (at the insistence of then skipper, Javier Zanetti).  He received a standing ovation from the crowd as he was substituted in the match.

Still a fixture in the football world, Figo was briefly a joint seat holder for A1 Team Portugal and in A1 Grand Prix (in the 2005–06 season).  He was on the sidelines when Inter Milan won the Champions League on May 2010.  He is Inter Milan’s ambassador for functions across Europe and a board member of the club’s charity project, Inter Campus.

He now owns an upscale bar in the Algarve region of Portugal and an ambassador for the Stop TB Partnership in the fight against tuberculosis

Zinedine Zidane: joined Real Madrid in 2001 for £46 million from Juventus FC

Zidane ended his career with Real Madrid, after the 2006 World Cup.  Since his retirement, Zidane regularly plays for the Real Madrid Veterans team and made several futsal appearances.

He became an Advisor to Florentino Perez in his 2nd term as Real Madrid President in 2009.  Zidane is one of the key decision makers on the sporting side of the club.

On September 2010, he was appointed to be Qatar's ambassador for their bid to host the 2022 World Cup.  By November, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho appealed to Zidane to work with the first team, so he was appointed as a special adviser where he is expected to participate in Champions League events and functions. He would also to travel with the first team on a regular basis and participate in pre-match gatherings, training sessions and meetings with the head coach.

Ronaldo: joined Real Madrid in 2002 for £30 million from Inter Milan

Ronaldo transferred to AC Milan on the early part of January 2007, forcing him to pay for the remaining period on his contract with Real Madrid as the club did not want to release him.  Due to recurring injury problems and weight issues, Ronaldo rarely played on matches and was only with the club for one season.  On February 2008, he suffered a severe knee injury, rupturing his kneecap and had to be taken directly to the hospital.  His contract with the club was not renewed after the season ended.

After recovering from his knee surgery, he trained with Flamengo prompting fans to speculate that he would sign with the club as he had publicly declared himself a Flamengo lover and had promised to defend the club.  However, by end of 2009, he unexpectedly signed a one year deal with Flamengo’s league rival, Corinthians.  He extended his contract with the club for another year and said he would then retire.  After their club was eliminated from the 2011 Copa Libertadores, Ronaldo officially announced his retirement from football in a very emotional press con.  He admitted that the injuries he sustained throughout his career have finally caught up with him.

Since 2005, Ronaldo has been the co-owner of A1 Team Brazil.

David Beckham: joined Real Madrid in 2003 for £25 million from Manchester United

Early 2007, Beckham’s contract with RM was not renewed.  He then signed with the Los Angeles Galaxies for a 5-year contract (for me, this does not bode well for him as European players usually transfer to MLS when their career has passed its peak… remember Thiery Henry, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthaus? even Pele went the MLS route).  Since his signing, he was loaned to AC Milan for two seasons. 

He missed the latest World Cup due to suffering from a torn Achilles tendon and instead worked as a mediator between management and the national squad becoming a member of the coaching staff for the England national football team.

During the early part of this year, he trained with Tottenham Hotspurs and there was talk that there might be another club loan for Beckham.

Other RM players who were also considered galacticos even though they were already with the team when Perez became president are:

Raul (product of RM Youth Team): left the club on July 2010 and now plays for Schalke 04
Iker Casillas (product of RM Youth Team): still plays for Real Madrid on a lifetime contract
Roberto Carlos: left RM on March 2007, played for Fenerbahce for two years.  In 2010 he signed with Corinthians, playing alongside Ronaldo.  Days before Ronaldo announced retirement, Roberto Carlos signed with FC Anzhi Makhachkala of the Russian Premiere League

The Galacticos era initially began as a success with the club winning the 2001 and 2003 Champions League.  But it after signing the last galactico (I guess I was right in thinking when they signed Beckham that he would be the ruin of RM, haha!) had started the trophy draught for the club, failing to progress in European football or attain domestic success.  To this day, it has yet to go beyond the Round of 16 stage of the Champions League.

Click here and here to for an interesting read on the downfall (too many egos, loosing one of the best defensive players, sacking of Del Bosque, releasing great players because they were “not pretty enough”) of Florentino’s ostentatious plan to showcase the world’s greatest players in one formidable Dream Team. 

Even though the Galactico Policy did not make Real Madrid the champions in their league and in Europe, one thing you can credit it for is making the club one of the richest in the world.  Maybe Perez is a shrewd businessman but I guess a shrewd businessman does not make a winning team.

With his second term as Real Madrid President, Perez seems to be making another batch of galacticos with Ozil, Kaka, Cronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema.  Will they learn their lesson this time and balance the team with the right amount of offense and defense?

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