Football’s world biggest spenders were roundly criticised in the summer for splashing out over €250 million to completely rebuild the squad as Florentino Perez returned to power at Real Madrid.
There was a lot of pomp and circumstance and media hoopla accompanying the mega-money arrivals, from the record breaking attendance at the Santiago Bernabeu for Cristiano Ronaldo’s unveiling, to the press scrutinising whether the club made the right decisions to buy and subsequently sell certain players.
While the condemnation flew in from all angles, the Madrid faithful waited patiently for their new generation of superstars to strut their stuff on the pitch and prove the critics wrong. Now comes that time to assess the Galacticos.
IN: Ezequiel Garay (Racing Santander – loan return), Alvaro Arbeloa (Liverpool), Kaka (AC Milan), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Raul Albiol (Valencia), Alvaro Negredo (Almeria), Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), Karim Benzema (Lyon), Estaban Granero (Getafe)
OUT: Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Javier Saviola (Benfica), Jordi Codina (Getafe), Javi Garcia (Benfica), Dani Parejo (Getafe), Gabriel Heinze (Marseille), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan), Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla), Wesley Sneijder (Inter), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Miguel Torres (Getafe), Michel Salgado (Blackburn Rovers), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Hamburg)
Cristiano Ronaldo: A
He hasn’t quite recaptured the dazzling World Player of the Year form with Manchester United, but it’s hard to argue with a player who is currently (at time of writing) the team’s joint leading goalscorer with 24 goals in all club competitions: 17 in La Liga and 7 in the Champions League.
Plaudit also has to be given for his quick adaptability not just to the Spanish game, but into a team filled with new faces, and one that was lacking in stability and confidence at the start of the campaign. Not only that, he showed no signs of the immense pressure weight down on him by his mammoth €94 million transfer fee which effectively made him the world’s most expensive footballer.
One thing that he has brought over to the Santiago Bernabeu from Old Trafford is his trademark freekicks where he remains as lethal and precise as ever.
Alvaro Arbeloa: A-
Arbeloa was initially seen as nothing more than a reliable back-up in defence, thanks to his versatility. But with Marcelo struggling at left-back and Manuel Pellegrini forced to constantly modify his backline, Arbeloa has taken his first team opportunity with both hands.
He may not be the flashiest of full-backs but he has been incredibly reliable. When he features on the right, he has shown his confidence in marauding forward to help the attack. While all the focus has been on the team’s offensive prowess, Arbeloa has quietly been one of the team’s unsung heroes so far this term.
Raul Albiol: B+
Of all the new arrivals, Albiol has perhaps flown quietly under the radar the most. The former Valencia defender has made a smooth transition to Madrid. He has always been there for the team’s defence and although he has not had a mind-blowing, man-of-the-match performance yet, he has made practically no glaring errors, something that has always plagued Madrid’s new defensive recruits. With Pepe’s long term absence, Albiol has now assumed the role as the defensive pillar. Los Blancos may finally have found their rock at the back.
Xabi Alonso: B+
The deep-lying playmaker is now slowly rediscovering his best form after a shaky start where he struggled to impose himself. So vital is his presence and influence in the Madrid midfield that his absence against Lyon in the second leg of the Champions League last 16 was pin-pointed as one of the reasons Los Blancos crashed out of the competition.
Florentino Perez has been a long time admirer and he was already coveting Xabi during his first stint as the ‘White House’ president. And although Perez had to pay about €10 million more than he would have needed to had he signed his man five years ago, there can be no complains about the investment made, and the extra bit of cash needed to lure him away from Liverpool has been thoroughly justified.
It’s shocking just how much criticism has been levelled at the Brazilian. It could be because of his €66 million transfer fee, or the fact that everyone was expecting him to dazzle straight away just like he had at Milan.
His performances may not be Ballon d’Or material and his consistency may not be there, due largely to his sports hernia problem, but his stats tell a different story. He is the Merengues’ main assist man with seven in total in and the team’s joint-third leading scorer at present with eight goals... not bad for a midfielder. Improving on his fitness and his reliability will now be priority for ‘Ricky’ and if can put this testing and challenging first year behind him, there’s no reason why he won’t return to World Player of the Year standard.
Ezequiel Garay: B
The Argentine has filled in admirably at centre-back for the injured Pepe so far. He has also been doing well in going forward especially in set-pieces to help out in attack, but in defence, he has shown some degree of uncertainty at times. The Madrid rearguard is a notoriously difficult, if not impossible, position to fill, but Garay has proven that he has what it takes to cut it. Kudos must also be given to the Blancos hierarchy for deciding to hang on to an unheralded player who was initially purchased during the Ramon Calderon era.
Esteban Granero: B-
Much was expected of the young midfielder after he had a barnstorming pre-season campaign. But he struggled to break into the first team when the competitive games started to roll in and it wasn’t until recently that he began to see more playing time. Injuries to a number of key figures have allowed ‘El Pirata’ a chance to get more minutes under his belt and although he has not been particularly spectacular, he has been a consistent performer.
Karim Benzema: D
The Frenchman took a while to adapt to La Liga and the language barrier proved to be his main obstacle at the start of the season when it was plain to see that he lacked communication and understanding with his fellow attackers on the pitch.
Credit to him, he has gradually improved and after being pushed out wide left by coach Manuel Pellegrini, he has started to look more comfortable in his position. A recent long spell on the sidelines hasn’t helped his cause but with eight goals in total in all competitions, it’s a decent return, albeit slightly disappointing for a €35 million striker.
Alvaro Negredo: D
It’s difficult to be too overly critical on Negredo as he did not play a single competitive game with Madrid. But based on his pre-season form, where he made a handful of appearances, he only managed to score once and looked disappointing overall. And it may very well have been that form that led Madrid to off-load him before the campaign-proper started.
FINAL GRADE: B
Despite all the disparaging remarks and bad reviews of the players and the team under-performing in the Champions League, Madrid have not done bad business at all in the transfer market when one takes a broader look at the entire campaign.
The new recruits have performed better than expected in general, considering just how much of a revolution the entire club had to go through in the summer. And none of the purchases made, no matter how big or small, have gone to waste on the bench.
They may not deliver the treble or even the double this season, but contrary to popular belief, the amount of money spent on the squad is not a quick fix. It is an investment and as all investments go, it will take some time before the rewards can be reaped.
Become a fan of Goal.com International on Facebook! Just click onto Facebook.com/Goal to join the beautiful game's leading fan community...