Real Madrid spent the entirety of the 2008-09 season in Barcelona’s shadow. Not only did Los Merengues have to endure a shambolic mess in the boardroom, they had to put up with the unprecedented treble success of eternal enemies Barcelona.
But ironically, it is the glorious Catalan triumph that has spurred the ‘White House’ to undergo an unparalleled revolution as they look to ensure that they will never have to suffer such ignominy ever again. And the place to start was, of course, the shopping window.
President Florentino Perez transformed football transfers when he took control of
Never has a club been so audacious, ambitious and extravagant in rebuilding a squad in one single summer. And never has a club spent over €250 million in a space of just two months, an average of €30 million a week. Fans and readers need no reminder how much Senor Perez splashed out to acquire Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. But for Madridistas, how much was spent is irrelevant. It’s the fact that the construction tycoon delivered what he had promised… and then some.
However, the market is not all about buying, and unlike most other clubs, it is selling off their players that has been the major issue this summer. Fringe players such as Javi Garcia, Javier Saviola, Alvaro Negredo and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar have already left, as have veterans Michel Salgado, Fabio Cannavaro and Gabriel Heinze, but the club are still scrambling desperately to off-load either Rafael van der Vaart or Wesley Sneijder to boost their transfer income closer to the €60m mark.
Fantastic Four | Madrid's galactic signings
Competition for places will be fierce, but that will elevate the standard and the quality. Bar a select few, almost everyone will have to prove themselves to the new coach and directors. But one man who shouldn’t have any problems is Iker Casillas.
The goalkeeping 'Saint' will be helped by fellow Spanish internationals, Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol in front of him, while the Portuguese-speaking duo of Pepe and Marcelo should complete the back line, leaving new signing Alvaro Arbeloa to act as cover on either flank when necessary.
From midfield onwards is where the headaches begin. Lassana Diarra and Xabi Alonso are almost certain to be permanent fixtures at the centre of the park, as the double pivot is a necessity. The two most expensive players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, will be entrusted with the task of bringing the sexy back into Madrid’s football, and expect them to roam all over the pitch, switching and swapping positions. This means that the likes of Arjen Robben, Fernando Gago, Wesley Sneijder (if he stays), Guti and Esteban Granero will have to scrap for playing time.
In attack, the emblematic Raul, impressive for most of the pre-season, could be dropped from a regular starting berth, although the captain has always risen to the challenge to prove his worth. If omitted for tactical reasons, Karim Benzema will be the favourite to spearhead the front line, but the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Ruud van Nistelrooy will be ready to pounce should the Frenchman take too long to find his stride.
Pick your poison: Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema, Xabi Alonso, as well as the established figures like Raul, ‘Pipita’ and Iker Casillas.
In a squad full of galactic superstars, it’s hard to pin-point one particular name who will likely emerge as the hero, but if there’s one man that the team will rely on heavily, it is Kaka. The Brazilian will be expected to pull the strings in midfield and lead the attacking charge with the same kind of panache that Zinedine Zidane exhibited. Not only that, ‘Ricky’ will be required to contribute occasionally on the scoresheet. Anyone fancy him netting an out-of-this-world volley in this season’s Champions League final?
Delicious | Will Kaka leave fans licking their lips?
One To Watch
If Kaka is the star player, then Cristiano Ronaldo is certainly the one to watch, for good or for bad. Fans, media, his peers and especially his detractors will cast their full attention on ‘CR9’ from the opening whistle in the very first league match of the term. The fact that he has, by his own admission, performed poorly in the pre-season will make the spotlight on him shine even hotter, and you just have the feeling that €94 million worth of knives will be out if he fails to find his gears soon.
Star Gazing | The eyes of the world will be on CR9
Some would say that Manuel Pellegrini has just walked into a dream job after being offered with a fantasy football squad gift-wrapped with a ribbon. Others, however, would say that he will have the biggest headache a football coach has ever had to endure as he tries to assimilate his ideas and philosophies with a squadron of new players and superegos. And don’t forget the overwhelming pressure.
Like most of the megastars, the first few league games will be critical for ‘El Ingeniero’. The
The Engineer | The mastermind to Madrid's revival?
The ‘Casa Blanca’ have already advised their ultra-demanding fans not to heighten expectations too greatly so as to allow the team to settle, but in truth the directors will be targeting, at the very least, success in the Champions League, where the final will be played in their own backyard.
In a way, 2010 will be like 2002, their centenary year, when they were expected to march to the treble. They failed then, but this is a chance to make amends.
KS Leong, Goal.com