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The folly of Florentino Perez’s association with Real Madrid is probably best summed up by his decision to overlook Claude Makelele’s defensive contribution to his team upon selling him to Chelsea for £16.8 million in 2003.
‘’We will not miss Makélelé” said the Madrid president about the midfielder who became hugely important to Chelsea’s consecutive league wins in 2005 and 2006, “He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten”.
Madrid, who had won La Liga in the summer Makelele departed and the Champions League the season before, had to wait another 4 years for a title as they sorely missed the Frenchman’s influence in favour of marketing ventures and more glamourous players. As Zinedine Zidane infamously pondered ‘’Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?’’
Acknowledging Madrid were in need of a new direction away from the Galactico era, Perez stepped down in 2006 however in 2009 he was back, delivering Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema and Kaka in the summer of his return for a total in excess of £200 million. So restarted the revolving door of the Bernabeu, with then-manager Manuel Pellegrini dismayed by the sales of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben that summer setting the tone for round 2 of the commercial-driven authority of Perez.
In 2013, when the transfer record was broken to sign Gareth Bale from Spurs for £85 million, Mesut Ozil had to be sold to Arsenal, alongside Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol and Jose Callejon to Napoli, for £42 million in order to balance the financial books, something manager Carlo Ancelotti described as a “mistake”.
Nevertheless Ancelotti and Bale delivered La Decima, Madrid’s tenth Champions League, that season but again the Italian would find himself losing an important midfielder in Angel Di Maria, man of the match in the final with Atletico and who created 72 goals in 190 games since his £29 million move from Benfica in 2010.
His £66 million sale to Manchester United would land Real a vast profit and Ancelotti would have to unconvincingly explain his exit last November, though regardless of his struggles in Manchester since his move, it was again Madrid being forced to sell an important asset in favour of the latest fashionable talent at the peak of their marketing value; in this case James Rodriguez, who impressed in last summer’s World Cup for Colombia, and Toni Kroos, who won it with Germany, for a combined £96 million.
To the others who had to follow Di Maria in making way for such extravagant out-lay. Xabi Alonso had also featured heavily in Madrid’s success last season and Josep Guardiola understood his brilliance even if Perez no longer didn’t, taking him to Bayern Munich for just £8 million. Alvaro Morata, a recent product of the Cantera, left for Juventus for £17 million, Madrid negotiating a clause that gave them an option to sign the player back at any-time over the next three years.
Morata though is clear where he sees his future, having broken through into Spain’s senior team in a successful first year in Turin under Massimiliano Allegri. “I’m so happy here that I cannot even contemplate the idea of being in Madrid or at any other club,” he said, “I’m much more appreciated now I’m playing outside of Spain. When somebody packs their bags and leaves, they mature in many different ways.”
Competing with Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez in attack, Morata has been restricted to 8 starts in the league with another 16 appearances coming as a sub. Despite this the Spaniard has 7 Serie A goals, making him joint-second top-scorer with Paul Pogba, with another 4 coming in the Coppa Italia and the Champions League, in which Juventus are in the quarter-finals.
Morata has made a vital contribution to that run, scoring in both legs of the 2nd round elimination of Borussia Dortmund and winning the penalty against Monaco on Tuesday night to leave the Old Lady with a 1-0 lead to take to Monte Carlo for the second leg.
It has been a long-awaited but welcome emergence for Morata who displayed his potential by top-scoring in European Championships at both under-19 and under-21 for his country. After averaging a goal every 2 games for Real Madrid’s Castilla side from 2010 to 2013, his first-team chances were sporadic until Jose Mourinho fielded him 15 times in his final season in charge at the Bernabeu in 2012-13.
Ancelotti would give him 34 appearances, most coming as a substitute, the following season which Morata repaid with 9 goals, though his relationship with the Italian completely broke-down. “I still cannot understand how I went from playing well for Real Madrid to sitting in the stands. I hardly had any kind of relationship with [Ancelotti]” said the striker.
Turning down Arsenal and Wolfsburg to move to Juventus, life in Italy for Morata was initially a struggle with injuries and extreme competition for places curtailing his impact, though he has gradually grown into the team and as a player. With his instinct in front of goal and clever movement being a feature of his play during his time in Madrid, he has visibly added more strength and intelligence on the ball, improving in link-up play and ability to hold it up.
His progression has seen Madrid send scouts to Turin with a summer return, for a fee in the region of £26 million, in mind. Morata has ruled that out and so has his agent Giuseppe Bozzo, who says Madrid were only interested in selling him to the club that offered the most money, in that case Arsenal. “Morata’s very happy at Juve and isn’t thinking of anything else”, says Bozzo.
Over in Naples Callejon is again in double figures with 10 goals after netting 17 in his first term at the San Paolo and his and Morata’s strong showings in Serie A could become appealing to Jese Rodriguez, the latest striker to emerge off the Real Madrid production line and again experience a dearth of first-team opportunities with just 5 starts over 2 years. Though that period has been deeply affected by injuries and he is rated highly by Ancelotti.
Despite that, the Italian has had to explain to his 22 year old striker that the more illustrious strike-force of Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema will start ahead of him. That adherence to Perez’s Galactico policy has cost Madrid Juan Mata, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado amongst others, including now Morata and Callejon, who have left the Spanish capital to hit form elsewhere. Jese may yet follow them and it will be another one lost as Perez will inevitably seek the latest big-money star who can sell shirts across the globe.
Morata is not the first to expose the misguidance of such and he surely won’t be the last.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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