If Spanish outlet Marca (I’m linking Google News, but only because it’s in English) is to be believed – which isn’t a huge stretch considering it’s basically Real Madrid’s PR department – David Villa will sign for the Madrileños next week.
As the list above hopefully suggests (which, as you’re probably aware, are the fees for Kaka, Ronaldo, and Villa – about £170m spent and we’re not even midway through June), I’m not writing to lament that Villa’s not signing for Liverpool. As marvelous as he is, I’ve written that Liverpool should stick to the 4-2-3-1 more than enough. I’m just stunned by Real’s spending spree, and that’s bearing in mind we knew Perez would return to his Galácticos roots.
Maybe it’s just Liverpool and Setanta that are struggling financially. I mean, we’ve already seen City pay £12m for Gareth Barry in the final year of his contract and strongly linked with a £25m Carlos Tevez (Really? From United to City?), among countless others.
It didn’t take long for United move for Luis Antonio Valencia as Ronaldo’s replacement, at least positionally. Whether they buy the bigger names mooted – like Ribery or Benzema – depends on whether the indebted Glazer family will release any more of that £80m. Nani looks likely to be sold as well, so there should be further holes. But the mountain of stories (e.g. this one) about how Fergie will definitely get the money, and the proceeds unquestionably, honestly, for sure won’t be withheld to pay off the £650m debt makes me skeptical of those stories’ veracity.
Ferguson’s been clever in the transfer market before, and is never afraid to cut ties when he feels it’s time: Stam, Beckham, Roy Keane, van Nistelrooy, etc, etc. But I’m not sure how much of this is of Fergie’s accord – like those aforementioned deals were – or player power. United pretty much admitted Ronaldo wanted out in their statement (I’d rather not link to that lot’s website), although, of course, that could just be shifting the blame. If former Real president Ramon Calderon and the papers are to be believed, this deal’s basically been done for months now. Evidently Slur Alex would sell that mob a virus.
But back to Real Madrid. This article – from Foreign Policy of all places – is fairly illuminating, as is this one from 2001, which reminds how Madrid’s city council basically subsidized Real to the tune of over £200m. Which, naturally, occurred under Perez’s first tenure, and partly paid for the first Galácticos project.
On paper, Real Madrid is absolutely frightening. Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Diarra (Mahamadou a bit more than Lassana), Sneijder, Gago, van der Vaart, Kaka, Robben, Ronaldo, Villa, Higuain, van Nistelrooy, Huntelaar, and Raul. Obviously, sales will be made, but that roster reads like Real should play the dreaded 0-6-4 formation. No matter how many attackers they buy, there are still glaring holes in central midfield and defense.
Which is why Perez is pursuing Xabi Alonso so intently (which we’re still not contemplating, no matter the paper talk), and why Real will probably pilfer Albiol from Valencia, or someone similar (Vidic! Buy Vidic!), as well. I saw the rumors about Arbeloa (not linking, discussing further, or believing because it originally came from that dogshit rag which doesn’t get named on this site), but that makes no sense. Ramos may be a defensive liability, but the right back position is his.
I’ve a hunch – it’s only a hunch, and I’d like to remind of the many times I’ve written that I know little about finance – there are only two teams that’ll be spending silly money this summer: Madrid and City. With mainly Barry and Tevez in the news, City’s been quieter than expected, but the £120m offer for Kaka in January couldn’t have been an aberration. Hopefully, that Kaka turned it down and went to Madrid for less than half that fee six months later demonstrates City’s true transfer muscle.
But, in contrast to United’s promises, Milan probably won’t be spending their profit. Kaka’s quote said absolutely everything about the situation for most clubs: “I wanted to stay on at Milan, but the global economic crisis has affected many clubs, especially those like Milan that run as a business. I spoke with the directors and we agreed that the transfer would be in everybody’s interests at this moment in time.”
The divide between the Haves and the Have-Nots is growing, and there are going to be fewer and fewer Haves. This is why it’s such a crucial time for Liverpool, and why Hicks and Gillett are so dangerous. The sword of Damocles really is hanging over the club. And yes, I write that fully aware that I cautioned against believing the media’s dire predictions about Liverpool’s debt only eight days ago.
It goes without saying that Real will be a better team next year. With those additions, they have to be, even if there are bound to be problems bedding in all those stars. La Liga will assuredly be more competitive than it was last season; a two-team race is better than one. But the Galáticos project wasn’t a panacea last time around, and the only place Real will be unbeatable is on FIFA 2010.
Nevertheless – and despite how much I loathe that winking, sashaying, diving prat of a man – I still think Ronaldo is a phenomenal footballer, up there with Messi as the most creative force of this generation. And his sale will make United less potent no matter who they replace him with. Which can only be a good thing for the rest of the Premier League.