a spanish shopping spree

i won’t lie… i’ve been doing my damndest to hold my tongue and keep from gloating so far this summer. i don’t want to be the spoiled kid bragging to his guests at his own birthday party about all of the sweet presents he just got. but it’s so freaking hard. how am i supposed to keep quiet and hold my excitement? i mean have you seen these signings yet? have you?!?!

of course you have.

i’m talking about the summer spending spree at el santiago bernabéu. freshly installed to his second term as president of real madrid, florentino perez has started rebuilding another team of superstars. and while the last galactico’s era bred mixed results (i’ll get into this shortly), it’s hard not to get excited as a fan of los merengues with what has happened so far this summer.

for those of you familiar with real madrid, perez’s last stint in charge was a mixed bag. he pledged to bring in superstar players and produce on-field success. there is no doubt he brought in the superstars, with a collection of players joining each

performance on the field... meh
performance on the field... meh performance at the bank... OMG sweet

summer that looked more like a shortlist for fifa world player of the year instead of an actual roster. dubbed los galácticos by the spanish press, perez recruited an amazing array of talent: luís figo (2000), zinedine zidane (2001),  [the original] ronaldo (2002), david beckham (2003) and michael owen (2004).

though initially succesful on the pitch, with two league titles and a champions league title by 2003, a long trophy drought immediately followed. it was hard to get any cohesive, team chemistry. the eventual mixing of playing styles wasn’t exactly a good fit for the team. that said, however unsuccessful the galácticos project might have ended on the field, it was still an unprecedented financial success. picking new signings for their marketing power instead of team needs has it’s benefits. the club reaped hundreds of millions of dollars from preseason tours, advertising, and shirt sales.

as for the fans of real madrid, while it was great to have such fantastic names in the squad and tons of money in the team vault, we would have much rather had more trophies in the cabinet. so you can imagine my skepticism when florentino was voted back into office. he arrived talking big game about bringing big names back to the bernabéu. again, he spoke predominantly of offensive names.

but in less than a month and a half, it’s freaking incredible what flo-pe has miraculously pulled off. so far, he’s spent a reported

first came kaká. he’s an all around fantastic player, someone i’ve always thought to be more of a complete player than ronaldo. not near as flashy, but plays the game brilliantly simple. i think he fits madrid’s needs better than ronaldo; we’ve lacked someone who can direct the game since zidane retired. and after milan turned down city’s £103 million bid in january, i didn’t think there was any chance we could pull this off this summer… especially for “only” £56 million. so when it was first announced that we had pulled it off, i was thrilled.

i also thought that effectively meant there was no way we were getting ronaldo.

new galacticos
the new galacticos... will they fare better than the last?

of course i was astounded when i found out we somehow pulled it off. is he worth £80 million? cristiano certainly thinks so, and that’s potentially all that matters. i’m still freaking stoked. two of the five best attacking players in the world signed within days, playing for my favorite team. will their styles mesh? i don’t know… but the thought is tantalizing.

oh yeah. i haven’t even mentioned the other two signings yet. in a normal summer, madrid landing both valencia’s raul albiol and karim benzema would be a highly succesful summer. this summer, they’re just a foot note.

but i really like the albiol signing: he is a proven top level defender in la liga and will surely help to sure up the porous defense. he can also play in a several different positions (dm, lb, cb, rb), making him a bit more versatile than some of other defenders.  initially, i had my fears that madrid would splash all of this money around and not buy a single solid defender with any of it. this move tells me that at least someone in the high offices is at least trying to think for a change.

benzema is not only one of the hottest up and coming strikers in europe, but he was also one of manchester united’s top two targets. so there’s a double win there.  his £36 million move is bit more of a gamble, as he is a bit more of a raw talent at just 21, especially when he talks like this.

and what’s the icing on the cake for all of this? how about another stomach punch to jolly old sir alex, as madrid has effectively destroyed manchester’s plan to spend the ronaldo kitty. their other top target, bayern munich’s franck ribery, has said if he leaves he will only leave for real.

obviously all of these arrivals, or potential arrivals, will force a few exits from the ranks. reports are a large portion of the dutch contingent could be heading out the door. i’m ok with that for the most part. i would really like for sneijder, huntelaar and robben (if ribery doesn’t come) to stay. though it’s likely that all three could be gone.

so here’s a potentially juicy line-up i think we could see this year. it seems pretty damn balanced for a change, and dangerously offensive from several different angles. i’d prefer that madrid use a 4-1-2-1-2 line up, with  starters in bold (and back-ups in here):

benzema, higuaín (huntelaar, van nistelrooy, raúl)   
(sneijder, guti)
(drenthe, marcelo), ronaldo (van der vaart, granero)
‘lass (gago / mahamodou diarra)
(heinze), pepe (metzelder, torres), albiol (garay, torres), sergio ramos (salgado)
casillas (dudek)

so sit back and try to digest all of that. i’m still trying to… in between fits of drooling. i really think we can challenge with this line-up. we may end up scoring 4 goals a game, and hopefully only let in two. who knows if ribery will actually come. i’ll stop my bragging now too. at least for a little while. who knows, we may just have history repeating itself.

damn you florentino, i hope i’m not falling for your tricks again. you’ve got me thinking we could be good next year. the emphasis being on “could.”

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