The season of festive spirit is in full swing and so far in football it’s been a season of falling giants. Premier League champions Chelsea are in a relegation battle, Champions League finalists Juventus have had a rocky start and Real Madrid are now five points off Barcelona and Atletico Madrid after a 1-0 defeat to Villarreal. So what’s going wrong for the Galácticos?
Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez has come under fire quite a lot recently and it’s hardly a surprise given how he has been handling the club. He has spent almost £900 million in 12 years as president and his management of important aspects of the club like management and transfers has been very up and down.
His decision to sack Carlo Ancelotti last June was a very unpopular one and the players especially objected massively. Ancelotti had a great relationship with the dressing room and now he has departed the players don’t seem to be playing with the right attitude.
Cristiano Ronaldo told The Associated Press; "I miss Ancelotti a lot. I want to work with him again. He is like a big teddy bear, he is really sensitive and he would speak with us every day. He had great fun with us."
Say what you want about Perez’s policies but they have brought a fair amount of success during his tenure when the correct manager has been in place. Rafa Benitez doesn’t look like the correct manager for Real Madrid and it’s no surprise that after some bad results Benitez has also been in the firing line.
Bringing in Rafa Benitez was another bizarre decision given how different he is to Ancelotti who was praised by Spanish journalists for being able to control the dressing room egos that had been holding back the club’s success.
Benitez on the other hand has a history of falling out with players. Just look at Xavi Alonso, John Terry, Marco Materazzi and others, all of whom were alienated by Benitez and it looks like exactly that is happening at Real Madrid.
The big players aren’t performing in the big games and the team aren’t playing with the right attitude. Madrid have a front three that has the potential to rival Barcelona’s but they don’t play for eachother they play for themselves.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the superstar of the team and that holds back the other players. When Ronaldo doesn’t perform to his full potential like he hasn’t been in the big games recently there isn’t anybody stepping up. Their game against Villareal was an exhibition in wasting chances that their world-class players really should be putting away.
On top of all these issues, Real Madrid somehow managed to top it all off with the Copa del Rey disaster.
Somehow Benitez has also managed to be disqualified from the Copa del Rey for the second time in his managerial career; the first time with Valencia for fielding too many non-EU players and now with Madrid for fielding the ineligible Denis Cheryshev.
The reaction of the club and president has proved the instability behind the scenes as they attempted to blame everyone but themselves for the incident that has put an end to their Copa del Rey campaign.
So what can they do to fix things? Well there’s no short-term solution unfortunately for Galáctico fans. I think Benitez will go before the end of the season if Madrid are knocked out of the Champions League or he will at least go at the end of the season.
This would probably be for the best as the players don’t seem to respect him, (possibly because he never played at the top level and is trying to tell Madrid’s top class players what to do), and it would be very difficult to win back the dressing room.
Florentino Pérez also needs to be replaced. Madrid fans have been chanting ‘Florentino dimision’ (‘Florentino resign’) since the defeat in El Clásico and it’s hard to contest the fact that Pérez is standing in the way of what Real Madrid need most – a philosophy of balance.
Perez is all about the present, buying the players that excite the fans rather than the players that the club needs to progress, sacking managers as soon as they don’t win everything.
The fate of the club depends on what he wants to do when he wakes up each day and that is simply not an effective way of running one of the world’s biggest clubs.
In terms of players I think Ronaldo needs to leave for Real Madrid to get back on track. It sounds harsh but I think he really is holding Madrid back and other players like Gareth Bale would perform far better in his absence.
Rumour has it he will be leaving at the end of the season and I think Real Madrid have a real chance to rebuild in the right way at the end of this season. The right manager and the right players coming in next summer could turn Madrid’s fortunes around.
Before then I think it’s damage limitation, especially with the form of rivals Barcelona, and it remains to be seen how long Benitez and Pérez will last amidst the unrest of the fans.