The Rise and Fall of Real Madrid’s Galacticos Era

Real Madrid’s Galacticos era refers to a period in the early 2000s. It was defined by extravagant spending on high profile players to raise commercial revenue.

There are two angles that this era can be looked at with. The successes can be praised as Florentino Perez was heavily responsible for transforming the club into a global brand. However, Perez was equally responsible for the mismanagement of the players and staff as he failed to help build a balanced team.

Perez motives for Real Madrid’s transformation

After winning the Champions League twice in the last three years, Former president Sans went into the 2000 elections brimming with confidence. However, there were two persistent problems at the club. Firstly, Madrid racked up accumulated debt of €278 million. And secondly, Los Blancos were struggling to attract fans to home games with many games not being able to sell out.

For these two reasons, Perez wanted to come in and reverse their financial situation. Chances were still slim due to the clubs recent dominance in Europe. This is where Florentino made the historic promise that if he wins presidency he’ll sign Figo. And if he doesn’t he’ll pay for the home tickets for all Madrid fans.

2000-2001 season

After Perez won presidency, he wanted to replicate the glory of the 50s by bringing all the biggest football stars to the club. He started his dynasty by following through on his promise of bringing in Luis Figo along with Claude Makélélé. Perez strongly believed bringing the best European players would make Real Madrid a highly profitable business.

Madrid’s season started well. And despite being winless against Barcelona they were still favourites to win the title thanks to top scorer Raul. The spaniard netted 24 goals in 36 appearances. On top of that, his compatriot, Guti, had his best goal scoring season.

Despite winning the league, they were knocked out of Europe by Bayern Munich. On the bright side, the sale of their old training ground saw them earn €446.7 million which earned all their debt.

Luis Figo becomes Real Madrid's first star signing of the Galacticos era

2001-2002 season

The following season, Perez used the excess funds to sign French icon Zinedine Zidane. At this point he wanted to sign the best players in the world to surpass Manchester United in terms of commercial revenue. Los Blancos aimed to win the treble this season to celebrate 100 years of the club. Manager at the time Vicente del Bosque had a problem. He didn’t know where Zidane would fit into the line up as they didn’t operate with an attacking midfielder. Not only that but del Bosque was in need of defensive players.

Zidane suffered from a lot of criticism after he started the season poorly. Real Madrid managed four consecutive wins in the Champions League without the Frenchman. However, Zidane quickly bounced back showcasing his ability throughout the following games. After Vicente del Bosque eventually found the right line up, Madrid saw themselves sitting top of the league in January.

Copa del Rey final

Los Blancos were able to book themselves a place in the Copa del Rey final facing off against Real Zaragoza. The final was to be played in the Santiago Bernabeu. All the stars were alligning for Real Madrid to bring this trophy home and celebrate their 100 year anniversary with silverware. However, Real Zaragoza did not let that happen as they beat Madrid 2-1.

Their poor performances would carry on as they lost three out of five league games to hand over the title to Valencia.

Champions league final

With their treble ambitions destroyed, Madrid had one last chance to right their wrongs. This was by winning the Champions League final. They faced Bayer Leverkusen who were in similar domestic form to them as they lost both the Bundesliga title and the DFB Pokal.

Raul opened the scoring with Leverkusen equalising shortly after. The game would be decided by summer signing Zidane who wrote his name in the history books with a special goal. Following the injury of their goalkeeper Cesar, Iker Casillas would come in and make a name for himself as he made numerous important saves. In the end Real Madrid managed to secure their 9th Champions League title.

2002-2003 season

After an underwhelming season, Del Bosque was begging for new defenders. There were also locker room issues entered around Claude Makélélé. The Frenchman was regarded by Zidane as ‘the most important player on the pitch.’ And Makélélé felt this wasn’t reflected in his contract.

Madrid’s salary policy

The salary policy at the club worked like this: Buy stars and pay them high salaries as they have the ability to repay that high salary through commercial revenues. Pay youth products low salaries to balance out the team. The problem this created was that there was a middle class of players who don’t get the attention and respect they deserved.

The addition of another star

Instead of buying defenders to balance the team, Perez wanted Ronaldo. He was impressed with the Brazilian throughout the 2002 World Cup.

After missing the first three games the expectations of Ronaldo were through the roof. In his forth game, he was able to silence the critics by scoring two goals coming on from the bench. But in reality madrid still struggled. Ronaldo wasn’t able to replicate his World Cup form as he scored 1 goal in his next 6 matches.

Ronaldo scoring on his debut for Real Madrid. Madrid's

After coming back from their trip to Tokyo ,where they won the intercontinental cup, Madrid were back on track in the league, only losing a single game in 22 matches. Ronaldo was back to his best as he scored an iconic hat trick at Old Trafford which helped advance Los Blancos into the Champions League semi final. However, they would fall short in Europe being knocked out of the ucl semi final by Juventus.

Criticism on the manager and the captain, Fernando Hierro, piled up. Fans believed that Hierro’s age was starting to show questioning his athleticism and over all ability to lead the defence. Madrid were in danger of finishing the season without a trophy after crashing out of the Copa del Rey to Mallorca 4-0. A game in which Real Madrid loanee Samuel Eto’o starred in.

Tension grows in Madrid’s camp

The final league game of the season became a must win for Los Blancos in order to secure the title. Before this pivotal game, David Beckham signed for the club which made the players and manager very upset. Despite this news, Madrid still managed to win the final game of the season 3-1 versus Bilbao.

Players celebrating Real Madrid's celebrating 29th La Liga title

Following the news, the after party was very tense. There were many arguments initiated by Hierro and Raul with management about the rumours that they would not be extending Del Bosque’s contract. The following day, Del Bosque was sacked and club legend Hierro was not offered a new contract.

2003-2004 season

After all the speculation at the back end of the previous season, Beckham was introduced as the newest Galactico. This transfer proved that Perez’ intentions were purely driven by commercial incentives. Although Beckham was a special player with unique qualities he and Luis Figo played the same position. This lead to Figo being considered surplus to Madrid’s needs.

On top of this, it became even more apparent that Perez was mainly driven by financial ambitions. The president sold one of the most important players in the squad in Claude Makélélé. The final nail in the coffin was the fact that they didn’t sign adequate defensive reinforcements for the second season in a row.

Despite all of the off the field drama, Madrid stsrted the season well. They secured their first league win at the Camp Nou since 1983. Distancing themselves by 13 points from their rivals. Los Blancos entered the second half of the season top of the table by 8 points. But bad times were on the horizon. Real Madrid lost the Copa del Rey final against Real Zaragoza after extra time.

On top of this, Madrid suffered a shock exit against Monaco in the Champions League quarter final. The final nail in the coffin came in their last 5 games as Los Blancos lost all their remaining matches finishing the season in 4th. One of defeats was a loss to Barcelona who finished 2nd. This result signalled the beginning of a new era and the demise of another..

Real Madrid's defeat in the UCL Quarters vs Monaco.

2004-2005 season

Florentino Perez won the presidential elections again and promised to bring in more reinforcements. Real Madrid sold rising star Samuel Eto’o to Barcelona and replaced him with Michael Owen.

The club also appointed Antonio Camacho as manager but his tenure would be short. After losing to espanyol in only the 3rd league game, he resigned stating that his work is not being reflected in the team and he can’t get the most out of the team.

Since the times of Del Bosque there were many hints from Perez: if you don’t play the high profile stars on the field, you’ll face big problems with the president. For this reason, managers were sacked and didn’t get on well with Perez.

Los blancos brought in Luxemburgo who led Madrid on a seven game winning streak. However, Los Blancos exited the Champions League and the Copa del Rey very early. To make matters even worse, there were rumours that Luis Figo’s time at Madrid was over as he didn’t feature in the last seven league games of the season.

Madrid ended another season without a title and in 2nd place behind Barcelona.

2005-2006 season

Figo didn’t participate in any match during Madrids pre-season. After five years at the club, he officially left at the beginning of August signing for Inter Milan. This season Madrid didn’t bring in a superstar but rising stars such as Robinho and Sergio Ramos. And after a decent season Owen went back to England.

Madrid’s disappointing form in club competitions continued. They were knocked out of Copa del Rey and the Champions League by Arsenal.

The demise of Real Madrid’s Galacticos

Ronaldo’s frustration got the best of him as he criticised his own fans saying the Bernabeu never showed him any love since he had arrived at the club. Captain Raul clapped back saying that the Brazilian international was being selfish and thought more about himself than the team.

After yet another loss to Mallorca, which extended the gap from league leaders and rivals Barcelona to 10 points, some shocking news was revealed. Perez had resigned from his position and in the press conference he was quoted saying that he may have ‘spoiled the players too much.’ After the resignation the manager Carlos stated that he would now use players of his choice and not just names.

After scoring his 100th goal of his Madrid career Ronaldo ended the season injured. On top of this, star man Zidane announced that he would retire after the 2006 World Cup and managed to score in his last appearance at the Bernabeu. This was a bitter sweet ending as Los Blancos ended another season without a title.

Zidane gets emotional after his final game at the Bernabeu. Real Madrid's

Reflecting on the End of Real Madrid’s Galacticos Era

Although Florentino Perez’ approach for transforming Real Madrid into a commercial powerhouse worked out for him, he ended up doing more harm than good. Employing the biggest names in football came with a lot of problems that he failed to account for. His ignorance also hindered Real Madrid’s chances of building a balanced team that would be capable of dominating for a more sustained period of time.

Evidently, Perez did learn from his mistakes as when he returned in 2009 up until now, Real Madrid have found the perfect balance of acquiring high profile players and maintaining a balanced team who are able to compete year in year out.

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