The term “Galacticos” became widely known in the early 2000s, but the origins of the term date back to the 1950’s. Santiago Bernabeu, then President of Real Madrid, started a trend of signing superstars. Di Stefano, Puskas, Kopa, Santamaria, and Gento were signed, and an era of Real Madrid Dominance started. Quinta Del Buitre followed in the 1980s, but with a slight difference in that the 5 superstars where all homegrown players. Then came one of the most recognized periods in Real Madrid’s modern history, Florentino Perez’s Galactico. Figo, Zidane, Ronaldo, and Beckham were signed in succession from 2000 till 2003, achieving initial success in the first 3 seasons, but failing to win any trophy for the next three years resulting in the resignation of the Galactico’s engineer, Florentino Perez.
After a brief Ramon Calderon tenure, Perez returned to build a new Galactico. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema, Khedira, Alonso, Ozil, and Di Maria made up the second Galactico, but the club only achieved 1 La Liga title, 1 Copa Del Rey, and 1 Spanish Super Cup in 4 seasons.
In his autobiography, Steve Mcmanaman, a former Real Madrid player described his club’s transfer policy as the “Disneyfication of Real Madrid”. A clear indication that signings were made based on reputation and marketing potential rather then quality. A club director clearly stated that David Beckham was a goldmine, while Ronaldinho was too ugly to play for Madrid.
Step Forward Zinedine Zidane…
Carvajal was resigned from Leverkusen, Isco was stolen from Man City in the last seconds, Illaramendi joined for an astronomical sum, Jese Rodriguez, Morata, and Casemiro will be promoted. Are Florentino’s galacticos getting replaced by Zidane’s young talents?
Since the beginning of May, names such as Bale, Suarez, Lewandowski, and Cavani were circulated in the press as targets for the Merengues, but 3 – relatively unknown - young talents joined instead. A new mentality is obviously taking over the Spanish capital. A mentality that emphasizes building for the future through attracting soon-to-be superstars. What is clear is that Zidane stands behind this major change. Once a close advisor for the president, Zidane was officially put in charge of all transfers this season, in addition to his role as Ancelotti’s second assistant. According to “Marca”, the French legend personally phoned Isco and Illaramendi to convince them of joining his project.
After bringing Varane last year, then Carvajal, Isco and Illaramendi this year, add to them Nacho, Jese, Morata, Casemiro, and the experienced but still young Ozil and Benzema, subtract Higuain, Di Maria, Kaka, Coentrao, Pepe, and Alonso who are either leaving this year or the next, you will get a success formula, which is: Real Madrid surely have a team for the future.
So the future looks bright for Los Blancos. No more impossible negotiations, no more last minute deals, no more paying exorbitant figures in vein. Having been a victim of Perez’s former mind games, Zidane seems to have made a shift in how new deals will be conducted, and whom to target from now on.
Before Florentino Perez’s first arrival in 2000, a club legend by the name of Raul Gonzalez said: “The dressing room is a cesspit of lies, treachery and whispers... I feel sorry for new players coming into the club. If they think they are coming to one of the world's top clubs then they have made a big mistake”. This was the mood at Madrid before the first Galacticos Era. And the signing of big names proved to be a short term solution, as the club endured a trophy draught for 3 consecutive seasons. The second Galacticos Era lead by the Portoguese Ronaldo did not prove to be much better as it was dominated by Barcelona’s second “Dream Team”, and only managed to win 3 titles in as many seasons. Now the mood seems to be different, things are being run in a different manner; faithful supporters are brimming with confidence. Positive about a future with a young, coherent squad lead by the legendary Zinedine Zidane.
It remains to be seen if the current crop of youngsters will gel together and achieve what is required of them, after all Perez is a man known for his impatience, and a club of Madrid's stature doesn't offer the luxury of taking time to slowly but steadily building a team for the future. What is certain is that either Zidane's vision, or Perez's planning will be proven wrong.