It’s only human for a human to get attached to a human. Or, rather, a group of humans. After several years of so-so futbol, Florentino Perez returned as President with grandiose promises. We knew he would splash the cash, but his signing of Jose Mourinho as coach was a masterstroke: new signings and tactics led to three consecutive semi-finals in the Champions League, each time the merengues knocking at the door of greatness. Yes, the Madrid media made Mou go crazy, but what was not to love about Di Maria, Alonso, Diego Lopez, Ozil, and others?
Then we entered the Carlo era. Of course, he had followed in Mou’s footsteps before, notably at Chelsea. He instituted a more offensive approach, the team won the Champions League, and, this summer, the last remains of the Mou era are being discarded. But why?
When Jose left Madrid, the pantry was as full as possible. At the back, Ramos was in his prime and Varane on the ascent. In midfield, Di Maria buzzed around the field, Khedira added muscle, Modric added spark, and the elder statesmen Alonso added composure. Up front, Ronaldo was amazing, Higuain was consistent, Ozil was languidly brilliant, and even Benzema had patches of brilliance. Still, upon Carlo’s arrival, Ozil and Higuain both exited stage right. The truly great anomaly (or “innovation”) of last season was that Isco did not truly fill the Ozil role, but rather Di Maria, displaced by Bale, showed his flexibility.
And now we’ve sold Di Maria. Xabi Alonso has also left for Bayern Munich. Khedira has one year left on his contract. If you look at Mou’s normal starting midfield and forward(s) from his last season, Ronaldo – Alonso – Khedira – Di Maria // Ozil – Higuain, only Khedira and Ronaldo remain. Yes, we’ve seen the arrival of Rodriguez, Kroos, Isco, Illara, and Gareth Bale. But, by Real Madrid standards, we’re still selling a lot of players.
Is this Carlo remolding the team in his image, trying to build the perfect 4-3-2-1 possession-based Christmas Tree formation from his Milan days? Or does the club feel pressure from Financial Fair Play to offload players who still have value? Or does Perez really truly only care about jersey sales, which spike with new signings, and thus has gotten trigger happy with the checkbook? We got Kroos on a good deal, but paid too much for Rodriguez. Than again, is there anything more Real Madrid than overpaying for a player?
If that’s the case, then there’s nothing less Real Madrid than selling a star player in his prime. Yes, we all remember the end of the Galacticos 1.0, when a too old and imbalanced blend of Beckham, Ronaldo, Zidane, Figo and Raul couldn’t win a tackle to save their lives. Still, Mou’s players were far from that threshold. New players can create competition and improve a team, but they can also disrupt a locker room and, in soccer-speak, it takes a team time to truly gel. Understanding between players and collectively cannot be bought – it takes times, not millions of pounds. Instead of building a dynasty, Carlo and Perez both want to leave their fingerprints all over the “project.”
What fans will finally be left with is anybody’s guess…..