Rafa Benitez only lost three games of the 25 he contested as Real Madrid manager, writes Paul Parker, and his replacement by Zinedine Zidane tells you everything about the damaging culture which has enveloped the club under Florentino Perez.
To really understand the sacking of Rafa Benitez and his replacement by Zinedine Zidane, you have to understand how Real Madrid works and what the culture is like.Madrid, I believe, have no integrity as a club because of the way they treat human beings. Money can’t buy you class. Just look at how they treated Carlo Ancelotti.It is an institutional problem at the Bernabeu. Their reaction to disappointment is always to sack the boss and buy more players. There is no long-term perspective. It’s hard to develop structures of trust in such an environment.It doesn’t breed success either. President Florentino Perez might have delivered La Decima when Real Madrid won the Champions League in 2014, but after spending hundreds of millions on the first and second round of galacticos in each of his presidential reigns, and going through 11 coaches in 12 years, his teams have only won the league on three occasions.It’s a rubbish record. League campaigns reward consistency and coherence but instead Real Madrid are chaotic and confused thanks to the instability and short-termism permeating from the very top of the club.There’s no single vision; no overreaching philosophy, for want of a better word, which guides the club and their decisions. It’s all about wielding the chequebook or the P45 with abandon, and hoping that something sticks.
Whoever the manager is, and even if Zidane does a fantastic job, it’s obvious that the whole infrastructure of the club has to change. Everything about Real Madrid has to be rethought and reexamined.The religion of the galacticos, first created with the signings of Luis Figo, Ronaldo,David Beckham and Zidane himself, lives on and it is damaging Madrid, corroding the club from the inside. The cult of celebrity still reigns. Perez brought it back when he returned for his second spell and signed Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.Watching the first galacticos was a fantastic experience, but it was not sustainable. Now the hype machine has gone into overdrive and it doesn’t make for a healthy team environment. Egos litter the dressing room, and the stands too.The whole thing is embarrassing and it comes directly from the top.If Real Madrid are to start clawing back some respectability they need Perez to go. The next round of elections are in 2017 though so it might be a bit of a wait yet, but if they really want to be the best they need a new approach which gives them a chance of winning the number of trophies Barcelona do.
They need to be more humble and focus on building teams rather than just buying them. Barcelona are by no means perfect – they’ve had their fair share of boardroom problems over the past year – but in terms of building a squad in line with a focused, coherent strategy they are lights years ahead.
Zinedine Zidane with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez – AFPThat is why it is crazy to start claiming that Zidane could be Real Madrid’s PepGuardiola. The two clubs and the two cultures are completely different. One is geared to this kind of organic success and one is simply not.
Guardiola was a product of the Barcelona system, a man who knew the club’s character and strategy inside out, from top to bottom. Zidane has also coached the youth team but he comes into a club with no discernable strategy, at least not in the same way Barcelona do.If you had to characterise Real Madrid’s philosophy, it would focus on celebrity and money and all the attendant pressure that brings. That is the world Zidane has thrown himself into, a world of Perez’s making which is unforgiving, especially for a young coach.Zidane’s own appointment is symptomatic of this skewed philosophy: appointing a famous name instead of the best man for the job. David Beckham said it’s a great appointment but I don’t think it is. Zidane’s credentials are simply the fact that he was a great player and that his appointment will generate huge headlines and interest.
Benitez brought stability and a sensible nod to defensive solidity. We don’t know what Zidane will bring because he hasn’t been coaching for long enough or at a decent enough level. It could be great, or it could be a nightmare, like the appointments of Clarence Seedorf and Filipo Inzaghi when AC Milan parachuted in some club legends, to disastrous effect.
Everyone in football loves Zidane but I think people will be worried about what this promotion means for his reputation. We all know he will end up with the sack, probably sooner rather than later, and what will that do to his status in football and his connection with the club he loves?Just another ego, discarded on the Real Madrid scrapheap?