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Great Club or Faceless Global Corporation?

By | 15th June 2009

marcelo-of-real-madridHere’s an analogy for you to mull over:

An entrepreneur comes up with a product. It can be any product: a website, a toaster, a killer mutant robot, you name it, but he designs and develops it. He makes it successful. It’s him who brings this product to the attention of the world… and it’s a truly great product. Now once this killer mutant robot toaster website is in the public eye, and shown to be a success, a faceless global corporation buys it. It pays off the entrepreneur, and takes the product for itself, selling it under it’s name. The great product is now owned by the corporation, helping it succeed, which it does.

Who is great in this equation? The entrepreneur or the corporation?

This is how I often see Real Madrid. Madrid don’t really develop players. They don’t really even develop teams. They let other clubs do this, and once the player, or product, has proved it’s worth to the world they buy it, and use it to make themselves more successful.

Historically, of course, Real are great. The early teams of the Di Stefano era and the Quinta del Buitre generation in the 80s are both truly great sides. But in the last 25 years what have Madrid achieved, on their own merit, to make them truly great?

I say this because as we sit and watch the astonishing events currently unfolding at Madrid, we’re constantly being reminded that this is a special club. The biggest club in football. The greatest club. But is this true? Where has this idea come from? Sure, they’re certainly the biggest show in town, but what makes them great? Surely the five back to back European Cups effectively bought by the Franco regime in the 50s can’t be the only reason they’re still revered so highly?

What really is so great about them in recent history?

The list of genuinely quality players who’ve come up through Real’s Castilla isn’t all that impressive: Eto’o, Cambiasso, Raul, Casillas. Only two of them have made their name at the club. Guti? Maybe, but not really great. Arbeloa? Hardly. Can we add Rafa Benitez to the list? He’s possibly a great manager now? I’m stretching a little, though. In fact West Ham have a far better record of producing world class players in the last 25 years than Real Madrid do.

Now youth team players alone isn’t the be all and end all of greatness. Far from it. Many players realize their potential at a club that didn’t nurture them. Fabregas at Arsenal and Ronaldo at Manchester United being two recent examples. So who have Real had who are similar to this? Hierro? Robinho? Surely there’s more than two?

Then there are the players that reach their peak with a club. Cantona types if you will. One’s whose long journey to greatness is finally achieved at a club they become synonymous with. Who’s synonymous with Madrid? Zidane? Probably, debatable though, he was great a Juve. Roberto Carlos? Yes. Fat Ronaldo? No, he was better at Barca. Figo? Same I’d say. Beckham and van Nistelrooy? Both unquestionably better at Manchester United. Robben? Made his name elsewhere.

Few players have become great at Madrid recently. They’re usually great somewhere else first. Real can rarely claim to have produced, made or molded a great player in the last few decades.

Or, for that matter, a great team. Like the Dream Team under Cryuff at Barca, or the Milan team that thrashed it 4-0, or the two different CL winning Manchester United teams under Ferguson.

Most great teams are molded and formed almost organically. Arsenal’s Invincibles. The Barcelona team that beat them and the recent one that beat Ferguson’s second great United team. On field alliances that are formed and grow. Xavi and Iniesta, Rooney and Ronaldo, Gullit and Van Basten.
Van Nistelrooy and Beckham formed a great partnership at United. Madrid bought both of them. So who’s great? The team that made the partnership or the team that bought it?

The other ‘Great Clubs’ of Europe rarely poach each others’ stars at the same rate as Madrid do. Barca, Milan, Juve, Bayern Munich, United, and Liverpool have all maintained their status without the need for excessive poaching. Each time they’ve lost a star they’ve built new teams or nurtured new prospects. Madrid have maintained their position at the top of this ladder without having to do any work of their own. Their team building process always begins with ‘who’s the best player in the world right now?’

All the ‘you haven’t earned it’ rhetoric thrown at Chelsea’s recent success can just as prevalently be applied to the modern era Real Madrid.

In a season when Barcelona and Manchester United contested the Champions League final with teams composed largely of players who’d made their name in world football at that club, the greatness of both clubs seems valid. With Milan resting their future on players like Pato, and still refusing to relinquish Gourcuff to Bordeaux, their ability to find and produce top quality players seems healthy. Inter have Balotelli coming through, and Bayern still snap up any young German prodigies and have the relatively young Schweinsteiger to guide them through the future.

But who do Madrid have to see them through the future? No one of note, and that’s precisely why, despite the promise of a Zidane y Pavon policy (the statement of Perez before the first Galactico splurge that each star would be matched by a youth prospect), they now find themselves in the situation of having to try and buy the best from others again.

When Manchester United lost Beckham and had to re-build, they did the opposite. They brought in a young unknown Portuguese teenager who proceeded to make his name at Old Trafford, only for Madrid to snap him up when he’d proved himself. When Milan lost Shevchenko they put their faith in a young Brazillian who proceeded to repay their faith with world class performances until, again, Madrid lured him away. Great players, but nurtured, molded, and matured at other clubs.

So again, I ask you, who is great in this equation? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Reader Comments

The below views are those of our readers and do not reflect the opinions of Premiership Talk or its employees.
  1. Muhammad says:

    I cannot Disagree wtih what you said … I can put like this what Have real madrid in recent decades did for football to be remembered as a great club infact football gave real madrid more than the otherway around.No great players No footballing philosophy oh wait the have one as you wrote " who’s the best player in the world right now?’…is that a great thing to put your name among the great clubs.For player like Ronaldo, Man United put thier faith in him when he had nothing but his talents no big name no silverwares no glory.Now real madrid have him ,they dont need to believe in him because he has proved he is a winner.same goes for Kaka ,Zidane ,figo beckham,van nistelrooy % cannavaro etc. so why player & people consider conclusion, Great football teams play football make world class footballers who real madrid buy and sell thier T-shirts.

  2. cs says:

    Will Madrid let these young champions play in the first team n push them to success? nope! there will be another Mata style cock-up!

  3. . says:

    Madrid have recently won the under 18 world club cup, beating their arch-rivals (which many consider to have one of the best youth systems in the world)

  4. Dani says:

    Yeah, I meant to say youth system in my comment. The B teams don't tend to produce much talent. I'm not aware of any clubs that have produced much talent from a B team.

  5. Oscar Pye-Jeary says:

    …I meant to say spot on there, not stop on…Obviously!

  6. Oscar Pye-Jeary says:

    He did come up through their C and B teams though, setting records as he went. He's more a product of their youth structure than say, Macheda is of Man Uniteds….your stop on though, he wasn't in the Castilla…I was confusing their C & B teams with their youth structure…Madrid have so many disparate Youth/Reserve teams, some even play professionaly in the lower leagues, and yet they still don't produce a significant amount of talent. Odd for such a supposedly great club!

  7. Dani says:

    Raul didn't come up through the Real Madrid system. He came up through the Atletico Madrid system. When he turned 18 they told him he wasn't good enough so they let him leave. So Real signed him when he was let go by Atletico.

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