30 May 2011

Rehab, Interventions, Hangovers, Pools of Vomit - Welcome to the Imminent Title-Winning Downer of a Summer at Real Madrid

Please welcome Elliott de Futfanatico, who, as in a previous time of turmoil, is our guide to the wonderful and frightening world of Real Madrid.

Success? Blah. Only the successful really care about success. The rest of us get by on whip-its, whiskey, and making the front page of Marca for multi-billion dollar transfers. Sadly, I suspect my summer will be devoid of any of those things. Why? Well, we have entered the hangover stage of the Real Madrid cycle. Allow me to explain.

Everybody remembers the glorious Galacticos phase of Madrid - Zidane, Ronaldo, Raúl, Figo, Beckham, Santiago Solari, etc. Real Madrid spent millions, signed big name players, and with a wave of his wand Del Bosque coached this horribly balanced smorgasbord of egos to titles. Sadly, the early 2000s Madrid was the last of its kind - since then, a rhythm has emerged. First, we spend lots of money on players. Then, a respectable coach induces the board to purchase "value players." For example, the Capello/Schuster era saw us buy a lot of good Dutch players - Ruud was value because of the Sir Alex divorce, Sneijder had not yet ascended to his current play-maker pedestal, and Robben was a gamble given his injury history. And with these "value players", Madrid won some titles.

But there was just one problem - Booooooorrrrrring. Does a celebrity brag to E! reporters about a discounted dress she purchased at a thrift store? Nein. It's like shooting a Lady Gaga music video on a cellphone camera. Sacrilege! But oftentimes, marketing, press coverage, and good business practices diverge. Mourinho has convinced Madrid to purchase affordable Turkish-Germans. And the results are not promising. From a non-playing-football-games perspective.

Exhibit A. Despite having played for Real Madrid for an entire year, Mesut Özil has yet to release his own line of underwear. In fact, he has yet to pose semi-nude for any respectable fashion magazine. Madrid fans are pissed as hell and rightly ask: is Altintop really the answer? Or is this just another bargain bin German-Turk that keeps his boxers in his shorts, his shirt on his chest, and can't even land a half-decent Pepsi commercial?

What has tossed Real Madrid into this atrocious, never-ending cycle of fiesta-or-functionality? We all know the sinister culprit: FC Barcelona.

For decades, a simple deal endured between the Catalonians and Real: they could be the indie rocker "més que un club" and win the Copa del Rey, while European glory belonged to mega-star Madrid. Sadly, while titles have accumulated at Barça, the moral superiority complex has withered before the forces of capital and human frailty. Let me count the ways. Barcelona's current payroll exceeds Madrid's. They needed a short-term loan to make payroll last year. After the recent election, their new President threatened to file suit over hidden debts. And, of course, they sold the front of their shirt to Qatar.

Many Madrid fans delight in these pleasures. They poke fun on Twitter and in Tumblrs. But not me. When Real played Barcelona, it used to be a metaphor for us being really rich and successful and them being less rich but still pretty successful. But now we belong to the same country club. And the world is poorer for it.

Thus, unbuckle your seat belt, adjust your recliner, and get some heavy-hitting prescription NoDoz. Madrid has retained Mourinho and will spend this summer buying value players to mount a serious La Liga run. And I can't think of a poorer way to spend my summer.

Elliott blogs about soccer at Futfanatico.com


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