Real Madrid’s incredible summer spending spree will go past $300 million this week as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema sign on the dotted line at the Bernabeu.
With Brazilian ace Kaka joining the Spanish giants earlier in the transfer window for a then record $100 million, it is a return to the era of the ‘galacticos’ (superstars) at Real. Club president Florentino Perez — restored at the head of affairs at Real in this summer’s elections — was also responsible for a similar policy from 2000-2006 and is splashing the cash again to restore the club’s fortunes. After a season that failed to yield any silverware — while arch-rivals Barcelona claimed a remarkable treble of the Copa del Rey, La Liga and Champions League trophies — the 62-year-old businessman and former politician Perez was a popular choice. His return came with the promise of buying the best team in Europe — a pledge he had also made and delivered upon in his first stint at Real Madrid between 2000 and 2006. Back then, he hoped to solve what he considered financial mismanagement at the club, and he also promised to bring Luis Figo from rivals Barcelona. He succeeded in bringing in Figo — for what was then a world record amount of $56 million. The following year he bought arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Zinedine Zidane, for $66m — again a world record transfer fee. The top players Perez brought in through this period sparked the term “galacticos”, and from 2000 onwards Madrid continued to invest in a new galactico each year. In 2002 Brazilian striker Ronaldo was added to the team in a deal worth $46m, and the following season David Beckham was purchased from Manchester United for a fee of around $40m. Michael Owen was bought from Liverpool in 2004 — though some argued whether he was a galactico or not.
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Perez’ first years with the club saw various successes in La Liga, Copa del Rey and in the Champions League, and by the end of his spell they had spent well over $200m on their first generation of galacticos. With transfer inflation a similar spending spree this time around is likely to cost double or more. Kaka, Ronaldo and now Benzema are in the bag, but there is talk of interest in Inter Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso, Bayern-Munich’s Franck Ribery, plus David Villa and David Silva, both of Valencia. London-based international football journalist Gabriele Marcotti told CNN it was likely the club wouldn’t stop buying just yet. “I think they need to buy in some more players. Probably a central midfielder and defender,” he said. He said the move by Perez and Real Madrid should bring strong results and increased interest in the club, similar to the impact the first wave of galacticos had. “Certainly for the first two or three years (last time) it created a lot of excitement. I would expect that in the short-term they should do well. This sends a big message to other clubs.” Marcotti said the major benefit for other European clubs from Real Madrid’s spending spree is that they can service debts with the money Los Blancos are offering for top players.