How 'galacticos II' can become Real history-makers

This week's £80m deal for Ronaldo smacks of excess, but Florentino Perez is a billionaire who bought his company for a peseta. Clearly there is a method to his madness, writes Nick Harris
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The Independent Football

In a declaration befitting a self-made man who now deals in billions in his everyday business life, Real Madrid's president Florentino Perez, said yesterday that the buying of expensive and stellar talent would not stop at the audacious £136m double signings of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. He also said that such investments make commercial sense.

"The investment in players may seem high, but it is profitable," Perez said. "It is necessary at a club that only makes money through its image and prestige. We can survive thanks to great players. This is the model to use, and the more great players we have, the higher the profit and healthier the finances."

Perez will not stop at Kaka and Ronaldo. There could be three, four, five more big names, with David Villa, David Silva, Franck Ribéry, Raul Albiol and Xabi Alonso among those said to be of interest.

The dream maker-in-chief at the Bernabeu, is worth £1.1bn but is a man of simple pleasures. The self-made billionaire always wears the same colour shirts, sky blue. "Why complicate your life?" he once said.

He is teetotal. His favourite food is egg and chips, in as much as he has a favourite food. Work, not fine dining, sustains him. As his wife Maria Angeles Sandoval told author John Carlin for Carlin's book, White Angels, the definitive story of Real's first galacticos experiment: "His only vice is being president of Real Madrid."

For the Madridismo, that's always been music to the ears. At the start of Perez's first presidential reign (from 2000 to 2006), he was responsible for the world-record signing of Luis Figo in a stunning coup from bitterest rivals Barcelona. That was followed by the hiring of Zinedine Zidane in 2001, Ronaldo (the original) in 2002, David Beckham in 2003, Michael Owen in 2004 and Robinho in 2005.

Kaka (for £56m) and Cristiano Ronaldo (£80m) are among those already preparing to be key players in "galacticos II" in 2009-10, a season that will end, in tantalising fashion, with a Champions League final to be staged on 22 May 2010 at – where else? – the Bernabeu.

Other stars will follow, to take Real's summer's outlay on glittering talent to £250m or beyond. And it's all down to Perez.

So what drives this 62-year-old, the head of a conglomerate, ACS, a firm he built virtually from scratch after buying its forebear for a single peseta in 1983?

In business terms, he has worked tirelessly to make the best of himself, and an empire. After studying civil engineering, he worked on sanitation and environmental projects for Madrid's mayor, then dabbled in politics. He was a councillor and a politician until his party lost the 1982 Spanish elections, and since 1983, when he bought a bankrupt construction firm at 36, he has slowly nurtured it into a Goliath, operating in 70 countries.

ACS is primarily involved in construction; dams and railways, skyscrapers and roads, even the new subway link between Manhattan and Queens in New York is his. ACS had an income of around £14bn last year and profits of £1.5bn.

So what drives Perez in football? His heart and his soul. And the accident of being born in Madrid in 1947. He watched Real on a regular basis from 1951, or the age of four. And from 1955 onwards, of course, Real's European legend grew. The five successive European Cups of Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento et al are "marked indelibly on his mind".

But this is just part of what inspired him to become the Real Madrid president, twice. As Carlin contends in White Angels: "Real Madrid was the outlet for the wild inner man. It was the bright fuchsia shirt, the three-star Michelin meal, the Burgundy Grand Cru that [Perez] never allowed himself in real life. If the construction industry was the prose in his life, football was the poetry."

So we come to June 2009, and the president "Perez II", and "galacticos II". On being sworn in as the top man again a few days ago, he said: "Real Madrid's most precious good is its prestige, and I couldn't watch as it was lost. Our reputation declined over the last three years and the institution is hurt, which is one of the reasons I decided to run for president. I want the passion of being a Madridista to return." For passion, read players from the highest strata of the world game, Latins with dancing feet and dazzling skills who will draw the punters through the turnstiles and have devotees around the planet buying shirts and other Real-endorsed products.

And Perez insists that the players, for all the massive sums they will cost, will effectively pay for themselves, not lead to debt. "On the contrary, we believe we can improve our accounts by aiming for three goals – increasing ticket sales, increasing the bank balance and increasing the club's economic value.

"Real Madrid takes about €400m [£341m] a year, the fruit of three sources of income – a third from ticket sales, a third from television rights and a third from merchandising."

He adds: "I want to relaunch the tradition of Real Madrid, which is to be faithful in providing a good show and giving the fans enthusiasm. In order to do that we have to focus on three crucial pillars – to play with great world-famous players, great Spanish players and great youth players.

"I want to recreate a Real Madrid that makes history."

The Madrid All-Stars: Subjects of the last spending spree

*Luis Figo (2000-2005)

Fee: £37.5m

League games (goals): 164 (36)

Trophies: Seven

Free transfer to Internazionale

*Zinedine Zidane (2001-2007)

Fee: £46m

League games (goals): 155 (37)

Trophies: Six.


*Ronaldo (2002-2007)

Fee: £23.2m

League games (goals): 127 (83)

Trophies: Four

Sold to Milan for £5m

*David Beckham (2003-2007)

Fee: £25m

League games (goals): 116 (13)

Trophies: Two

Free transfer to LA Galaxy

*Robinho (2005-2008)

Fee: £15m

League games (goals) 101 (25)

Trophies: Three

Sold to Man City for £32.5m