James Lawton: Real's recipe lacks true ingredients of success

Milan's unexpected victory at the Bernabeu has already exposed the flaws in the latest line-up of expensively-assembled Galacticos

For once the mug-shot pursued by the roving cameras at the Bernabeu was not that of Cristiano Ronaldo, injured and ineffably bored, but Florentino Perez, the man who swears that football success, like everything else in life, is just a matter of having the right price.

But then if the Real Madrid president wasn't at his most sanguine as Milan's young Brazilian Alexandre Pato so brilliantly scrambled his theory, at least for a while, nor was he in panic. When you are a circus master with Perez's resources, and knowledge of his public, you are never short of an option or two.

However, the demeanour of his coach, Manuel Pellegrini, was rather a different matter. The Chilean, who was so resourceful at Villarreal, acknowledged that two quick defeats (the other against Seville in La Liga) was a source of worry, but his face was rather more eloquent.

It said what was probably unsayable, certainly by him, when the club staged their grotesque pre-season parade of Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema. It said that no football man ever faced a longer and potentially more draining campaign.

When Pato volleyed home the exquisite cross of old man Clarence Seedorf for Milan's totally unexpected victory plainly the draining had begun.

Where it will end will no doubt have much to do with Ronaldo's resumed ability to do for Real what he did for Manchester United, but in the meantime a legitimate question can be asked again.

Can you really buy a team of instant champions? No you can't. A champion team is organic. It feeds off different parts. It discovers things about itself which can only come with time and compatibility. True, this is a point which could be made more easily if Barcelona, hailed as the sweetest team in Europe so recently, hadn't just fallen apart against the obscure champions of Russia, Rubin Kazan.

Still, every good team makes an occasional mis-step, as Chelsea reminded themselves recently at Wigan and Aston Villa before suggesting they might possibly emerge as the most formidable force in the Champions League with their serene destruction of Atletico Madrid this week.

Real's problem at the Bernabeu, the one that showed so clearly on Pellegrini's face, was the sudden fear that maybe Perez hasn't bought a team but a mutation. It happens.

Kaka, for example, essentially grew up at San Siro. When he left for the Real fortune his parting was the kind you sometimes see convulsing families at airports and train stations.

The theory of Ruud Gullit, no less, was that Kaka was simply trying too hard to impress against his old family of the Rosseneri. If that was true, it showed the corrosive power of expectations built on somebody else's evaluation of what you can do. Kaka never had to try too hard in Milan. He simply had to be himself. It was more than enough.

Benzema, so dynamic at Lyon, continued to look a very good player indeed against Milan, but not one ready to proclaim the full range of a talent that excited Sir Alex Ferguson so much.

Such uncertainties, no doubt we will be assured, will be smoothed away soon enough. When Ronaldo is prancing back into the spotlight, when Xabi Alonso produces more of the conviction that was such a part of his Anfield presence, when Kaka remembers who is he rather than who is expected to be, the latest Galacticos will shine. Even the gloomy Pellegrini put aside his concerns to make this point, saying: "Both the teams that beat us are more settled than we are and they have played together a lot longer. But I don't consider a defeat like this something normal, it is worrying and we have to work to improve.

"We have two objectives; to qualify for the next round of the Champions League and we will try to recover the points in Milan. In the League we are on the right path but we know we have to work harder."

Come the transfer window the chances are that if Wednesday's defeat proves at all significant, Real will also be investing a lot harder, and specifically in defenders who can give the team a rather stronger foundation that the one which crumbled so disastrously after goalkeeper Iker Casillas had joined Milan's Dida in suicide mode.

Milan's ageing but still phenomenal Alessandro Nesta provided the perfect model for such strengthening and Pellegrini can only hope for a touch of such quality when the handicap of a porous defence is finally addressed. The coach said: "We need our best players and Ronaldo is one of them, but we didn't lose because he wasn't playing. We lost because of defensive mistakes."

For Milan and their embattled coach Leonardo it was a gift of a victory, a small donation of time in which to redirect a faltering giant. Gullit said he was happy for the resurrection of the team he had served with such distinction, but his face was an open book too. He was stunned by the defensive inadequacies on parade and couldn't help speculating to what extent Milan's late inspiration was due to the failings of their opponents.

There was a certain sadness in Gullit, and that, too, was easy to understand. His glory in a team which consolidated their all-time ranking behind Real in European competition, was after all a glorious amalgam of defence and attack, with such as Maldini and Baresi supporting the offensive brilliance of himself, Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten.

This week, Pato apart, Milan inhabited the shadows of greatness. Ronaldinho, who with Barça, had once dazzled the great stadium so brilliantly he was applauded through gritted teeth, but applauded nonetheless, had a few minutes of virtuosity and then relapsed, poignantly for all those who still remember the extent of his talent. Seedorf showed a flash of stunning vision.

But on this occasion at least it was quite enough to embarrass a team who were proving, if nothing else, that ready-made teams do not come over the counter, and that sometimes great ones are beyond price.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor