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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
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

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor