Real Madrid are better off not signing a 'Galactico' to replace Cristiano Ronaldo
Say goodbye to the Galactico era. It's time for the era of cohesion at Real Madrid. It might not sound as alluring as the former, with superstars from around the world strutting their way to silverware. But it could be more important to Real Madrid's long-term success than splashing out on a big name this summer and the key to the club's La Liga title challenge this season. It looks like Florentino Perez might be forced to stay put after selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus for more than €100 million and while fans will cry out for fresh faces, Real Madrid are better off standing pat with what they have.
Dani Carvajal recently said that new manager, Julen Lopetegui, "is a coach who gets the most out of each player" during an interview with El Grafico. That is what Perez might be hoping too before preseason kicks off with a young squad in the United States eager to impress their new coach. It is the first time in 18 years that Los Blancos don't boast a Ballon d'Or winner.
Perez is not consciously competent in this respect all of a sudden. He hasn't stumbled upon an ability to control his impulse in the transfer market out of the blue. Due to being handcuffed by market forces and the circumstances of his top targets, Real Madrid might have to wait another year before they can get their hands on what could be called a Galactico with James Rodriguez being the last of his ilk to be presented at the Santiago Bernabeu three years ago.
Simon Strachan from GAIN LINE ANALYTICS -- a company that specialises in team building and focusing on why teams are successful -- believes cohesion and the connections, relationships and understanding of the players within the chain can be more important than the money spent to win. He says, "What we see is that there's this fundamental misunderstanding around what talent brings to a team and especially the transference of talent. It's not a function of the individual but a function of the organisation."
If Lopetegui plays with the best XI he has on paper, let's say the Champions League final starting team with Bale replacing Ronaldo, he will have a combined 72 years of experience in his team. Nobody in the team will have less than three years at the club with Casemiro being the latest addition in 2015. The back five of Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Marcelo have 40 years of experience alone and will have one of the highest levels of skill, as a unit, in La Liga too -- another important factor. Lopetegui's midfield will have been playing together for three years too. And three years is when teams really start to gel according to Strachan's GAIN LINE studies.
The attack, which Stachan explains is one of the easiest lines to manipulate, Real Madrid will also have experience but fall slightly short on the cohesion scale. Strachan says, "What players they choose to sprinkle on top [of an already cohesive side], the guy at the top of the chain, are often the guys that can move around and be successful." This is because of fewer relationships they have with other teammates than a player in the middle like Luka Modric, for example, or a central defender like Varane.
Zinedine Zidane said the loss in the Copa del Rey last season to Leganes was his lowest point as the manager of Real Madrid. His "B team" were considered not up to the required standard. "The year Leicester were in the Champions League, they performed admirably in the Champions League but nearly got relegated in the Premier League because they couldn't spread the squad. "They didn't have cohesion across the squad," Strachan explains and that's something Lopetegui will have to fix, starting with the minutes given to squad players in the International Champions Cup.
The idea that Real Madrid have to look outside the club to replace Ronaldo's goals is unfounded too. They have all the goals and the ability to create those goals already in their squad. It's just a matter of whether they can keep the source of those goals on the field. Gareth Bale scored 10 in 13 in the league at the end of the season. He also scored two in the Champions League final. This isn't revisionist history either. Ronaldo scored at an astonishing rate but Bale can certainly chip in with a large chunk of those lost goals while creating space by drawing players in to make sure the players around him supplement the rest.
In that same interview with El Grafico, Carvajal admitted that the bar is very high and "we have to have patience". Building cohesion isn't the most glamorous part of building a winning side. But once the players have gotten to grips with how they play and the likes of Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente, Jesus Vallejo and the rest understand their role in the squad and feel comfortable when called upon, the trophies should follow soon after.