Florentino Perez still targeting Galactico’s to guarantee Madrid’s future

Losing Kylian Mbappé a major blow but no doubt the Real Madrid president will try again

Florentino Perez once said that “the most expensive things are the cheapest,” and, even if it came wrapped in a cryptic phrase, you knew what he meant.

‘Quality endures’, is the message Perez was delivering. At Real Madrid it is why he bought Cristiano Ronaldo for €100m in 2009 rather than, say, two rival strikers at €50m each.

Perez bets on gold and, in the case of Ronaldo, he won and kept on winning. Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 appearances for Real – statistics worthy of the term statistics.

Yet this was possibly not even Perez’s favourite thing about Ronaldo. No, that may have come in 2018 when Real sold Ronaldo to Juventus for €110m. As Florentino says: the most expensive things are the cheapest.

This is a prime example of smart football business. It is not buying gold embroidery, it is buying solid gold, from there building something of note and then taking a profit. It is an historic transaction.

With Ronaldo Real won four Champions Leagues, the club re-established itself as the pre-eminent force in European football and began to plan for the redevelopment of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Winning while planning. It could be Florentino’s motto.

And while planning for next season, while hoping to win this – a potential 14th triumph in the Champions League final against Liverpool – Perez thought another historic transaction was about to occur.

Kylian Mbappé was a second reason for him to be in Paris this evening. Mbappé would be the star centre forward who would light up the rebuilt Bernabeu for years to come. It made sense, also to Mbappé.

But then the 23 year-old changed his mind, or had his mind changed by Qatari cash. Perez, now 75 and unaccustomed to people saying ‘No’, even politely, raged. He knows there could be history in this non-transfer.

Mbappé staying in Paris says something about football’s economic climate change and it is blowing ‘legacy’ clubs such as Real and Juve in a certain direction. They seek financial cover.

Plenty will enjoy their discomfort. Although they disdain the money from Qatar and UAE distorting European football, few neutrals think of Perez or the Agnellis as defenders of sporting democracy.

Saturday night could make for uncomfortable moments for Perez. Imagine his face if Liverpool win and Mbappé is pictured looking on.

What we know, however, is that Perez and Real will return. They have been making the weather for two decades and refuse to accept they still cannot. From the failed European Super League to Mbappé, Perez has had a difficult 12 months, but it would be wrong to write him or Real off. It is correct to scrutinize and criticize Perez, but to ignore his significance and influence on football in the 21st century would be wilfully ignorant.

In his era at the club – split across two periods – Perez has actually won five Champions Leagues. Real’s possible 14th is put in perspective by Manchester United’s three or Juventus’ two. Real are on a different realm of success.

In different guises Perez has been part of it all. Born in 1947 in Madrid his parents were Real supporters. Young Florentino was taken to see the great European Cup Real, the team who won the first five finals culminating in the 1960 7-3 against Eintracht Frankfurt in Glasgow, a game that seems to have changed all who were there – a bit like the Sex Pistols’ 1976 gig in Manchester.

Real averaged three goals per final and Perez was entranced. It was not just that Real won, it was how they won.

That style stayed with Perez. In the days of peseta he bought a defunct construction company for one of them and turned it into a global empire – that’s how the story goes. An architect and demolition man.

He dabbled in local Madrid politics. It would be useful later.

All the time, Perez remained a Real Madridista, even during that 32-year period from 1966, which is often forgotten, when Real did not win the European Cup at all and only reached the final once – losing to Liverpool in Paris in 1981. Real Madrid have not always reigned.

When in 2000 Perez saw his chance to move into the Bernabeu and take it over, Real had just won the Champions League, again in Paris. It was their eighth triumph but Perez did not appreciate the method. The team contained Roberto Carlos and Raul but Perez wanted more. A teetotal businessman in a grey suit, he did not appear a flamboyant insurgent, but Perez was motivated by Alfredo Di Stefano and co. He argued Real should be “an artistic spectacle” as well as winners.

Consequently he promised supporters, who voted on these matters, he would get Luis Figo. If not, he would pay for their season tickets.

As we all know, Figo was at Barcelona. But Perez got him – for a world record €62m. The Galactico era was underway.

Real had never before broken the world record transfer fee – again often forgotten – but they did it again the next year for Zinedine Zidane. A ninth European Cup was won in Zidane’s first season.

Then the Galactico era spun out of control. Perez has always treasured players above coaches and thinks a team of sufficient talent should be self-governing – maybe why he likes Carlo Ancelotti. He should have understood the true value of a coach such as Vicente del Bosque. There must be team structure to enable the spectacle.

So the term Galactico went from awe to mockery. Real failed, Perez left.

Yet when he returned three years later, it was not with a revised plan. It was with an enhanced version of the same plan. The summer Real broke the world record for CR7, they broke it first for Kaka. They bought Karim Benzema too, and Xabi Alonso.

Perez had inherited €270m debt, but Madrid council’s re-zoning of la Ciudad Deportiva – Real’s training ground – meant it could be sold for development. It was, for €480m. Critics asked if this was state aid, the sort of comment Perez makes of Qatar and Paris Saint-Germain.

Off Perez went again – Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Luka Modric, plus, for another world record fee, Gareth Bale. Sure enough, in 2014 came a tenth Champions League and then from 2016 three more.

And here we are again in Paris. Like many Perez may feel 50-50 about Saturday’s outcome; but he would have no such ambivalence about the future were Mbappé arriving. Like Ronaldo, he would mean certain future glory. It’s the gold standard.

Florentino Perez did not create Real Madrid but he has reshaped it, and more than once. He will do so again and if it takes until 2024 to land Mbappé, Perez may wait. The most expensive things tend to be worth it.