Friday, July 10, 2009

Are Madrid 12-round Prize Fighters Or Just King Of The 4-Rounders?

Real Madrid unveiled French striker Karim Benzema yesterday as its third big money signing of summer transfer season. The former Lyon man cost a mere $57M for Los Blancos pushing Madrid’s summer spending over the $300M mark. All this spending makes for great headlines and underlines Perez’s stated goal to do in one year what took three years last time around with the original Galacticos, but does Perez have enough juice to finish the job?

Perez came out of the corner in his second term throwing many haymakers, landing most, signing the long sought after Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaka, and now Benzema, but seemingly missing out Franck Ribery, David Villa, and perhaps Xabi Alonso. The question now is whether Perez is more Iron Mike Tyson or post-prison Mike Tyson. The difference being the latter was not disciplined enough for a 12-round fight any longer often punching himself out of a bout.

All the other clubs were stunned initially with Madrid’s explosion (except maybe Manchester City), but they seem to have righted themselves knowing they can make headway by grabbing the gems Madrid now considers flawed. Perez has already stated that he must offload at least 10 players this summer. Yet, he has only sold one, Javier Saviola.

The selloff rationale is two-fold. First, he cannot have a squad that large and pay the amount of money to the players who may only see the pitch every couple matches because the costs are ridiculous and the players will not be happy. Second, Perez believes he can make up a considerable amount of his outlays in increased shirt sales, but he must be counting on selling players to defray his outlays.

The Dutch contingent he has thrown out into the yard sale has not moved yet. There is good reason for this. All the other clubs see the staggering heavyweight who may have punched himself out of the fight. The longer the wait, the better the deals they may find on a Robben, Sneijder, Van der Vaart or Huntelaar. Come August as the transfer window begins to close, the bargain bin shoppers will have considerably more leverage and Perez may not get the funds he needs to finance his enormous outlays. This is Perez’s first mistake this summer.

His second has been his timing. This splurge would make so much more sense and yield more revenue for Madrid had there been an upcoming TV contract to negotiate. There is not. Madrid just started in 2008 a new five-year contract. Those broadcasters have a great deal now, just like many of Madrid’s other sponsors, which might explain the rumors that Perez is trying to strong-arm adidas into doubling its current deal that runs until 2012. Adidas should be laughing all the way to the bank at Perez’s offer.

Perez and Madrid are certainly gunning for the top. It just is not clear whether they have the endurance to make it all the way there. Chinks in the armor are already showing and the rest of this summer will go a long way to determining their success.

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