After winning Real Madrid’s presidential election against Lorenzo Sanz, Florentino Perez pursued the “Los Galacticos” policy.
He won the election partly by promising expensive new signings and an aggressive new transfer policy, in particular, to sign Luis Figo from the rivals Barcelona Football Club.
During his first tenure as a president, he purchased at least one Galactico in the summer every year.
He first bought Luis Figo with a fee of €62 million from Barcelona. Following year Zinedine Zidane joined the Real Madrid’s squad for a fee of €75 million. Continuing the policy, they signed two more superstars. Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima (from Inter Milan) and David Beckham (from Manchester United) joined the galacticos in 2002 and 2003. The pair cost the fee of €46 million and €35 million respectively. Iker Casillas, Raul, Roberto Carlos and Steve McManaman were also considered as the part of galacticos, however, were in the team before Perez’s era.
The purchase continued at the Los Galacticos
Figo became the new focus of the Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry, with Barcelona fans feeling betrayed by his transfer and turned against him. He scored 14 goals in all competition during his first season at Madrid and won La Liga the same year. He finally left Madrid at 2005 and joined Italian Club Internazionale on a free transfer.
Zidane joined the galacticos in 2001 for a world record fee from Juventus. And stayed at Bernabeu until the last day of his football player career. Scoring one of the greatest goals in Champions League history he lifted the trophy that night. Next season he won the La Liga starring alongside Luis Figo in midfield and was named the FIFA world player of the year for the third time.
After signing Ronaldo for 46 million euros, his jersey sales broke all the records on the first day. Hitting the net twice in his debut, he received a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu. He scored 23 league goals in the first season and won La Liga, Intercontinental Cup, and Spanish Super Cup. Also, he scored the fastest goal in the club’s history against city rival after 15 seconds. Although he received the Pichichi award (scoring 25 goals), Real Madrid lost the league against Valencia CF. He left the club at 2007.
Beckham joined Perez’s team at 2003 and was included in galacticos. Scoring 13 league goals in 116 appearances, he was one of the best football players. He won 2006-07 La Liga and 2003 Supercopa de Espana during his days at Bernabeu. Later, he left the club and joined LA Galaxy.
With the stars studded team, Perez’s policy worked well for the first three years between 2000 and 2003. Real Madrid won two La Liga in 2000-01 and 2002-03 and a UEFA Champions league in 2001-02, with Zidane scoring a winning volley goal in final at Hampden Park, making it ninth CL title to Madrid’s bag. Picking up the galacticos not only worked well on the pitch but also helped in financial success based on the exploitation of the club’s high marketing potential around the world. Its economic model led it to overtake perennial leader Manchester United as the world’s richest club by revenue in 2005-06.
Start of the downfall
Real Madrid couldn’t continue their winning ways, however, after the 2002-03 season. Following seasons there was a limited success on the pitch and Real failed to win any trophy for the next three seasons after their 2003 league title. In UEFA Champions league Real was eliminated in quarter-finals in 2004 and then from to 2010 suffered six consecutive exits at Round of 16 stage. While their rival kept on winning titles.
A lack of interest in defensive talent harmed the team. Perez did not want to pay high wages to defensive players. Even Sergio Ramos, who joined Real Madrid for 27 million euros failed to shine until Perez’s departure in 2006. Perez sacked the twice Campions league winner coach Vicente del Bosque shockingly because of the political split. There was an allegation that players were picked not according to form, but rather according to their reputation, such as Beckham for his marketing potential of the pitch.
Perez’s poor transfer decision was also the main reason for the fall of Real Madrid. Real Madrid sold their rights to Eto’o in 2004, with Perez insistent on having two best strikers in the league (Ronaldo and Raul). Eto’o later helped Barcelona to 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2008-09 La Liga titles and 2005-06 and 2008-09 Champions League titles.
End of the first era
The consistent poor on-field performance led Perez to resign on 27 February 2006. The business magnate left after Real Madrid lost to Mallorca and was succeeded by Ramon Calderon. Real Madrid started the first Galactico era by signing Luis Figo during summer of 2000. It ended with the departure of David Beckham during summer of 2007. Beckham was the last of the big four to move on, with Figo having joined Inter Milan two seasons prior, Zidane retiring after the 2006 World Cup and Ronaldo moving to Milan half a season before Beckham’s departure.