As El Clasico drew to a close on Saturday evening, the Panolada commenced in Santiago Bernabeu – the waving of the white handkerchiefs in protest at Rafa Benitez.
Sure, a lot of blame should be placed on a Coach who seemed to deviate from everything that had brought results so far this season, mostly the decision to drop Casemiro, resulting in no defensive midfielder being on the pitch for Madrid, which is suicide against Barcelona. He also picked a half-fit Karim Benzema as his centre-forward and put Danilo, who has no experience in the Clasico whatsoever, against the world’s most in-form player in Neymar.
Unfortunately for Benitez, he succumbed to the pressure that was following him everywhere he went, the pressure to play a more attacking line-up and score more goals. The mistake that he made was to do that in a game of the Clasico’s magnitude. Los Blancos were exposed and overwhelmed everywhere on the pitch. That is where Benitez went wrong. The problem, and it is a pretty huge one, lies much deeper, though. It lies with President Florentino Perez.
Perez is famous, or perhaps it should be described as infamous, for his Galactico policy, where he signs the best players in the world to play for Real Madrid. His idea was dubbed ‘Zidanes y Pavones’ in terms of the way he wanted internationals to play alongside players from the academy, referencing Zinedine Zidane and Paco Pavon. This way of running the club has only mustered two League titles for Perez, however, and for a team of Madrid’s class, this is simply not enough.
This is a dark period for Madrid, with the exception of La Decima, the 10th European Cup that they were so craving. This is mainly down to the continued supremacy that Barcelona have in the European game. They have won four Champions Leagues in the past decade, and if Perez is so obsessed with this completion, if he is so driven to lead Madrid to more success, then he seriously needs to consider taking a look at what his arch-rivals are doing.
Xavi Hernandez, the metronome of this Barcelona team for so many years and a player who defines their dominance, probably summed up his former team-mates’ performance best. “Although it was not a ‘manita’ [Spanish term for a five-goal defeat], it could’ve been much more,” he told EFE, Marca reports.
“Madrid also had two or three chances, but Barcelona had at least 20 very clear ones and could’ve won by a bigger margin. I enjoyed it because Barcelona was far superior in every way, in attack, defence, pressing, intensity…It really was an amazing the match for Barcelona. It was a historic match, 0-4 at the Bernabeu, but also for how [Barca] played. I think Barcelona gave [Madrid] a footballing lesson. To me, it was amazing and I must congratulate them.”
The player who used to be the captain of this Barca side said it exactly how it is, and it is inconceivable to think that despite the vast amounts of money spent by Madrid, they are still so far behind the Catalans. But they are, because Madrid don’t have a set way of playing and don’t have a philosophy for their Coaches to adhere to. It is clear that when Barcelona are playing, every single one of their players knows what they are doing, because they have either been playing in this way since they were young, or they were brought because it was known that they would suit their style.
Benitez’s side looked like a team of individuals. But how can the Coach be expected to mould a team when he is simply given a group of players that the President deemed marketable enough to play for the brand that is Real Madrid? It is nearly an impossible job, because even when success comes, so can the sack, as Carlo Ancelotti learnt after his inexplicable departure. As soon as a bad run of form comes along, the Coach isn’t given a decent period of games to turn things around.
Perez needs to change his ways, or Madrid need to find a President who is willing to reform the way the club is managed. Barca’s success is built on foundations set by players who have come through La Masia, their youth academy, but La Fabrica, Madrid’s version, has produced nowhere near the amounts of high-class players.
After all, Los Meringues’ most successful period post-Alfredo Di Stefano has been the period of the Quinta del Buitre, when Emilio Butragueno, Manolo Sanchis, Martin Vazquez, Michel and Miguel Perdeza won five consecutive La Liga titles in the 1980s. The reason why they have not had such faith in La Fabrica since this era is probably because they have not produced a high enough quantity of players ready for the first team, and that is where the problem lies.
Sergi Roberto was arguably man-of-the-Clasico behind Andres Iniesta, but one wonders if he would have been played in this game had he grown up in the colours of Real Madrid. He probably wouldn’t have.
Madrid are by no means all of a sudden a bad team after the defeat, but the game merely highlighted an identity crisis that has been raging at the club under Perez’s reign. Perez’s ideology does bring Madrid success, but not enough of it, and never for a prolonged period of time.