Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughA look back at Real Madrid's Glactico era - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough A look back at Real Madrid's Glactico era - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

A look back at Real Madrid’s Glactico era

Every summer, football fans would spend hours glued to sports websites and television channels in anticipation of a strange annual phenomenon that used to occur in Madrid.

It wasn’t a pre-season friendly that they were interested in, nor the relaying of the Santiago Bernabeu turf, but a moment that had almost become a ritual since Florentino Perez became chairman of the club. The moment they were waiting for was the announcement of the new ‘Galactico’ to join the historic club and wear the famous white kit. Nowadays, the management appear to have taken a more measured, and perhaps sensible, approach to building a team but I can’t help feeling that all the excitement has been lost in the process.


The summer of 2000 saw the beginning of the Galactico policy and coincided with the arrival of Florentino Perez as the new chairman of Real Madrid. As part of his election promise, where he was a direct rival of Lorenzo Sanz, the president at the time, Perez assured fans that he would be able to convince Portuguese star Luis Figo to join the club from Barcelona. Many were sceptical that such a transfer would be possible, given the fierce rivalry between the two clubs and the funds that would be required to complete such a deal. However, the new president stuck to his promise and a £39m transfer was arranged to the shock of the football world. This moment signalled a new policy at the club, where they attempted to combine the finest individual players in the world and make them into a team. It was a decision taken by the new president and was to continue for the following four years during each summer transfer window.

After the arrival of Figo, the pre-season of 2001 was filled with talk about Juventus and Zinedine Zidane. It was believed that the Frenchman had been targeted as the galactico for the new season and negotiations had begun between the two clubs. Eventually, an agreement was reached and the transfer record was shattered as news of a £46m deal filtered through to the media. Football fans began to drool at the prospect of Figo and Zidane lining up together in midfield and providing the assists for Raul and Morientes to finish.

When Zizou did begin playing for the club they were rewarded with success. He scored a stunning left-footed volley in the Champions League final at Hampden Park, which gave Madrid a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen, and the team looked like it could potentially dominate Europe for years to come.

After Brazil won the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, thanks to a rejuvenated Ronaldo scoring 8 goals in 7 matches, including both goals in the final against Germany, he was instantly the centre of a media frenzy amidst rumours that he was also about to join Madrid. Despite Inter Milan waiting almost three years for him to recover from serious knee injuries, talk abounded that he wanted to move to Spain. A £30m transfer saw the Brazilian receive his wish and yet another outstanding attacking talent had joined the Spanish giants.

David Beckham was the 2003 galactico signing and he left Manchester United for a fee of around £25m. However, the team was struggling to accommodate so many superstars, particularly when they were all either midfielders or strikers. Beckham’s arrival pushed Figo onto the left wing; although it wasn’t his best position and the side was so top heavy that they had seemingly forgotten that it required the balance of some defensively minded individuals. 

Perez was reluctant to offer large salaries to defensive players and Claude Makelele decided to leave the club after Beckham’s arrival because they wouldn’t agree to raise his relatively low salary, despite the fact that he was possibly the best defensive midfielder in the world at the time and key to the way that they played. 

The subsequent years saw little success and much criticism of the interference from boardroom level that demanded the inclusion of the galacticos, regardless of whether they were performing to the required level or not. Several managers insisted that they were ordered to include star names in their teamsheet even though they didn’t want to and eventually Perez left the club in February 2006.

Upon his return in 2009, a new galactico era began, but it was unlike anything we had seen before. Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso were all signed during the June-July period for a combined total of about £180m. Serious intent was being shown to Barcelona, who had just completed a fantastic treble, yet there wasn’t the same aura about the club. Only Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing generated the kind of hysteria seen previously, perhaps because the Madrid fans were aware of the home-grown talent on show at the Camp Nou and the fact that Barcelona had an exceptional team as well as exceptional individuals.

Following seasons saw several high profile players join the capital club and most recently they have parted with almost £25m to take young Spanish sensation Isco from Malaga. He looks like a fantastic player and has a bright future ahead of him for both club and country. However, I prefer the ‘crazy days’ of the new millennium when Figo, Zidane and co were the new poster boys. It wasn’t a sustainable project but it certainly provided plenty of entertainment!

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