They say there are things in life money can’t buy. Love, happiness, health and it now seems we can add the La Liga title to this list. Real Madrid now sit 7 points behind fierce rivals Barcelona in the league. A points tally which is increased to 8 when you take into account the head to head with the 5-0 dubbing they encountered at the Camp Nou. But perhaps because of that game and Barcelona’s current unstoppable form, psychologically it may feel like 18 points.
Real Madrid have a history with money, long before Roman Abramovich and dodgy foreign sheikes were ever involved with football. Real bought big, they bought success. But more importantly, they bought the best players, Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo and even as far back as Alfredo Di Stefano who had all but signed for Barca before Santiago Bernabeau himself stepped in and persuaded the Argentine to wear White.
I’m not condoning Real for buying big, it’s perhaps even a backhanded compliment. Real are a massive club, arguably the biggest. They have a gigantic fanbase who demand trophies and the best football – hence the Galactico nickname that follows and often haunts Real’s brightest stars.
But ever since ‘that night’ at the Camp Nou in October. There has been a visible decline in the belief that this Real team can topple Barcelona.
Last season saw Manuel Pellegrini lead Real Madrid to 96 points and 102 goals scored but still only second place. Pellegrini was relieved of his duties soon after and Real brought in Jose Mourinho. The cost of whom is believed to be between €50m and €80m spread throughout his contract dependent on who you believe, this officially makes him the highest paid coach in world football.
With the newly crowned European Champion at the helm, €94m Cristiano Ronaldo, €89m Kaka, €41m Benzema plus new recruits Khedira and Ozil for a combined cost of somewhere around €30m optimism that Real can finally topple Barca’s dominance was high going into the start of this season.
After a sluggish start Real began to hit their stride and matched Barca blow by blow until the 5-0 at the end of October. While Real went on to win their next five games the crucial and perhaps even heartbreaking thing was that Barca were relentless. Real hadn’t managed to make up any real ground at all. After hard fought victories v Getafe 2-3 and v Villareal 4-2. Real finally succumbed to Almeria 1-1 and two weeks later lost to Osasuna away 1-0 a ground that historically Real don’t have the best record at but more importantly this season, a ground that sent Real’s title challenge into tatters.
Despite all the recent money spent by Florentino Perez, Real have not been able to make any ground on Barca, who in comparison have hardly spent anything. While spending €40m on David Villa looks like a shrewd signing compared to the £42m Liverpool splashed out on Carroll. It’s Barca’s scouting network and La Masia youth setup that is the real winner. It costs Barcelona roughly €8m – €12m to run La Masia per year (about the price of Ronaldo’s arm) and when you produce players the quality of Valdes, Pique, Puyol, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi and of course Messi who all have a style of football embedded in them since a young age it is something that money just can’t buy.
Of course Real will have their day once again, Barca can’t keep having golden players each generation but perhaps instead of blindly throwing money in the hope some of it lands them a title, they’d do well discovering what exactly they can do to produce there own top class players, because of course there are things in life money just can’t buy and long-term success is one of them.