Tuesday, 15 April 2008

What might have been

This weekend's Sunday Telegraph has an interview with Carlos Queiroz, in which he reminisces about his year in charge at Real Madrid in between stints as assistant coach to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. In the wake of the usual end-of-season transfer speculation which has Real considering whether to make an offer of up to £100 million to United for Cristiano Ronaldo's services, Queiroz reveals that his young countryman was at the top of his wishlist when he made the move to the Bernabéu nearly five years ago. Given that United snapped him up soon afterwards for a "measly" £12 million (also indirectly through Queiroz), Real Madrid can only wonder what might have been.

Earlier this week, French sports daily L'Equipe reported that Mijatovic had recently been in the UK to talk to Queiroz about Cristiano. The Real Madrid sports director reportedly put 120 million euros on the table to make him the player to spearhead Real's assault on the Champions League. Queiroz is said to have retorted that "at that price, the striker will be with United next season", which, if the quote is accurate, suggests there is room for negotiation.

Of course, the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo has matured into the kind of player everybody wants must owe something to the way Alex Ferguson runs his Manchester United squads. The relative freedom from internal politics and his unchallenged status inside the club means that no player is more important than the squad and internal cliques and dissension are generally quashed before they can take hold. Whether he could have flourished in that way at Real Madrid is something we'll never know.

Ironically, it was Ferguson's intransigence in this regard that eventually led to media maelstrom David Beckham joining the rank of the galácticos at the same time as Queiroz. However, as Queiroz recalls, the seeds of destruction that resulted in three years without a trophy, including his one season at the club (the Spanish Supercup does not count) had already been sown. Real's president, Florentino Pérez, decided that "he knew something about football" and commanded that Makélélé be sold to Chelsea. This was "a criminal error, the president's worst decision. Makélélé wanted to stay. He told me and he told [Jorge] Valdano (then the club's general manager). But, in the president's mind, releasing Makélélé vacated a position in which David Beckham could play. He was worried that, with Makélélé in the team, Beckham would be blocked out. But of course we could have had both."

Queiroz also analyses Real's Zidanes y Pavones strategy: "the policy was to surround the galácticos with players from the academy, the cantera, as much as possible. It was a great idea and could have worked - except that the cantera could not deliver its requirements. The young players were not there. On top of that, the club had let some of the best go the year before - like Samuel Eto'o. He was a Real Madrid player before he went to Barcelona and emerged as world-class. When the season started, I gave an interview to Marca and said that, although it was true Real Madrid was a Ferrari, you could not win a race if the car had no wheels. Sad to say, I was proved right."


estoverao said...

we know exactly what would have happened if C.Ronaldo had gone to Madrid and his name would have been Robinho, a player only now coming into his own because of all the politics etc. The way Man U and even Arsenal develop young players doesn't exist in the current Real Madrid mode of operating. Does anyone really think Raul would be an untouchable for Ferguson or Wenger? Both Man U and Arsenal get rid of the old guard or phase them out gracefully while in Madrid as long as the press likes you, you can play horribly for several years and still have people consider you the same player you were 6 years ago.

estoverao said...

my point is simply that keeping the old guard around when they are past their prime only hampers the development of younger players, especially younger stars in the making who don't want to play in anyone's shadow.

Anonymous said...

I agree: both C.R. and Rooney have the potential to be a pair of troublesome wayward youngsters, and yet their talent has been allowed to flourish at ManU.

With the 'old guard' there's I think a romantic notion that players who spend their whole working life under the same club should somehow be rewarded and the press play up to that shamelessly.

estoverao said...

just imagine C.Ronaldo having to play second fiddle to Beckham, or Fabregas having to come into his own around Viera, or would Adebayor have stepped it up as much with Henry around. We have a great young nucleus of Robinho, Sneijder, Ramos, Gago, Marcelo and Pepe. They won't get their just due until Raul & Guti pack up and leave.

Gonzalo said...

I agree that old blood must make way for new (that is exactly what happened to Butragueño when Raúl arrived on the scene, and to Santillana earlier, when Butragueño first stepped up). But you don't always know which ones are the ones that are going to make it so getting rid of your veterans is a hard choice to make. I don't really buy the whole Raúl conspiracy theory: I think that he has proved too useful to managers for years even though he is no longer at his peak. Also, you have to consider that no manager has lasted longer than 2 seasons since Del Bosque, which means they have not had the chance to stamp their character on the squad.

Soccer Rag said...

I believe that without Ferguson, Ronaldo might not have evolved into the player he is now. The manager was around to guide him during crucial parts of his young career, such as the World Cup debacle with Rooney.

Sanchopinky said...

With or without Ronaldo Real wouldn't have achieved anything. I'm a big fan of the club but there are way too many egos and executives who like to consider themselves managers.

They have no patience for young talent and just waste it away.

Anonymous said...

I really think Ronaldo is an unneeded commodity for Real in the seasons to come. We will just be wasting money on someone in whose position we have too many other good players to fill in with. I hope Mr.Mijatovic is reading this.

And aboput Raul and Guti packing up, well look at the charts. Raul has scored more goals than anyone else and Guti has made more assists than anyone else. SO I doubt whether chucking them will do any good to us. They will have to stay and guide the younger players (the sole reason why Michel Salgado still plays).

Isn't Sir Alex the person who brought Hendrik Larsson down to United on loan when he needed a striker? Isn't he still persisting with the likes of Giggs and Scholes who haven't been doing all that well this season.

Arsenal's policy is to send off older players and make a team full of young men. Our team consists of both older and younger players now and they are gelling well together and that is what matters.