Monday, November 23, 2015

White House Down: Real Madrid's Faithful Turn on the President's Box.

By Justin Sherman (@JShermOfficial)

Incompetent. Lacking foresight. Dominated by the people we hate.

These were just some of the words splashed over all of the papers describing a president and the white house he rules with an iron fist.

Only this time, they weren't coming from a Donald Trump rally, or your “patriotic” friend on Facebook cluttering your timeline with impending armageddon.

Barcelona won Saturday's Clasico 4-0, seemingly undressing Real Madrid in the process, leaving their flaws exposed for all of the world to see. From the second the ball was kicked off from the center circle, Barcelona were in control.

Vision, movement, cohesion.

It took only 10 minutes for the Catalans to strike first, with the ball arriving at Sergi Roberto’s feet and Luka Modric trailing behind. Instantly, Sergio Ramos was drawn towards him, stepping a long way out from the back four and Roberto nudged the ball into the open space behind him.

That space was occupied by Luis Suarez, who bent it first time low into the far corner with the outside of his foot. It was his 14th goal of the season, and his 11th in the 11 games that Barcelona have been without the world's best player, Lionel Messi.

From there It only got worse, as three more would find the back of the net. The scoreline was actually generous, as Barca missed many clear cut chances, none worse than Munir’s.

For the first time this season, Rafa Benitez had his full squad at his disposal. Instead of slowly integrating his star players back to action, he tossed them into the arena, with Maximus and ten other tigers awaiting.

Madrid went full blown attack, inserting James and Benzema, neglecting the area of the pitch that makes Barcelona so good.

It was an amateur mistake, the likes of even Rafa Benitez, would be hard pressed to make.

Only this time, the Bernabeu weren’t fooled.

As halftime was called, fans directed their venom at the plush white seats fit for a king. “Florentino Out!” they cried, demanding that their president resign. Possibly sensing the incoming grenade, the club responded by attempting to drown out the chants, moving quickly to play promotional content and blasting the club anthem.

This was a politically inspired lineup with no plan, out of form players, and no soul.
This defeat was as much structural as it was technical, and it’s been that way for a while.

Six seasons have passed since Florentino Perez returned to power in Chamartin in 2009, when he won back the presidency uncontested. Under his watch, Real Madrid have become a footballing business like none other. The club's financial might has surpassed every other sporting institution on the planet. In 2013-14, the club's revenue went past €600 million for the first time, and last season it hit €660 million.

Unfortunately, that success hasn't translated to the pitch.

In those six seasons, Madrid have lifted one league title. That figure doesn't change if you add the final three seasons of his first term, either, taking his tally to one in nine. Not since the 1940s have Real Madrid endured a less prosperous stretch, and the finger of blame always points somewhere else.

Managers are discarded like last week's newspaper and club icons are treated like dirt when their jersey no longer sells. Bigger stars are signed no matter the cost and thrown at the manager, whether they fit the team or not.

Under Florentino Perez, Real Madrid are 11-11-16 against Barcelona, with a goal difference of 51-66 and it’s not a coincidence. Though altered slightly, Barcelona have stayed true to their principles and more importantly, their identity.

"Whereas the Catalans still just use business principles to fortify a football philosophy, Real Madrid use football to further a business philosophy," wrote notable journalist Miguel Delaney.

Madrid were in shambles last night. The only cheers of the night sarcastically coming when Isco was shown a straight red for his karate kick of Neymar, and when Andres Iniesta, a Barcelona player, was subbed off.

But what else is there to cheer?

Ronaldo seems to have one foot out the door, seemingly sulking on the pitch more than a petulant child. Gareth Bale is a shell of himself, with no natural position or purpose. Karim Benzema is injured, and the center of a blackmailing sex tape investigation.

Florentino is Florentino- not changing, and never will.

A serial winner has become a gross underachiever, and someone’s head is surely to be had, because that's how Madrid operates.

The smear campaign against Benitez will now predictably come, caught between the team he wants them to be and what the president has ensured that they are.

The empty soul of a team was front and center in Madrid for all of the world to see, but the president's box was bullet proof no longer. The orchestrator had at last tasted some of his medicine, but this time, there may not be a cure.

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