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Unfair? Ronaldo knows that this dream's for Real
Published : 14 Jun 2009 08:54:04
I know, I know. Blowing nearly £140 million on Kaka and Ronaldo (and God knows how much more to come) is about the biggest act of shameless, vulgar indulgence the world of sport has ever seen. It's obscene, disgusting, inexcusable, outrageous, repulsive and a complete violation of everything decent football clubs should stand for . . . Every sensible, right-minded, football fan in Britain should feel a withering sense of contempt and abhorrence at this utterly appalling illustration of greedy, mercenary, global piracy, particularly coming at a time when the world is struggling to emerge from the worst recession in recent history. And yet, hand on heart, if I'm completely honest, I'd willingly have my eye teeth extracted by a pair of rusty pliers right now - to be a Real Madrid fan. I'm not sure what it was that tipped me towards that view last week. Perhaps it was hearing that absurd little French bore, Michel Platini, whining about how 'excessive' and 'unfair' it all was (how can someone so effortlessly graceful on the pitch be such a graceless cretin off it?). Or listening to my grieving Manchester United supporting friends earnestly trying to explain how it was all absolutely fine because they now had all this money to spend on... well, let's face it, players nowhere near as good as Ronaldo. Or the fact that when I heard the news of both transfers I was in Las Vegas, where such orgies of wanton financial extravagance are encouraged, and indeed saluted, on a daily basis. But no, the reason I'm so enthusiastic about this dazzling transfer raid is that the guy behind it is the kind of man who I really admire. Florentino Perez is a dreamer. He loves nothing better than splashing the cash on fantasy teams. Figo, Zidane, the other Ronaldo, Beckham, each of them brought a sprinkling of diamond-encrusted stardust to the Bernabeu. All right, his last Galactico reign ended in relative failure if you judge it purely on trophies, though most clubs would settle for a few league titles and a European Cup. And this one might, too. But for sheer breathtaking audacity of hope, this chubby, balding, bespectacled political tycoon is right up there with Barack Obama in the 'Yes, we can' visionary stakes. Perez's campaign for the Real Madrid presidency was based around the slogan 'The dream is back'. And that's exactly what it is. A dream, according to the dictionary is, among other things, 'an aspiration, goal, wild or vain fancy, something of unreal beauty, charm or excellence'. Perez has always been the same. 'I believe in emotions and spectacle,' he said last time he ran for the presidency. And that's what his teams provide. They're exciting, fabulous, often magnificent, occasionally disappointing. But never, ever boring. Perez would like nothing better than his team to win 6-5 every game. It's so easy in this cynical modern world of ours to shake one's head at people like him. To sneer and deride and insist that he's an evil, malevolent corrupting force. But the facts don't really support this theory. For a start, Real Madrid can afford to do what he's doing. They are the richest club in the world, with a domestic TV deal alone that generates more than £135m a year and sponsors like adidas and Coca-Cola chucking yet further hundreds of millions of euros at them. And the Galacticos shift merchandise faster than Usain Bolt shifts yards. Perez may have failed - and, again, I stress that this is a pretty moot point - on the pitch. But off it he made an already rich Madrid fantastically wealthier. Crucially, Madrid are also a not-for-profit, virtually state-run organisation, and therefore immune from the normal monetary trials and tribulations that football clubs face. So the factual, harsh reality of what appears to be complete and utter lunacy is that it makes absolute commercial sense to do what Perez is doing. He is speculating to accumulate. And he's doing it with all the style, panache and twinkle-eyed courage of those great Spanish explorers like Cortez and Pizarro. Our Premier League may well still be the 'best league in the world', as everyone keeps assuring me. But after watching Barcelona sweep to such sumptuous triumph in Europe last month, and now seeing Madrid hoover up the rest of the planet's best players, I know where I'd rather be watching my football next season. And trust me, it ain't Wigan, Bolton or even Old Trafford or the Emirates. It's been a brilliant year for dreamers. First Obama, then Susan 'I dreamed a dream' Boyle and now Florentino, perhaps the greatest dreamer in the history of sport. Senor Perez, as the rest of world football rushes to condemn you, I doff my matador hat (I was given a real one by the owner of my favourite London restaurant for sustained and loyal service to fine Rioja) and say: 'Viva el sueno!'