Recently, news about some leaked audio clips of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez broke out that is sure to have left him red-faced. In these leaked audio clips, Perez is heard commenting on some of the big wigs of the club. Some were called “failures,” while some were regarded to have “childlike” behaviour.
However, the leaked audio clips are not the first time the club has publicly shunned their players directly or through their actions. Real Madrid has been infamous for mistreating its legends. Because of this, many of their past-prime ex-players like Ilker Casillas, Sergio Ramos saw their relationship with the club slowly deteriorating before leaving on bad terms.
One audio clip targeted Iker Casillas, called dearly by the Madrid faithful as 'Saint Iker', who has played over 700 matches in the Madrid outfit.
In the audio clip, Perez can be heard saying, "Casillas is not a Real Madrid standard goalkeeper, what can I say? He's not and never has been, He has been a big failure of ours. The problem is people adore him, love him, talk to him, they defend him so much."
He continued, "You could see the other' keeper was better than Casillas, You can tell when things aren't going so well with his girlfriend as well; he's absent [mentally]. He's like a child... he's like a lapdog, a puppet, something childlike."
A legend of the club, Casillas was one of the most excellent keepers of his generation and has made the UEFA team of the year six consecutive times. With 177 clean sheets, Casillas is Real Madrid's best keeper of all time.
Several audio files had recordings directed towards the legendary Spanish striker Raúl who is the most capped Real Madrid player with 745 appearances. The six-time La Liga winner has played at the Bernabeu for 16 years and was the top goalscorer with 323 goals until Cristiano Ronaldo broke his record in 2015. Perez called him and Casillas “scams” in one of the audio clips.
He said, "Casillas is not a GK for Madrid, what do you want me to tell you? He's not, never been. It's been a great failure we've had…Well, one of the great scams and the second one is Raúl. The two great Madrid scams."
Perez also said, "Raúl is bad, he believes that Madrid is his. Him and his agent. He's one of the reasons I left, he's the culprit. He's destroying Madrid, the morale of the players, everything. It's terrible what a bad kid he is."
Even Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t spared in these audio clips. His arrival at Real Madrid was deemed as the start of the second Galacticos era. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner had some of his most successful years playing at the Bernabeu. Considered to be one of the finest football players globally, Cristiano was called “mad” in one of the leaked recordings.
Perez said, "Cristiano is mad. That guy is an idiot. You think he's normal, but he's not, otherwise, he wouldn't do all the nonsense things he does."
Real Madrid’s Response
In response to these recordings, Real Madrid issued a statement calling out Jose Antonio Abellan, the journalist who secretly recorded these audiotapes and allegedly sold them to (newspaper). The report declared the comments from the audio clips were out of context and had resurfaced because of Perez's involvement in the European Super League.
The Perez Model
The footballing world has been a witness to Real Madrid’s antics for ages. Be it a club legend or a new, upcoming player, no one was spared from this treatment. Florentino Perez’s philosophy of buying the newest and biggest players is one of the reasons for the disrespectful treatment.
Perez’s model has created the Real Madrid brand and generated revenue in the billions. But it has also abruptly ended magnificent careers and crippled the development of several upcoming players. Over-expectations coupled with the pressure of winning have ended careers. Players like Nicolas Anelka, Jonathan Woodgate, and Micheal Owen never recovered after their unsuccessful stints at Madrid, highlighting the shortcomings of the Perez Model.
Perez is heavily inspired by the American sports infrastructure, where sports teams are labelled as franchises and are pure money-making machines. His vision of creating the European Super League reiterates his love and admiration for leagues like the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL). But the sustenance of that structure in football is difficult.
Football, historically, has been structured around a merit-based model. Football teams who perform well either get promoted or solidify their place in the league, whereas teams that aren’t performing are at the risk of demotion. This model helps in maintaining parity in the sport and allows the growth and development of players. In this model, the team’s performance heavily dictates the finances and isn’t very profitable.
Perez’s master plan of creating an NBA-style league and signing the biggest and newest stars restates his motives of commercialising football. But is the footballing world ready for these changes? Will these changes ruin football? The debate continues.
Attribution for Florentino Perez’s towards Iker Casillas.