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Wasteland: A First Look

Who's to blame for Real Madrid only winning one title out of the last seven?

Strike aside, the league title is pretty much beyond doubt. You might as well hand Barcelona its 23rd La Liga title. Congratulations. Harrumph.

It’s been a depressing second half of the league for Real Madrid. We lost the league despite having a four point advantage just 10 weeks ago. To make matters worse, it feels like Iker Casillas, a guy who deserves a monument to his greatness outside of the Bernabeu, has finally had enough of the personal hell of the past few years at Real Madrid. His gestures during the game felt like a seismic moment, a repudiation of everything this club has been in the Florentino Perez era.

Florentino’s presidency has seen Real Madrid transform into a global hegemonic #brand that constantly tops the Forbes list as the richest club in the world, which is all well and good, but when you actually look at it and realize that Real Madrid has won one measly league in the last seven years, then you have to stop and start to wonder: what the hell is going wrong?

James Rodriguez holds his new Real shirt beside club president Florentino Perez during his unveiling as a new Real Madrid player at the Santaigo Bernabeu stadium on July 22, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.Getty Images

I think if you had to boil the failings of the Florentino era into one problem, it would be that it the actual playing squad is in service of some other thing.

At most clubs the entire machinery is designed to service the team. At Madrid the team is just a part of a seemingly much bigger mechanism. No one knows exactly what, really, that is. But that’s how you find yourself in a situation where you’re forcing so many players to play in unnatural positions. I’m talking of guys like Toni Kroos, shoved into defensive midfield for the first time in his life, or James Rodriguez and Isco, both being asked to play central midfield when they’ve always been attacking creative players. And yes, I’m talking about Gareth Bale.

Bale’s agent’s ran his mouth to the English press after UEFA released some stats from the Champions League semifinal first leg against Juve. Jonathan Barnett, Bale’s agent said that the stats vindicated his client’s performance because they showed that he ran more than his teammates, yet they didn’t pass it to him as much as the other guys. On average Bale receives about five fewer passes a game than Cristiano Ronaldo.

I’m no expert, but it makes sense to me that Ronaldo, being a far superior player to Bale in almost every way, would get to see more of the ball than Bale.

But Bale is almost like the embodiment of the Florentino Perez folly. He was a completely unnecessary signing that made no sense from a pure tactical point of view. If you crunch the numbers, Real Madrid hasn’t lost against a team in the top six in Spain in La Liga or the Copa del Rey when Bale doesn’t play (won five, drawn one). But Madrid’s record against those same clubs WITH Bale is less flattering: won seven, drawn seven, lost 11.

Real Madrid record

Bale did make a lot of sense from a marketing point of view, however, and that will always win out for Florentino. To him it doesn’t make any sense to not play a player who cost so much money and is so important to the club’s long term “strategic interests.” Whatever they may be.

In the meantime Carlo Ancelotti is constantly forced into a position of having to come up with creative solutions to fix Florentino’s poor squad make up. He’ll get fired for his efforts.

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