Florentino Perez is perhaps one of the most controversial figures in football history. He has achieved a cult-like status due to his arrogance and unpopular policies. He is despised and simultaneously adored by Real Madrid fans. Although his policies raise eyebrows and bring skepticism, wherever Perez goes, success follows him. He signed superstars so that they could promote Real Madrid as a brand in foreign markets. This generated a lot of revenue, which helped further their Galacticos project. Real Madrid has emerged as an economic superpower during his reign and stands head and shoulders above all the other clubs globally.
Pérez’s journey can be traced back to when he worked for the Madrid city council, where he was involved in minor administrative duties, overseeing low-grade Spain’s public roads. He would later be promoted to work in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport before venturing into Spanish politics. He was elected as the general secretary of the Democratic Reformist Party (PRD), which was short-lived, and its dissolution saw Perez exit the world of politics in 1986. After an unsuccessful political career, Perez ventured into the world of business. His fortunes in business grew as he exploited the booming construction industry by procuring contracts for his company. His upward trajectory in business continued, leading to the founding of ACS in 1993, among the biggest construction companies in the world.
Amidst this financial success, Florentino Perez threw his hat in the ring for the vacant presidential position at Real Madrid. The incumbent President at the time was under immense pressure for failing to disclose the club’s extensive debts. Despite the efforts and pressure mounting on the incumbent, Perez lost as Ramón Mendoza retained the presidency. The defeat did not quench Perez’s thirst for power, and while his attention after the defeat was on ACS, his dream to become the Real Madrid president remained alive.
In 2000, Perez gave the Real Madrid presidency another shot, determined to win and satisfy his insatiable hunger for prestige and influence. One of his strategies to win the presidency was founded on the transfer of Luis Figo, who played for Barcelona during that time. In 2000, Figo was at the peak of his career and was Barcelona’s captain. With total disregard for the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, Perez promised to bring Luis Figo to Bernabeu should he be elected the President.
Behind the scenes, Perez struck a deal with Luis Figo’s agent. The deal was made such that the agent received assurances before consenting to Figo’s move to Madrid. It was agreed that should he fail in his presidential bid, Figo would receive compensation from Perez. Figo’s agent agreed to the terms, leaving the ball on Perez’s court.
Upon hearing the possibility of signing Luis Figo from arch-rivals Barcelona, Real Madrid fans were caught between excitement and disbelief. They turned up in large numbers and voted Florentino Perez into the presidency, winning against Lorenzo Sanz. Immediately after he won the election, Real Madrid triggered the €50m release clause in Figo’s contract, leaving Barcelona helpless as their talisman moved to the Spanish capital.
Florentino Perez’s tenure was ushered in by an aggressive transfer policy promise, which saw Real Madrid capture the most world-class names in Europe. In addition to Luis Figo from Barcelona, Perez oversaw the signings of Claude Makélélé from Celta Vigo, Zinedine Zidane from Juventus, Ronaldo de Lima from Inter Milan, and David Beckham from Manchester United. Other big names that arrived at the Spanish capital include Michael Owen from Liverpool, Robinho from Santos, and Sergio Ramos from Sevilla. These players formed the Galactico era, announcing Perez as one of the most influential presidents in the world, who signed whichever big name dominated the headlines in the world.
While the Galactico era did not win much in Europe despite being stacked with big names, it formed the foundation of what could be in the future. It turned Real Madrid into one of the most attractive destinations for any big name. Ballon d’Or winners in 2007 and 2008, Kaka of AC Milan and Cristiano Ronaldo, were signed, continuing the Galactico mantra of signing the best players in the world. Barcelona’s threat of dominance further strengthened the idea of going for the best players to challenge and win the big trophies in Europe. While the initial efforts to win it all were unsuccessful, the foundation of dominance had already been established, and it was a matter of time before Real Madrid dominated Europe.
Moreover, Florentino Perez ensured that the best managers coached the best talents at his disposal. It all began with the appointment of Jose Mourinho after winning the treble with Inter Milan. Even though it did not include winning the Champions League title, Mourinho’s time at Madrid meant that Real Madrid was a heavy favorite to conquer Europe. After being sacked, Perez hired Carlo Ancelotti, who won the first of the five titles Madrid would win in nine years. After Ancelotti left Madrid, Zinedine Zidane took over the reign at Madrid and oversaw a period of unprecedented dominance, where his team won three Champions League titles in a row.
Apart from the Champions League triumphs, Real Madrid ensured that Barcelona’s dominance domestically was disrupted, and each of the managers since 2010 has won Real Madrid a league title. All this has been made possible by the genius of Florentino Perez, who ensured that his team continues to compete on all fronts and exerts dominance against any opposing force.
His election in 2000 has turned Real Madrid’s fortunes around. When he took over, the club was deep in debt. Two decades later, no other club registered more revenues than Real Madrid, a testament to Perez’s masterstroke in the Spanish capital. His time at Real Madrid is far from over, and Perez remains as hungry as ever. He wants Real Madrid to win every season and have the world’s best players. As long as he remains in Madrid, the genius of Florentino Perez will always be on show.
Let us hear your thoughts in the comment section.