The method to Florentino Perez's madness in sacking managers at Real Madrid
When Florentino Perez came on stage to announce Carlo Ancelotti’s departure in a press conference, he looked nervous. Upon being asked why Carlo has been let go, he said that the board felt that the squad needed a new impetus after a trophyless season.
Nobody was convinced. And upon being probed further as to why he felt that way he said something strange – “I don’t know,” and followed it up with the standard company line of pressure at Madrid being very high.
Oh, Florentino knows, but seeing him this nervous and almost casual with such an answer was very unsettling for journalists and fans alike. It was also revealed that the players didn’t know until the announcement was made. Yes, the same players who publicly supported him through all forms of media, even Twitter and Instagram.
It was not only the players. The fans, journalists, nobody could make sense of why Real Madrid has taken this decision. What was the thought process of Perez and the so-called board he consulted with before making this decision? The answer is more complicated than it seems, and really worrying if one is a Real Madrid fan.
Lack of squad rotation was a factor but was Ancelotti at fault?
Perez has a history, and it is not without a trend. Vicente Del Bosque, Hierro, Raul, and a long list of coaches that have come and gone in his tenure don’t make for a pretty picture. Decisions are impulsive and have extremely weird motivations. So what rubbed Perez the wrong way about Carletto?
For starters, the decision was probably taken, or at least the wheels were set in motion, as early as a couple of months ago. The bottom line will say this was a trophyless season and often it is easy to relate manager sackings to that. But they are generally more philosophical decisions.
Where a club is at that point, where it sees itself the upcoming season, squad dynamics; all these factor more than whether someone won a title or not. Winning tiles creates illusions if there are holes in some of these factors, but losing is the perfect ground for such decisions.
It is believed that the contextual reasons are that of rotation (or a lack of it), and subsequently fatigue and injuries. The club sees a pattern of dominating in the mid-season showing promise, but when it is crunch time in April and May, the team fizzles out. Perez and his team of honchos seem to believe fatigue, lack of rotation and over taxed starters contributed to this in the past two years.
Yes, Ancelotti could have done a better job rotating, but when you look at the scenario, did he really have much of an option? His insistence on playing Toni Kroos every game is down to the last minute bombshell Xabi Alonso dropped rendering most of the summer squad planning useless. Freak injuries, especially that of Luka Modric, did not help either.
Last but not least, a mentally checked out Sami Khedira, and a completely confidence-less Illarramendi meant that the midfield did not have any depth at all. With the rest of the squad, there was enough rotation and lack of fatigue, but the midfield was hit hard, and it was also very contextual, especially when you factor in that it was a post-World Cup year.
One of Ancelotti’s big flaws was a colossal misuse of the bench. Very rarely would you see impactful substitutions from the bench, be it providing an alternative, or adjusting to a temporary different tactic. Judging by reports, this seemed to have caught the bosses’ attention as well.
There is also a belief that the squad doesn’t train as intensely as a Champions League level squad must, and that along with the pile up of injuries is making matters worse. Some of these injuries happened while the players were with their national teams, some just absolute freak injuries, some hangovers from an extremely lengthy previous season followed by a World Cup.
Almost every big club faces this crisis, but here you have another easy scapegoat that aligns with the end effects. Bear in mind, Pepe did claim in an interview that he felt the squad seems to train harder than they did under Mourinho.
Perez is not a man one can reason with at Real Madrid
While all these seem like a decision born out of an end of season appraisal of the campaign that just ended, or Ancelotti himself, there was an uncomfortable feeling that the decision was already taken. Perez being in absolutely no hurry, announcing the decision merely days after the season ended, must be seen in support of this theory.
Real Madrid is a club run by socios, and they tell you a great lie that it is a democracy. The truth, however, is that there is one man, and perhaps his entourage that control all matters. Most business decisions taken by this elite group are excellent – they are after all businessmen by trade.
However, the footballing decisions have often left a lot to be desired. Perez is a rich and powerful man. His business moves show this nature in him. His footballing moves, too, are very similar once you paint this story around his choices.
Perez does not seem to like players growing more powerful than where he thinks they should be. Hierro, Raul, Di Maria – you don’t win a battle with him if you make it personal. Perez has a type, and an expectation from coaches too.
Parallels can be drawn with what happened with Del Bosque back in 2003. Perez likes his coaches to be authoritative figures from a PR standpoint, even though with a unique dressing room set up such as Real Madrid, the opposite is the obvious solution for optimal results. Ancelotti too, like the Spanish coach, believes in empowering players, to not be too rigid, and maintain a very calm demeanour.
Unfortunately for Carletto, that’s not what Perez wants. Perez was reportedly shocked with Carlo’s calm reactions following a disastrous derby drubbing to Atletico Madrid. To him it seemed like Ancelotti wasn’t acting as he would have if he cared. It is often true that what happens in front of the screen, and what happens behind the screen, are vastly different. Lessons can be learned from rough defeats such as those without showcasing that the world is ending, but not according to Perez.
Ancelotti’s special relationship with the players also works against Perez’ attitude of not wanting the players to become too powerful, so much so, that it is said that the public support for Ancelotti might have even worked against the Italian’s case for keeping his job for the upcoming season.
Will Florentino Perez ever learn to trust his managers?
Carlo Ancelotti is not perfect. But he had the squad playing some of the best football fans have seen in more than 10 years, brought the seemingly cursed La Decima home, brought unprecedented harmony within the squad after a tumultuous falling out as he inherited the squad, and only seemed to emit rainbows from his glorious eyebrows. At the very least he should have gotten another season, something his predecessor got, for arguably achieving as much, if not lesser, than him.
There’s only one word to describe it and it is unfair.
Florentino Perez knew very well why he didn’t want Ancelotti continuing, but didn’t have a good enough explanation for the public. Not only because there isn’t a strong one, but also because Florentino just doesn’t care. He does as he pleases, and there is almost literally, by the constitution of Real Madrid, nothing that anyone can do about it.
How that is fixed, and when that can be fixed, is anybody’s guess. For the moment, history repeats itself. Real Madrid will reset the button, and will trade continuity for the search of a perfect solution when the closest thing to it was just let go.
Even for everything the club has won, it is decisions like these that continue making the club infamous for being in the best position to win all titles every season, and somehow finding ways to colossally screw it up.