Back in 2000 when Real Madrid landed the signing of Luis Figo from bitter arch-rivals Barcelona, not only did the €62 million price tag smash the world transfer record at the time, it also ushered in the first ‘Galactico’ era with club president Florentino Pérez at the helm.
The aim for Pérez was to sign at least one superstar each summer, with Zinedine Zidane arriving from Juventus in 2001 and smashing the world transfer record yet again. He was followed by world-class Brazilian striker Ronaldo in 2002, then English stars David Beckham in 2003 and Michael Owen in 2004.
The ‘Galactico’ policy brought decidedly mixed success on the pitch but helped Real Madrid become one of the most powerful marketing forces in world sport, reaping huge returns on the global appeal of their stellar players. However, by the time Robinho and Sergio Ramos arrived in 2005, the first ‘Galactico’ era was already drawing to a close.
Second ‘Galactico’ Era Success
Pérez was defeated in the 2006 presidential elections, his big-spending approach and perceived interference considered to have been a failure by many. Succeeded by Ramón Calderón, the club continued to sign high-profile players, albeit without the same level of superstardom attached.
Nevertheless, Pérez regained the presidency in 2009 and within a matter of weeks, swiftly ushered in his second ‘Galactico’ era with four blockbuster signings that very summer. Real Madrid signed Brazilian playmaker Kaká from Milan, attacking marksman Karim Benzema from Olympique Lyonnais, then midfield general Xabi Alonso from Liverpool.
However, the icing on the cake in the summer of 2009 was the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. Already considered to be one of the best players in the world, his €94 million transfer fee set another new transfer record. Fans filled the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, just to welcome the Portuguese superstar to their club.
The big-spending policy of Pérez continued. Argentine ace Ángel Di María arrived in 2010, followed by Luka Modric in 2012 and Welsh wizard Gareth Bale for €100 million in 2013. The following summer, Real Madrid swooped for Toni Kroos and James Rodríguez. That five-year spell between 2009 and 2014 was the second ‘Galactico’ era, before a change of policy came.
From 2014 it seemed as though Pérez doubted the value in spending such huge amounts of money. The subsequent period saw the club focus its attention on signing the best and brightest young talents, particularly from other clubs around Spain. While some of the young signings established themselves, such as Brazilian midfielder Casemiro, others struggled.
That said, this same period also saw Real Madrid win the Champions League three times in a row before both Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane walked away from the club. The French coach returned to the helm late last season, aiming to steer his team back in the right direction, during what can only be described as a failed 2018-19 campaign by their standards.
The Third ‘Galactico’ Era Begins
Fast-forward to the summer of 2019 and it’s looking as though Pérez has now commenced his third ‘Galactico’ era. Journalists and betting experts at Betfair are now predicting great things for the current Real Madrid side, following the arrival of Belgian star Eden Hazard from Chelsea for €100 million, after a lengthy pursuit spanning the last couple of years for the Spanish club.
As part of a spending spree that has already topped €300 million this summer, Real Madrid have also secured the services of Brazilian defender Éder Militão from FC Porto, full-back Ferland Mendy from Lyon, powerful Serbian striker Luka Jović from Eintracht Frankfurt, plus Brazilian attacking prodigy Rodrygo from Santos.
These signings are aimed at helping Zidane lead a rejuvenated Real Madrid side towards dominating European football again, aiming for yet another Champions League triumph. In addition, the club is keen to improve domestic performance, given that Barcelona have won the last two LaLiga titles. Also, Real Madrid haven’t won the Copa del Rey since 2014.
As we head towards the start of the 2019-20 campaign, even more signings could arrive at the Santiago Bernabéu. There’s talk of a €200 million move for Paul Pogba from Manchester United, or even gazumping Barcelona in the chase to sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain. All of this activity points towards the third ‘Galactico’ era being crazier than ever.
Will such expenditure guarantee success? Real Madrid will arguably sell more shirts than anyone else this season, but will they win more trophies? That remains to be seen, of course, although it will certainly make exciting viewing for fans of Spanish football.