Battlestar Galacticos II, returning with a vengeance, SO FOOT, May 2009, courtesy of Azam and Risya from their trip to Paris
Who is the better player, the one holding the shirt, the most expensive in the history of the game until Cristiano Ronaldo came along, or the one on the right, whom many claim to be the greatest ever?
Sure Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo are the two of the best offensive midfielders around, and if Franck Ribery is bound for Madrid as widely reported, they will form an awesome triumvirate but with Fabio Cannavaro past his peak and no sound defensive system and machine-like individuals to carry the piano for all the pianists, Real Madrid may not be so Royal come the new season. The team lack the balance compared to treble champions from another country, Barca of Catalonia.
Florentino Perez took four seasons to assemble the Galacticos, beginning with Luis Figo in 2001, subsequently followed by Zidane, Ronaldo and Becks. Even then by their high standards, Real were a team to reckon with, having won the UEFA Champions League in 1998 and 2000.
In Roberto Carlos, Michel Salgado and Guti, Real had the artisans to support the artists who were on top of their game. The UEFA Champions League title in 2002 was the zenith for Perez and Co.
When Makelele left in 2003, the team lost its most crucial member whose job was to sweep their troubles away. Ronaldo the Phenom and Beckham added a different dimension to the team but Makelele proved irreplaceable. Who would win the ball for Zidane to supply the ammunition to?
And so it marked the beginning of the end for Perez's dream team in terms of winning honours.
I don't see Gago, Higuain, Marcelo, Mamadou Diarra, Huntelaar, Robben, Sneijder, van der Vaart (if the Dutch duo do not go to Bayern Munich), Kaka and Ronaldo gelling immediately. They will be an exciting ensemble of stars to watch but Barca, with the two initiators Xavi and Iniesta dictating the tempo in the middle of the park , remain the side to beat. They have players with character and the winning mentality that Real lack, I must say. And unlike Real, Barca have an established starting line-up with specific duties, like Messi and Henry flanking Eto'o while Toure does the dirty work in midfield.
By tradition Real are expected not only to dominate La Liga but also the Champions League. There will be pockets of sheer magic here and there but eventually the White Angels assembled for a second time by Perez may have feet of clay!