Ronaldo the draw as Real begin new Galacticos era

A global recession has most football clubs tightening their purse strings, but Real Madrid don’t seem to care, flexing their financial muscle with a staggering summer spending spree in excess of €250-million to try to re-establish themselves as the top team in Spain and Europe.

Last season that honour went to their arch-rivals, Barcelona, as they won an unprecedented league, Kings Cup and Champions League treble, and Real have responded with a massive financial investment to ensure they are not second best again.

Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to spearhead the Real revival following a world record €94-million move from Manchester United, with his skills and looks making him Madrid’s latest marketing tool.

“The great players cost a lot of money and I’m happy to be the most expensive player in the world,” said an ever-confident Ronaldo.

“I will show that the money Real have paid is a good decision.”

Brazilian playmaker Kaka (27) is the other world star to join the Real revolution, arriving for a cool €68,5-million from AC Milan.

Kaka said he only left Milan due to their financial troubles and revealed that former Milan teammate David Beckham had recommended Real, having played there for four seasons.

President Florentino Perez brought the so-called “Galacticos” of Beckham, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane to Madrid in his first spell at the club and his unopposed re-election this summer has signalled a second era of superstars.

Ronaldo and Kaka are joined by Spanish internationals Xabi Alonso and Raul Albiol who join from Liverpool and Valencia respectively.

Alonso will be the midfield anchor to balance what looks an attacking-minded side, while Albiol has been brought in to shore up a defence that leaked too many goals last season—underlined by Barcelona’s memorable 6-2 romp at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Up front exciting French striker Karim Benzema (21) has been plucked from Lyon for €35-million.

“With players like Kaka, Ronaldo and Raul, it will be very easy for us to get goals,” predicted Benzema.

Real certainly have an enviable squad, and with all the exciting new signings it is easy to forget that they also have a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini, who has been recruited from Villarreal.

Since 2003 Real have had nine different coaches and Pellegrini knows that the huge outlay means he will be under more pressure to deliver trophies.

While Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has a settled team brimming with confidence from a treble triumph, Pellegrini has a collection of players who hardly know each other and he must quickly gel them into a cohesive unit.

“It will not be easy because there are lots of internationals and not all of them can play at the same time,” said Pellegrini.

“We have 23 quality players. Some players are more expensive than the rest but they are all very good.”

A lot is always expected of Real in Europe but this Champions League campaign will have increased pressure as the final is being played at their Santiago Bernabeu stadium on May 22.

Real have failed to get past the last 16 stage since 2004 and last season had to watch their foes Barcelona lift the trophy in Rome.

The season’s curtain-raiser sees Real at home to Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday in a repeat of last season’s opener when they lost 2-1 at the Riazor Stadium.—Sapa-AFP

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