Real Madrid: ”Zidanes y Pavones” Strategy

Real Madrid's ''Zidanes y Pavones'' players

‘’To reach the top of your career, you have to play for Real Madrid.’’ Luis Figo

La Liga side Real Madrid has always been the home of football’s greatest. It has always been the dream club for every footballer on earth. Real Madrid has always managed to sign the best of their era: Di Stefano, Santillana, Gento, Ronaldo Nazario, Figo, Ivan Zamorano, Valdano, Cannavaro, Redondo, Hugo Sanchez, Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo… A whole book can be made of the big names that played for Real Madrid.

It has always been the club’s policy ever since Santiago Bernabeu became the club’s president. He had to avoid the club going bankrupt, so he decided to buy superstars to make the people come watch the games and fill the stadium. Quite smart, right?

‘’I must repeat that my policy is to try to sign the best player in the world in every position where we do not already have that.’’ Florentino Perez

The year is 2000, Florentino Perez has just been elected Real Madrid’s new president. He came with an interesting plan: ‘’Zidanes y Pavones’’. The idea was that the team would feature Galacticos (superstar signins, Zidane) alongside Canteranos (Real Madrid’s La Fabrica players, Pavon).

The idea was quite popular in the Real Madrid fanbase, but it did not work out well for the club. As a matter of a fact, Real Madrid only had one canterano that was able to make a name for himself from 2000 to 2006 (Perez’s first spell), that guy was Iker Casillas. On the other hand, many superstars came to the club and were ‘’guaranteed’’ a starting XI place: Beckham, Zidane, Figo, etc.

This era saw many great talents leave Real Madrid and go shine bright in other clubs. The likes of Eto’o, Juan Mata and Soldado found themselves obliged to look for an opportunity elsewhere since they were not really given a chance to play alongside the galacticos.

Perez insisted on bringing a Galactico during each year of his first term of office.

  • 2000: Luis Figo
  • 2001: Zinedine Zidane
  • 2002: Ronaldo Nazario
  • 2003: David Beckham
  • 2004: Michael Owen
  • 2005: Robinho de Souza

Zidanes kept on coming, Pavones kept on having a hard time.

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Perez left on 2006 and came back in 2009 with quite a similar plan. He adjusted it in order to make it more doable and more effective. The idea became to form a team that features not only superstars and youth team players but also young talents from other teams.

The signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Granero were a prelude for what was to be expected in the Madridista nation.

The arrival of Mourinho in 2010 helped on improving this philosophy. The signings of the likes of Di Maria, Özil, Khedira, Sahin and Varane were a clear indication than the club was now focusing more on signing Pavones than Zidanes as they only signed one Galactico, Luka Modric.

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Zidane came back to Real Madrid in 2013 as Perez’ consultant. The club started then signing Pavones from both outside of the club (Isco, Illaramendi) an inside of it (Morata, Jese, Carvajal) while still giving a go to Galacticos (Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez).

It was until the arrival of Zidane in 2016 that the club started giving more and more opportunities to young talents and canteranos.

Zidane’s arrival was some king of a breakthrough to young talents. He would rotate the teams and give more and more playing time to young Asensio, Morata, Jese, Llorente, Borja Mayoral, etc.

Real Madrid's squad depth in 2017
Real Madrid’s two teams in 2017

Zidane may be the only coach that got Perez’ blessing in deciding over the squad make-up by himself. All the recruitments should be accepted first by Zidane, rumor has it in Spain that he was the one to refuse Eriksen’s arrival to the Merengues last summer.

The club’s policy has now become to sign young Galacticos (Asensio, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, Fede Valverde, Martin Odegaard, Reinier). This helps the club save load of money and help the Castilla develop and become stronger.

‘’Zidanes y Pavones’’ is a smart move by Perez. It ended up being a win-win situations for all its sides. The irony, however, is that it was Zidane that mastered it while Pavon himself didn’t really benefit from as he had to leave Real Madrid for Real Zaragoza hoping to find more playing minutes there.