To help Capello out, I would like to propose three possible, not necessarily mutually exclusive, explanations for the inexplicable inexistence of Real Madrid: 1) Real Madrid's front office is making a mess; 2) The other teams have better players, or at least the players they have fit together into better teams; 3) The Coach is incompetent, or not the right fit, or, his system is not the right fit for the Spanish football league;
Let's start with the front office. Real Madrid is a social club with an elected President, Ramón Calderón, who receives no pay, and who is not expected to be an expert in football. This means that he ought to keep his nose out of managing the club and make sure, in his role of non-executive board chairman, that the team's front office people are the best in the business.
When Calderón ran for President this past summer, his "running mate" for General Manager was Pedja Mijatovic, a gifted, intense former player. So far I have seen nothing to persuade me that Mr. Mijatovic is, or will be, an outstanding general manager. The rather bizarre pattern of player signings is troublesome. So far, Real Madrid has contracted older players (Emerson and Carnivaro), young players unlikely to do very much in the short run (e.g., Gago), negotiated contract extensions for players who are either have never been stars (e.g., José María Gutiérrez "Guti") or are past their prime (e.g., Robert Carlos).
The pattern of behavior suggests there is no strategic plan, and the more President Calderón is in the limelight, the more likely we are to believe that Mr. Mijatovic is not the right person for the job.
Which brings me to the players themselves. I have been arguing for some time that Real Madrid lacks velocity on defense. Recreativo's forwards, Sinama and Uche, cetainly looked to be a good deal faster than Real Madrid's defenders. Of course, being faster than an inexplicably inexistent team may not be a great achievement. As a team, Real Madrid continually appears to be in slow motion when it plays other top (and in the case of Recreativo, bottom) teams. Real Madrid clearly needs more speed at mid-field and on defense. But as I have been harping on this for months now, I will say no more.
To the coach then. Fabio Capello is clearly competent. He has been a winner whereever he has coached. Mr. Capello needs to chose the players that fit his system. The only other choice is to let the front office sign the players and then find the right coach for the group of players. No great mystery here: We invented contingency theory in management 50 years ago.
So what should we expect to happen? Mr. Capello has finally admitted publicly that Real Madrid needs more speed on defense. That's a start, but Mr. Calderón's high profile incursions into the Argentian market are a serious distraction from solving the problems.
There may be a lack of fit between front office and the coach. The two appear to be pulling in different directions. This also drives the players nuts, and may be contributing to the inexistent team. Our solution: Ramón Calderón should fire Mr. Mijatovic and hire a general manager with greater experience who has the authority to tell President Calderón to get out of his way.
As President Calderón is unlikely to fire Mijatovic or recluse himself, Real Madrid will continue to flounder -- but maybe not for very long. Luckily for the club, Real Madrid has sufficient money and prestige to keep buying players until things get better. It will be expensive, but it will work eventually, assuming that the club continues to have a top flight coach who will put the best squad on the pitch that he can. Capello is certainly capable of this.
The bottom line: Capello will get a few players he doesn't want, he will get a few players he does want, and at some point there will be so much talent running around that they will start winning, and maybe even win something big. Who knows? The club might make it through a couple of rounds of the Champions' League Final 16 and all of sudden Real Madrid's inexplicable inexistence will be transformed into a quite understandable existential joy.
new directions in business by David Bruce Allen