Is keeping Cristiano Ronaldo worth the long-term gamble for the short-term payoff, or should Real Madrid stop investing in its superstar and build for the future?

By 90Min
January 29, 2018

"Zidanes y Pavones", or in today's terms Los Galacticos, was a vision crafted by Spanish businessman Florentino Perez 18 years ago on the dawn of a new age for Real Madrid. 

The ideology that a club, who ironically oppose an establishment donning the mantra "mes que un club", could rule supreme while offering a sample of both otherworldly alien stars as well as homegrown talent. 

This mandate, in addition to a promise to rectify Los Blancos' financial troubles as the millennium drew closer, was the crux of Perez's manifesto, which finally secured him the Santiago Bernabeu presidency at the second time of asking. 

Luis Figo was the first to become a modern day Alfredo Di Stefano as he switched Catalonia for the capital in a world-record deal, a strategic move which was as much about psychology as providing then-manager Vicente del Bosque with a world-renowned orchestrator. 

The Spaniard had taken the first step on his path of overseeing footballing dominance, proving to each of his voters and the Madridistas that predecessor Lorenzo Sanz's reign was now simply a speck of history. 

However, it did not stop there. Perez's innate drive to become all-conquering saw the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham sport the gleaming white, all the while still maintaining the heritage of "Pavones"

The Spaniard's globetrotter methodology saw instant success, claiming La Liga and the Supercopa in his first 12 months of office, before adding the Champions League, European Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup the following season. 

It seemed the golden trail for this golden generation was to be never ending for Los Merengues, who yielded another league title and Supercopa the term following. However, then came the poisoned fruit. 

"Zidanes y Pavones" was derived from Zidane and Francisco Pavon, a defender from the production line of La Fabrica (The Factory). 

While the idea of a balanced mix of homegrown, "Pavones", and names that sell shirts, "Zidanes", seemed to flourish in its adolescence, maturing and maintaining the proposition was another issue. 

An imbalance across the XI due to Perez's shortsightedness was the catalyst for an unprecedented modern-day barren spell in the Bernabeu, resulting in four years from 2003 to 2007 without domestic silverware and failing to reach beyond the last 16 of the Champions League for seven consecutive seasons. 

Fast forward to January 2016. Zidane has been appointed as Rafa Benitez's replacement at the top table of Los Blancos. Just six months later Europe's biggest club prize is his. Then again the next year, although this time alongside it the Spanish title, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. 

Again, the trend continues, this season's UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and the Supercopa, however, that is where the book stops, and will most likely do so for the remainder of the term.

There will be no Copa del Rey in Madrid this summer, nor, unless a drastic turnaround, a league title, but we have been here before, just over a decade ago, have we not? 

While the mid-2000 failings fell upon the failure of a "Pavones" generation, today it is the "Zidanes" who hold the secret. Los Galacticos is not a phrase adjacent to the modern-day Los Vikingos, simply because they are not a minority, aside from one. 

Cristiano Ronaldo has become the face of Los Blancos. A marketing extravaganza in itself. The one man who has his fragrance circling the pitch-side advertising hoardings as he struggles to find form on it.   

However, could it be here where the problem lies? 

Perez's resilience was an uncomprehendingly grand factor in his phoenix's rise from the ashes 11 years ago, but the businessman is not naive enough to make the same mistake twice. 

Yes, Ronaldo has pulling power like no other on the planet within the footballing world, surpassing that on a brand level of even Lionel Messi or Neymar, however the president must now decipher which is more important for the longevity of his beloved Madrid.

Over the next six to 12 months, Perez could be embarking on a time which defines his legacy in the eyes of the Madridistas, and he will face one decision more difficult than any other. 

Simply, Ronaldo, or no Ronaldo? 

While the former maintains the brand's new levels of esteem around the globe, with it also comes a repeat of the oft-told shadows from a decade ago. The latter, meanwhile, offers the opportunity to rebuild, to return to type and to regain Perez's "Zidanes y Pavones" heritage. 

By no means is Ronaldo a spent force, however, should Perez put into practice mistakes learnt from history, his day in the Madrid sun could soon be coming to an end. 

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