Florentino Perez peered into the past. His inspiration: Real Madrid's revered side of the late 1950s and 1960s - legends like Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Paco Gento. The year was 2000 and the new president sought something similar - a team filled with the world's finest footballers. Luis Figo lit the touch paper with his explosive move from Barcelona that summer, but the Galacticos' great star was to be Zinedine Zidane.
Florentino flexed his muscles. Juventus tired in telling Madrid that there was "no way" the Spanish side would sign Zidane. But Florentino found a way. Perez coincided with Zizou at a gala in Monte Carlo and passed the player a serviette, upon which was scribbled a question: 'Do you want to play for Real Madrid?' Zidane was passed a pen, he wrote 'Yes' and the French World Cup winner moved to Spain in a 75 million euro move in the summer of 2001.
Flown in to a military airport to avoid the expectant Madrid media, Zidane bemused his new audience as he spoke in French at his unveiling. Nevertheless, as both he and his president addressed the press pack, the message was clear: Madrid was building the best team in the world, with the planet's finest footballers. And Zidane was the cornerstone of the Perez project, Part 1.
It was a bold, brave strategy. Previously, clubs like Juventus, Barcelona and Manchester United had been able to hold on to their best players with relative ease when other top teams came calling. But the Perez plan to make Madrid the most glamorous and grandiose club on and off the pitch was appealing to the world's top talents - and there was plenty of money to make it happen.
Zidane's first two seasons were a success. A stunning strike from the Frenchman himself delivered La Novena - a ninth title in the European Cup/Champions League in 2001-02. The Intercontinental Cup came next in the summer and then La Liga in 2002-03. Suddenly, Madrid was the dominant force Florentino had hoped the club would be - even if the president had only been in charge for the last of the club's three Champions League wins in five years.
- Sports & Recreation
- Real Madrid
- Zinedine Zidane
- Florentino Perez
- Alfredo Di Stefano
- Ferenc Puskas