Los Blancos don't exactly float Gary Hartley's boat – but stop sniggering, Barcelona fans: your club isn't exactly immune from criticism...
Modern football has presented us with many excellent candidates for Most Boring Club. Manchester United were a tedious tale from the early nineties right until their recent flirtation with mediocrity; all Psychology for Dummies, Asian merch tours and winning the games they didn’t play well in.
Then there’s the great mass of clubs that just cannot ever challenge for anything (or else flatly refuse to), David Beckham’s never-played-a-game-not-gonna-happen Miami franchise, and all those managed by Harry Redknapp, Ian Holloway or Jose Mourinho.
But few have even threatened to climb the mountain of monotony manufactured by Real Madrid CF – by neat coincidence, the club at which Mourinho has spent the second-longest amount of time not talking about officials. But no more of Jose, there’s bigger beef to skewer.
All that power
Let’s start with the great ‘power struggles’ of Madrid. Power struggles per se are quite an interesting thing, when applied in moderation. Madrid’s, however, are total and constant while demanding you, football fan, be face-frothingly interested in their machinations at all times.
It really doesn’t matter who’s running for president anymore. All you really need to know is that they’ll be wielding human collateral. Option 1: a player they will, like, totally sign if they get elected to the big job.
Option 2: one they’ll send packing immediately, along with the manager, catering staff, spiritual consultant and all the furniture. The human sacrifice is often their token British star, jettisoned off with tail between legs in a reverse-UKIP move. I’d say I feel for Señor Bale, but he knew what he was signing up for. Everyone knows.
Next, to the players, those damned players. Perennially predictable, they’ll have mildly silly hair, expensive but objectively poor fashion taste, and will have just done something in a major tournament that got a lot of YouTube hits.
It's a purchasing plan executed with so little imagination it belies belief that they actually bother employing a scouting network at professional rates. A pre-pubescent kid in their pants with subscriptions to a handful of sports channels would do it for a regular supply of Doritos, energy drinks and the odd Panini sticker album.
Everything about Real Madrid is so tiresomely telegraphed, signposted, and about as unpredictable as Karl Lagerfeld’s wardrobe. Tactically, the team flings itself from free-flowing total football to pragmatic bilge every couple of years, making it entirely necessary to flit between coaches falling into the archetypes of ‘philosophical rent-a-quote’ and ‘shifty dullard’.
All, to the letter, massive egotists. If Neil Warnock had a more exotic name you’d imagine he’d have been given a go at some point as a caretaker manager, covering all bases between the two eras.
Despite packing more financial muscle than almost everyone, when the presidential election is done and the latest boring money-man is looking even smugger than before, the club will indulge in pointless transfer phallus-teasing. We all know Madrid always get exactly the girl they want to top up the Playboy Mansion parody. There are no diamonds in the rough, no left-field selections based on mathematics that generate a romance the numbers could never imply. It’s the worst rom-com ever, on loop.
Come at me, Marca
The coterie, in spite of all the hair and suntans, will inevitably perform well, but not quite as well as you might expect. Then the recriminations come, channelled through the club’s pet media outlet.
Bloody Marca – the dreary publication a dreary club deserves. Look at our big headlines! About Madrid! For 15 pages! The yapping lap-dog that never stops humping its source's leg, while interrupting everyone else’s more varied and nuanced conversations.
As the age of communism taught the world, a lack of media pluralism can be somewhat stifling – but it suits Real just fine. We’ve also recently seen that Marca, when even slightly criticised for this symbiotic parasite-host relationship, react with predictable incredulity and appalling puns (‘The BBC's reprehensiBale smear campaign’). Seen what you did there.
A famine of self-awareness defines the club and its allies. Real Madrid, ultimately, is playing its repetitive story back to itself, and feeling downright satisfied with the view. Unfortunately, the cult of the club built through what can euphemistically be described as ‘history’ means it’s a mirror image mailed out as a selfie to us all.
You can’t get away with not knowing everything about Madrid; they force you to know, like one of those unwanted Christmas cards that include 10 book recommendations, home-printed holiday photos and updates on the health of children you’ve no interest in whatsoever.
Madridistas will probably argue that the mere fact I’ve invested energy and time constructing this rage against the Los Blancos machine utterly disproves my theory about its tedium.
The truth is, Real are just too big a bore to ignore. Actually, who am I kidding? They won’t have read this far; they’ll already be insulting my mother in the comments section.
Regardless, I’ll give those doubters one consolation: FC Barcelona are pretty boring too. All that relentlessly presenting itself as some sort of glorious charity-bake-sale-meets-community-choir while plugging dull desert holiday destinations is undoubtedly mind-numbing.
While there’s no doubt that the clash of the two is often aesthetically pleasing for the 90-plus minutes, it can be isolated as simply a game of football, and that the hype, slavering and, yes, more stage-managed recriminations, are just giant, uppers-infused yawns. You’d be forgiven for believing the Clásico exists just so English-speakers know at least two words in a foreign language.
Past, present, same
Some other boring things include the club legends. Ring-kisser Raúl is dull as you like; Emilio Butragueno’s best idea for a post-game career was to become a PR man. For Real. Alfredo Di Stefano was pretty exciting, but that was way back. Perhaps the club itself was interesting if you track far enough through the mists of time. But the present, oh, the present. Sigh.
The fact the stadium is named after a person is pretty unexciting. The black and white parade of trophies on the official website is exactly the obvious invitation to glory supporters you’d expect. The shirts are always unimaginatively designed, and while some (Real Madrid) might say the trim is gold, I’m calling it beige.
A final, themed set of borings: Madrid once signed Steve McManaman. Madrid once signed Michael Owen. Madrid once signed Jonathan Woodgate. Why does the club keep signing these token – and dull – British players if it/Marca never really seems to want them?
Simply, this is a symptom of an outfit devoid of other ideas; resorting again and again to photocopying the same telenovela script – the one where the exchange student visits and offends everyone.
It’s high time we all just left Real Madrid alone for as much time as is necessary to develop some new storylines.