Something is missing at Real Madrid

MADRID - There is something missing at Real Madrid and it is not just silverware from the 2008/9 season. Barcelona's domestic league and cup double and the chance for a treble of trophies when they take on Manchester United in next week's Champions League final, is one thing worrying Real.

Even more galling is that their arch-rivals have overtaken them to be considered the entertainers and the benchmark when it comes to attractive, crowd-pleasing, attacking football.

Winning back the initiative is the task that now faces the candidates for the Real Madrid presidency, who have ten days in which to formally enter the race starting from Friday. The vote is to be held on June 14.

The director of Madrid-based sports daily AS, Alfredo Relano, wrote in a recent column: "Everyone agrees: the great advantage Barca have over Real isn't the team they have today, but this thing we call style...which is easier to understand than to define."

Pep Guardiola's success in his first season in charge at Barca has been to effectively apply a model of playing that has its origins in the days of John Cruyff's 'Dream team' of the early 1990s, of which Guardiola was an integral part.

It is built on a core of homegrown players such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. All their youth teams play the same way as the first team, aiding the transition if youngsters get the call-up. It also builds a strong bond with the fans.

LOST LINK

Relano went on to say that Real lost their link with the past, their continuity, when former player Vicente del Bosque was sacked after leading them to the league title in 2003. Since then the club have had eight coaches.

Consecutive league crowns in 2007 and 2008 simply papered over the problem as both victorious coaches Fabio Capello and Bernd Schuster were sacked. The football has not lived up to the standards expected by their ever-demanding fans.

At Real, it has always been about how you win and success in Europe. They have crashed out of the Champions League at the first knockout round stage for the last five years in a row, whereas Barca are in their second final in four years.

Former Real president Florentino Perez, former vice-president Juan Onieva and the little-known Eduardo Garcia have said they will stand in next month's election.

Perez, the architect of the 'Galacticos' policy, is the hot favourite to win with his hints at a return to bank-breaking purchases of the world's top players, such as Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery among others.

Big-name coaches with widely differing approaches such as Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, have been touted as Perez's favoured choices by the media, as possible replacements for Juande Ramos.

HOMEGROWN TALENT

An editorial in sports daily Marca, however, warned: "As well as great stars, the Madrid fans want homegrown talent...if not, he (Perez) will fail."

Players such as Alvaro Negredo, Esteban Granero and Juan Mata are examples of former Real youth team players who have had to leave to get first-team football, while former president Ramon Calderon splashed more than 250 million euros on new players between 2006 and 2009.

Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas has made a similar appeal, calling for the club to invest in Spanish talent.

Real's departing Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro supported Casillas's view: "I think in every club the nucleus of the team should be built around players from that team's country," he told Marca.

"Madrid need their own specific project, and their own identity."

Addressing these concerns will be as important as the headline purchases when the new president sets about building his model for Real Madrid's future from next month.