Too farfetched to predict

Florentino Pérez - a man with a plan?
Florentino Pérez - a man with a plan? / EFE/ Ángel Díaz
  • a look at la liga

  • Youth recruitment is clearly on the agenda at Real Madrid, but do they have a coherent strategy to carry out a 'root and branch' reform?

At the Bernabéu a soul-searching expedition has started to find out just where on earth the Real Madrid identity has gone.

The club lost the defining personality when Cristiano Ronaldo jetted out of town. He left behind a group of lost souls who are haunting an eerie stadium.

Average crowds are down by six thousand per game and the only sales that have rocketed are those of white handkerchiefs for the disengaged supporters to wave in frustration at the end of matches.

Worst of all, there appears to be no grand plan. This week they signed Brahim Díaz from Manchester City. The 19-year-old follows Vinícius Júnior, a year younger, in a multimillion pounds deal that is more of a gamble than part of a serious strategy. Clearly someone at the top has decided to invest in young talent but hasn't thought it through.

Díaz was only trusted to play a part in EFL Cup games and if he hadn't headed to Real Madrid it was likely he would have been farmed out to Girona like many other youngsters to get game time.

It's all part of the Manchester City blueprint. The guidelines are the same for Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain in England as they were at Barcelona; supplement the superstars with players identified as special at a tender age. It's also about crop rotation.

Unfortunately for Real, neither Díaz nor Vinícius are ready to lead the revolution.

Compare Real's situation to Barcelona's, where Denis Suárez is about to be dispatched to the Premier League for a very decent fee. He follows Yerry Mina, André Gomes and Lucas Digne last summer plus Alexis Sánchez and Cesc Fàbregas before them. All are decent players but didn't reach the standards set at the Camp Nou so it was "adiós".

Barcelona lost their thread for a few years but have sorted themselves out now. Suárez is one of those signed in the period when they seemed to lose judgement. Munir El Haddadi and Paco Alcácer have also been shipped out as summer signings Arthur and Clément Lenglet have quickly established themselves. They are thinking ahead with the signing of Jean-Clair Todibo, a 19-year-old from Toulouse. Time is on his side to become a potential replacement for Sergi Busquets or Gerard Piqué, but unlike at Real, he won't be heralded as a saviour.

Barça are being allowed to go through a transition knowing that there is little opposition from their historical rivals. In the media the focus has been on the management situation at Real Madrid but the situation goes much deeper than that. Solari is just the front man. The problem is behind the scenes where everyone seems to be in a daze. They could bring a strong manager like José Mourinho but he needs players to boss about. Far too many at the White House have their best years behind them and it needs a complete reboot.

Think Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool, Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham and Guardiola at City. They are the loudest voices in the boardroom when strategy is being set and players signed. Solari is in a situation like Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea where the players are being signed and he has to shape them into a team.

What do they call it at the FA when they go through the periodic crisis - 'root and branch'? The best solution would be to offer total power to Zinedine Zidane and plead with him to come back, but that's never going to happen.

Real Madrid has always been like a real-life soap opera and like all of the best long-running dramas, the twists and turns are too farfetched to predict.