It could be considered a little pathetic for ostensible superclub Real Madrid to be humiliated 3-0 by no-hopers Tokyo Verdy (losers even in the not exactly world-class Japanese league), but that would be missing the point. As Real coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo so helpfully explained after the match, “Real Madrid want to win things but we also have to think of business.”
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that the erstwhile favorites of General Franco have been thinking of much else the past couple of years. The team is not picked by the coach, but by the chairman, who with an eye on the marketing concerns insists that none of his “galacticos” (superstar signings) can be dropped if they’re not delivering on the pitch — why do you think Ronaldo got fat? And anyone trying to fathom why on Earth they would spend so much money on David Beckham now has an answer. Beckham, of course, is a rather useful player on the right side of any midfield, a great crosser of the ball and a handy ability to score from free kicks. Useful, handy, committed. But not especially gifted, and not quite a world-class player in the tradition of other Real acquisitions such as Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo or Roberto Carlos. The special quality Real saw in Beckham, as many of us noted at the time, was his iconic status; his ability to sell replica shirts to Asian teenagers, to put it bluntly. (His first outing for Real was a promotional tour of China.) Acquiring Beckham was not about adding a dimension to Real’s game; it was about adding a dimension to its marketing strategy.
New evidence of the obvious comes in the form of what Real’s estimable chairman Florentino Perez recently described as the club’s “groundbreaking project”: Real, the Movie, recently previewed at Cannes.
The movie appears to make clear that Beckham’s role is not to ping over crosses for Ronaldo and Raul, but to grace the walls, in poster form, of starstruck Japanese teens. (In the movie, apparently, his fantasy role in one teenager’s life has her boyfriend threatening to break off their relationship. Well in, Becks!)
And I can’t hide my glee by the fact that a real football club, Barcelona FC, ensured that Real’s collection of aging “galacticos” (as they dub superstars like Beckham) once again finished the season empty-handed. Barcelona were inspired, of course, by the favela-fabulous bucktoothed Brazilian midfield wonder Ronaldinho. And the irony is that Real are widely reported to have passed up the opportunity to sign the player generally acknowledged right now as the best in the world because he was “too ugly” for their marketing purposes. Indeed, as Coach Luxemburgo put it, “Real Madrid want to win things but we also have to think of business.”