I know this post is a little late since it has been almost a week since Real Madrid lost to Lyon and was knocked out, yet again, in the first round of the knock-out rounds in the Champions League. That makes six years in a row that they have lost in the first stage of the knock-out rounds of the Champions League. I wanted to post earlier, but I needed a few days to mourn as I was legitimately upset after the game. There is nothing worse as a sports fan than losing and knowing that you will have to wait an entire year before you can team can redeem itself.
The other difficult thing about this game is that I don't really know what to say about Real. I keep wandering in circles. Six years with the same result means that this has happened to six different squads. You can't fault C. Ronaldo or Kaka for not getting the job done, when Zidane also failed with Figo and the original Ronaldo. But it's not the players and I don't think its the coach. I could only come up with one explanation: the business model.
Real's "business model" doesn't work. They spent over $280 million in the offseason to acquire 5 players and they lost to a team that doesn't have 1 recognizable player. I didn't know anyone on Lyon. At first I thought I knew one guy, but then I realized it was thinking about a differnet guy with the same name. I guess Lyon's central defender might make Brazil's World Cup squad as a back-up. Might.
I haven't read Soccernomics entirely, but I understand that Lyon is discussed in the book as a team that is projected to be successful in the future because of their business model of developing youth and not overspending for players. Real disregards its youth system, overspends on players and has no loyalty to its current players because they are constantly running out and looking for the next "hot" player to buy. I think the game was a great illustration of both teams and how their style of play reflects their business models.
In the first half Real came out firing. Granted, they were down 1-0 because they lost the first leg at Lyon, so they couldn't hold anything back. Not that they would though. They are hot, flashy players. Not all of them of course (some are ugly), but most of them are recognizable players and have a huge paycheck and huge expectations to live up to. So they come out firing and needing to score goals to silence the critics and be int he spotlight. Which is what they did in the game. They scored right away and had a couple of other great opportunities. Real just dominated in the first half. It could have easily been 3-0. One would think that the dominance would continue in the second half, but it was a totally different game.
But in the second half, Real flamed out. Lyon had weathered the Real storm and onslaught, proven that they weren't intimidated by the big names on the back of the jersey, and then they just started a slow, progressive attack on Real. The game turned into a finesse battle and was no longer just one side trying to overpower the other side. Lyon suddenly had tons of chances and was attacking just as well as Real. Lyon knew that the game was 90 minutes long and they played like it. Real was in it to win it within the first 10 minutes of the game. Not in it for the long haul. No development, just come out and slaughter the other team. Lyon withstood the onslaught, built up their confidence and offense, and came out and late in the game put the dagger in Real's heart. Which is what they have been doing all season. The announcer mentioned that Lyon scores most of their goals late in the game - more than any other team. Might not be the most exciting way to win games or the most exciting way to build a club, but it works. Just slow and progressive and playing for 90 minutes.
Lyon's business model and game plan isn't flawless of course, but it is pretty brilliant. Sometimes it might not work. Real did have some moments where they should scored. But you aren't going to beat Real at it's own game - not that you would want to. No one can spend money like Real, frankly, no one should. And no one can really attack like Real. Well, teams can attack better than Real, but you know they are going to do an all out attack. Lyon didn't try and match their attack, they just frustrated it. Waited until Real was done trying to show off, and then just beat them at soccer with their good team chemistry and players that might not be individually as skilled, but collectively are solid.
So really it's pretty simple. Real failed because their business model failed. They were beaten by a team with a better business strategy. The need to change their strategy. I understand that the original group of galacticos won the Champions League in their first year together, but they only won once. No long term success. If you only have one championship to show for all your efforts over a long period of time, then your business model needs to be changed. And it's a shame Real couldn't figure things out a couple years ago so that the dream of winning the Champions League in Madrid in their own stadium could have been a reality. I'm sure Barcelona will be more than happy to turn that failed dream into a nightmare by winning the championship in Madrid.