It’s long been a point of debate. How can the richest club in the world (as published in the most recently collated Money League by financial services firm Deloitte) not have a women’s football side? Especially in a country where world attendance records have been set (This season Atletico Madrid took on Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano in front of 60,739 fans) and at a time when your two historical rivals have been dominating the domestic scene. When, in March 2018, Manchester United announced their intention to introduce a women’s side for the 2018/19 season, something which they acted upon a couple of months later it left only Real Madrid, the thirteen time European champions, as the only side in Deloitte’s top ten without female representation in the game. It looks though as if this is about to change.
The reasons as to why Real Madrid haven’t made a foray into the world of women’s football have been speculated upon for some time. As much as the word “brand” is frowned upon by football purists, Los Blancos are perhaps the most prestigious brand currently operating in world football. They are as synonymous with success as they are for being the best, having the best players (as evidenced by the return of the word Galactico in association with the purchase of Eden Hazard from Chelsea), having the best stadium (work estimated to cost around 600m euros is due to start to redevelop the Bernabeu, a stadium which already has the highest FIFA grading possible and is, as anyone who has visited it will tell you, still jaw-dropping) and in general being the envy of every other club in the world, especially their long time rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
However in a women’s football context Real Madrid aren’t even minnows they are, at the time of writing, nothing. So how could Perez and co. protect brand Real Madrid knowing that to reach the top they would have to probably start from the bottom? Their first attempt to circumnavigate this pesky concept of meritocracy was rumoured to have happened back in 2014, when stories started to circulate that they were set to purchase La Liga Femenina side Madrid CFF, with the San Sebastian de los Reyes based outfit even changing their kits to the all white strip favoured by their potential new overlords. The move never happened and as Real Madrid continued to ponder their next move with Perez again announcing his sides intention to form a women’s squad, both in June and October of 2017, their traditional rivals Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao were dominating the La Liga Feminina scene, with their city counterparts claiming the last three titles.
The idea surfaced again in February 2019 when former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz told Marca, “Real Madrid will end up having a women’s team, because all the clubs have one. Until now, they haven’t done it because it has not been presented in a way that it could have been done.” The clamour for a Real Madrid women’s side even gained unlikely support from Catalonia when Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre suggested in May of this year that a Clasico would be “an immense attraction for women’s football.”
It now seems that Real Madrid have been presented with a way and are finally set to join the La Liga Iberdrola ranks for the upcoming 2019/20 season with news surfacing that they are about to complete the purchase of CD Tacon a club who themselves are only four years old and who have only gained promotion to the Primera for the first time in their short history this May. This shortcut to the top has been the kind of in that Los Meringues have long been waiting for and the fact that the takeover is set to cost them no more than half a million euros, a sum that can no doubt be brought together from the red card fines Sergio Ramos alone accumulates over the course of a season, means that the opportunity appears too good to turn down.
Real Madrid’s announcement also comes in the same week that Spain made the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup for the very first time and the RFEF announcing a €20m investment into women’s football along with a plan to show all La Liga Feminina games and at least three more Segunda matches per week over the coming season. The timing not only seems right for Real Madrid but also for the whole of Spanish women’s football to take the next step in their journey.
So should the purchase be completed, and at this point there is nothing to suggest that it won’t be, what will Real Madrid’s strategy be? Will they spend big in the hope of instant glory and gratification? American star Heather O’Reilly was quick to react on Twitter to the news that a Real Madrid women’s side was imminent with a single fingers crossed emoji, and it’s unsurprising to see that this is the realm that the Madrid side could almost instantly operate in such is their draw. They will take on the women’s football infrastructure of CD Tacon because as it stands they themselves have none but you would have to assume that in itself would need investment to make it worthy of the name Real.
Could we really see Real Madrid with their ever growling list of financial commitments decide to build their women’s side from the ground up, with modest signings and a homegrown approach? I doubt it. The purchase of their Madrid neighbours has been done to supercharge the launch of Real Madrid Feminino. They have an in built fan base that will expect success, not just at home but in Europe too.
Whilst you can debate the morality of buying their way into Spanish football’s top table there is no doubt the creation of a Real Madrid women’s side will generate interest and in a game still growing surely that can only be a good thing, even if at some point in the future we will no doubt bemoan the relentless nature of their pursuit for success.
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