In the third edition of The Talking Game, editor Amlan Majumdar caught up with former Real Madrid President, Ramón Calderón. He talks about why Jose Mourinho has been bad for the club’s image, despite being a good coach. He has also revealed how his wife and kid have been spied upon, and why Perez has failed to deliver despite spending 800 millios euros during his 7 years in charge.
Ramon Calderón’s association with Real Madrid started in 1979, when he became a member of the club, but the Spaniard, who was born in Palencia in 1951, had been a Los Blancos fan ever since he was a child. Calderón was elected to the Board of Directors of Real Madrid in January 2002, and two years later was again confirmed following Florentino Pérez’s victory in the election. But the most important moment of his career came in 2006, when Calderón won the Presidential election. The club won the domestic league twice during his reign, but failed to impress on the European stage. The 61-year-old later resigned as the President of the club in 2009 and was eventually replaced by current President Florentino Pérez.
In this exclusive interview, Amlan Majumdar speaks with Ramón Calderón about the life of a Real Madrid President, the controversies, the influence of the media and the current financial status of La Liga.
Amlan Majumdar: You have been a Real Madrid fan since childhood. Who was your hero back then? Tell us something about your emotions when you were elected as the president of the club back in 2006.
Ramón Calderón: For all the children of my time the hero was, no doubt, Alfredo Di Stefano, and I was not an exception. Even though I have very good memories of other really fantastic players like Gento and Puskas.
Being elected president of the most prestigious football club of the world is something that’s not easy to explain. You feel a mix of emotions. It is a great honour, but at the same time you know that you are assuming a big responsibility.
You are aware that millions of people all over the world are going to enjoy and be happy, or suffer or be sad, depending on the success, or failure, of some of the decisions you take.
Q: The departures of Raúl and Guti were needed to a certain extent. However, do you think the whole episode could have been handled with more sensitivity?
RC: Unfortunately the President did not act properly in both cases. Schalke gave him a great lesson with the way they said good bye to Raúl. Neither Raúl nor Guti deserved the way the club behaved, letting them leave through the back door.
Q: You have always opposed the appointment of Jose Mourinho vocally. Do you think that the current season has vindicated your stand?
RC: Mourinho is a great coach but with a way of behaving that is not compatible with Real Madrid history. His comments and his reactions do not match with those anyone expects from someone who is part of the image of the club.
A big club like Real Madrid never complains in defeats about referees, football organizations or any other one. And our hymn says we shake our rival’s hands when we lose, never poke a finger in the rival manager’s eye.
I really think that Mourinho has been very harmful for Real Madrid’s image.
Q: Carlo Ancelotti has been rumoured to come in next season. What do you think of his possible replacing of Mourinho?
RC: He has done a brilliant job with the clubs he has been coaching. I think it could be a good decision and he has behaved, always, in the right way.
Q: Perez has learnt from his past mistakes and seems to have less of a ‘hands-on’ approach. Do you favor this approach and is it going to be continued?
RC: He has never been out about the decisions about the signings of new players and the names of the players that have been transferred to other clubs, never taking into account the opinion of the professionals.
On top of that, he does not like the inheritance he receives and that is why he, incredibly, gave away players like Robben or Sneijder.
Q: Elections at Real Madrid are soon due. Who do you think should ideally win, and will Perez win again this time?
RC: There will be a mock elections this time and, therefore, no one will be able to replace Perez. He recently carried out a coup d’etat changing the bylaws of the Club and avoiding fair elections in the future.
Q: Is being the president of Real Madrid a whole lot different than at any other football club, simply because you are always in the news? How much pressure did you have to deal with during your reign in day-to-day life?
RC: People cannot imagine the pressure you may have in that position. It was even worse in my case because, by winning the elections, I “stole” a toy very important to some powerful persons in Spain who use the club for their own benefit. As an example I will tell you that one of them spent 1 million euros spying on my wife and children for 8 months.
Q: Were you disappointed with the way the press treated you when you were the president of the club?
RC: Not all of them behaved in the same way.
Many were very honest and very professional with the way they told the truth, but others who were serving the person who wanted to come back to the presidency dedicated all their efforts to insult and lie. That is why I decided to step down. My family and myself got fed up with the situation.
You are not going to believe it, but two of the journalists who devoted 4 years towards insulting me every day, and were convicted for slander against me, are now “right hand” men of the present President. They are in charge of the communication department of Real Madrid. I cannot think of any respectful president who could hire, in a serious company, two “crooks” sentenced for slanders to the former president.
It is like if, when I replaced Perez, I had hired for the security department two thieves who had entered his house to steal.
Q: How much influence does the media (the likes of AS and Marca, especially) have on Real Madrid?
RC: There is a big difference between those newspapers. Marca is tabloid devoted to gossip, while AS is only talking about sport and the people who work in it are brilliant journalists.
Q: Cristiano Ronaldo was your transfer target, but was presented during Perez’s reign. Was all the work done by then?
RC: Everyone knows that Cristiano and Manchester got an agreement with me to come to Real in December 2008 when I was the President, although I have always said that is the club that attracts that kind of players, not the president. Real Madrid can offer them not only the money they deserve but also the glory and the possibility of winning titles.
Q: What do you feel about the current status of Spanish football? The duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona has always been pointed out by critics. Do you think it has harmed the league in the long run?
RC: We have never been better in history than now. Things have been done quite well in the Spanish Federation mainly due to a great president like Villar. Two European Championships and a World Cup is something quite difficult to achieve.
Talking about our League, it is true that it is difficult with the present economic status for clubs other than Real or Barcelona to win the competition, but on the other hand they managed to put our league at the top of the European leagues.
Q: What are your views about the current revenue model followed in La Liga? In recent times a lot of Spanish clubs have suffered from financial problems. Do you think that by not evenly distributing television revenue the rich are getting richer while the clubs who don’t have a good fan base outside Spain suffer?
RC: Up to now the clubs did not reach the proper agreement to do things in a different way. But I think that the problem is not the money Real and Barca gets but the amount the total rights are sold. Take into account that the total amount received for the clubs in Spain including the two big ones is of 650 million euros, while the English clubs get 1.750 million euros. That is the real problem. We do not sell the TV rights accordingly with our status.
A few days ago, the Sport Minister has announced that the government is going to introduce, at the end of this year, a new law obliging the clubs to sell collectively those rights instead of individually as they are doing until now. Let us see if that could change in some way the present situation.
Q: Real Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League in the semi-final once again this season, this time at the hands of Borussia Dortmund. What are the changes that the club needs to make next season, according to you?
RC: I think new signings are not the solution. We have already a very good team.
Luckily, money does not guarantee you success in life and Borussia has proven it. His whole team has cost only double than one of our players like Coentrao.
Our present President has spent, in the last 7 years of his mandates (2004-2006, 2009-2013) around 800 million euros in 36 players and 7 coaches, and he has got only 1 Spanish League and 1 King’s Cup.
The key could be in that banner I decided to put, during my presidency, in all the dressing rooms of the teams of the club, including the one at the Bernabeu Stadium, which said: “If we strive and work hard for victory, we can lose, but if we don’t we are lost”
Q: Will we see you back in an administrative role at any club in the future?
RC: I had enough with the time I already served at Real Madrid.
Five years in the board and two and a half years as president is too much. You have to abandon your business, profession and family if you want to do the things in the right way.