The lessons Chelsea owner Todd Boehly should - and shouldn't - learn from Real Madrid supremo Florentino Perez
Todd Boehly and Florentino Perez might be good friends. Prior to Real Madrid's 2-0 win over Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash, Blues owner Boehly and Madrid president Florentino Perez met for lunch.
It wasn't their first public hangout, either. The duo attended an LA Dodgers game back in July 2022, with a picture of them smiling gleefully together doing rounds on social media.
It is a strange meeting of minds: the brash, outgoing American capitalist and the stoic, reserved Spanish businessman.
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But Chelsea's new owner might have a thing or two to learn from one of the best in the business. Perez isn't particularly well-liked, but he has overseen immense success at Santiago Bernabeu in his 19 years as president. Although he can be deservedly criticised for some of his moves, notably the support for the European Super League and Madrid's recent ill-advised social media response to Barcelona president Joan Laporta, Perez is the very model of how to run a big club.
And as his side travels to Boehly's Chelsea for the second leg of their Champions League tie — a game Madrid are heavily favoured to win — the clash could well come to be defined by one owner looking to emulate the other.
GOAL takes a look at some of the lessons Boehly can take on from his counterpart, as well as some he should probably ignore...
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- Real Madrid
DO: Figure out the best manager for the situation
Outside of Jose Mourinho, Perez has shied away from appointing fine tactical minds at the Bernabeu. Instead, the owner has thrived off employing stern man-managers, the kind of coaches that command respect and opt to foster the right environment for their players to shine rather than utilise intricate setups.
Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane are the epitome of such appointments, the two managers blessed with such talented squads that keeping their stars happy alone was enough to bring immense amounts of success.
These are big-money, big-ego players. And although they are not averse to coaching — the vast improvement of Eduardo Camavinga at left-back stands as an example — Madrid's players thrive when trusted to show their best.
Boehly, on the other hand, doesn't seem to know what kind of manager his side needs. So far, he's fired a fine tactician, before appointing two relatively nice humans to oversee an expensively-assembled squad.
And it is clear that good vibes and smiles alone are not enough to manage a bloated squad full of false nines. Whether Boehly needs an Ancelotti or someone more technical like Julian Nagelsmann remains to be seen.
As Perez has proven, finding the right mould of manager is vital.
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DON'T: Abandon the academy
When was the last academy talent that made it big for Real Madrid? La Fabrica, as it is known, has yielded some immense players over the years, but very few have cracked the Madrid line up and stayed there — especially in the last decade.
In fact, Los Blancos, despite their multitude of promising youngsters, hasn't seen an academy player become a first-team stalwart since Iker Casillas came through.
There have been some brief successes in between — Nacho, Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez, for example, come to mind. But Madrid have largely abandoned an immensely talented academy system and instead looked to sign their young players from elsewhere.
The likes of Achraf Hakimi and Juan Mata were part of the youth system before enjoying success elsewhere. Those two, at various stages, could have been immense additions to the first team.
Chelsea often find themselves doing the same thing, despite arguably having a more complete youth setup. Jamal Musiala was lost to Bayern Munich before he could break into the first team, while Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham were sent away after enjoying some success in the senior side. Mason Mount has subsequently seen himself phased out of the side, and now looks likely to leave this summer.
It is, of course, difficult to predict how good a young player will be, especially when the names ahead of them are world class. But Boehly needs to ignore Perez's disregard for youth talent and try to hold onto the big guns, even if that means letting them initially go on loan.
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DO: Sell at the right time
Real Madrid are ruthless in the transfer market. Although their fans are fiercely loyal to their players while they're in the spotlight, Perez has shown little sentiment in selling his biggest stars, especially when they're no longer essential to his side.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Casemiro, Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Gonzalo Higuain were all let go when they either wanted to leave or were deemed surplus to requirements. The club have also been intelligent in handing out contracts. Sergio Ramos, for example, was shown the door when it became clear that his best days were gone.
Chelsea, on the other hand, don't really sell. At least, not at the right time. While they enjoyed healthy returns for Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea have a mixed record of getting rid of players.
And it's a crucial period for the Blues to start slashing the squad. Boehly has dragged the club into deep financial trouble with his spending and will need to offload a number of first-team regulars to get anywhere near balancing his side's books.
Boehly has been cool and welcoming. It's now time for him to be ruthless.
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DON'T: Fall out with pretty much every other owner
Perez isn't exactly the most popular guy, and he seems to like it that way.
The Madrid owner happily plays the role of supervillain, throwing his club's weight around with little caution. It's a pattern that stretches all the way back to the beginning of his Madrid tenure, when he pinched Luis Figo from Barcelona in his first big move as club president.
That was the start of the Galactico era, when Madrid went about signing some of the biggest names in European football without abandon, luring the likes of Ronaldo, David Beckham and Michael Owen to the Bernabeu.
His policy of bringing in one massive name every summer drew the ire of other owners around Europe, with Perez's perceived arrogance making him an immensely unpopular figure outside of Madrid.
Boehly is veering dangerously down that road already. Some of his ideas, such as holding a Premier League All-Star game, have already been met with great skepticism. He'd be best advised to avoid them.
DO: Put trust in football people
Arguably Boehly's biggest mistake at the helm so far was appointing himself director of football when he took over the club ahead of the 2022 summer transfer window.
It led to a litany of poor signings and an ill-fated attempt to bring in Cristiano Ronaldo that forced Tuchel out. In total, the owner has shelled out north of £600 million ($731m) on new players since taking over — often without any clear method. And it's hard to say that any of the new signings have made a tangible impact on the side.
Perez, meanwhile, has put faith in Madrid's extensive transfer network over the years and employed the right football people. Chief scout Juni Calafat has picked up the likes of Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo, Federico Valverde and, most recently, Endrick from South America. It has made Madrid a haven for developing talent, while also a destination for a host of superstars.
Boehly, for all of his good intentions and big-spending ways, is not a footballing genius. And it appears he might be willing to admit that, recently assembling a more coherent cast of minds to run transfer business. But with all of the cash already squandered, it might be too late.
He probably should also not pick up the phone next time James Corden rings.
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DON'T: Co-sign on bad ideas
Perez was already an unpopular figure and when he spearheaded the campaign for the European Super League two years ago. The Madrid president became its chairman, and most vocal proponent, trying to sell the potentially destructive competition as good for football.
The ill-fated idea, of course, fell apart rather swiftly. But Perez has never really let it go, and used it as an unlikely point of an alliance with Barcelona president Laporta — an odd friendship that is now being severely tested.
To this day, the Madrid president is arguing for the competition, claiming that young people are no longer interested in the current football landscape.
Regardless of the validity of his assertions, his continued support of the competition has only seen him fall further out of favour with the football world. Boehly should keep his name off the host of similar ideas that will likely materialise over the coming years.
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DO: Keep the faith in signings
"On my mother's life, he [Vinicius Jr.] is playing against us!" was the quote that summed up Madrid's 2020-21 season. Those words, said in private by Karim Benzema to Ferland Mendy but caught on camera and spread around the world, encapsulated the frustration felt towards the then-teenager's performances in a Madrid shirt.
Vinicius was maddeningly inconsistent during his early days in white. Although he showed signs of becoming the electric talent he now is, the Brazilian's decision-making and lack of final product made him an immensely unpopular figure in some corners of the Madrid fanbase. Rodrygo, to an extent, experienced similar criticisms, while Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni have also had their detractors.
But all four have rounded into form, as the Madrid regime has been willing to be patient with those who are obvious fits to the system. Vinicius and Rodrygo always had the potential to be excellent wingers. Tchouameni and Camavinga were fairly clear fits to excel at the base of midfield.
These were smart signings at the time, and the club's willingness to give them the chance to play — and effectively learn on the job — has worked wonders.
Chelsea's issue is that their transfer approach has been so erratic that it's hard to identify who might be the right fit. Indeed, if there is no system, it's impossible to know which players have a long-term future at the club.
But assuming a new manager, likely brought in this summer, settles everything down into a more coherent vision, Chelsea should hold their nerve with the players that will undoubtedly experience some growing pains.
DON'T: Always revert to expensive superstars
It might be too late for this one.
Boehly has already spent big on a cast of frighteningly similar players, making constant forays into the transfer market, without producing a particularly inspiring signing. Enzo Fernandez, perhaps, might turn out to be worth his gaudy price tag. But it is tough to justify the signings elsewhere.
It is a mistake that Real Madrid have made on a number of occasions during Perez's tenure. Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, James Rodriguez and even Kaka endured limited success at the club, despite commanding immense fees. None of the four, in fact, penned contract extensions to stay in Madrid — with Hazard unlikely to remain in the capital beyond next year.
There have been further wastes of money, too. Danilo, Walter Samuel and Jonathan Woodgate (remember him?) were all poor investments.
Both clubs, admittedly, have the luxury of being able to splash the cash, but that doesn't mean they should actually do it.
Boehly reportedly flirted with bringing Ronaldo to Stamford Bridge, only to see the move fail to materialise. He only has to look to some of Madrid's big-time failures to see why opening the wallet for high-profile names isn't always prudent.
DO: Disregard flops
However, for all of their mistakes in the market, Madrid have expertly pulled off a vanishing act of their big flops. Hazard has disappeared into the purgatory of Ancelotti's bench. Jovic was swiftly done away with. Kaka was largely forgotten with the emergence of Ozil.
It is, of course, the luxury of big clubs that obvious flops can be outcast. But Madrid, and Perez, are experts in letting their big names go.
Some of Chelsea's transfers may yet be a success. Mykhailo Mudryk has shown promise in fleeting moments, while Fernandez certainly seems to have found a role in the midfield trio.
But for those who don't work out, whoever they may be, Boehly should take a page out of his Madrid counterpart's playbook and ensure they are soon forgotten about.