Real Madrid loses its "global marketing" leader

Florentino Perez, the man who turned Real Madrid from an "old-fashioned soccer club" into a star-studded global marketing project, has stepped down because of the "pitiful team spirit" he had allowed to develop."We created a great team and maybe I educated them wrongly and they got things confused,'' Perez said Monday after the club's board accepted his shock resignation. Maybe because there was too much success and misunderstanding of my message,'' he added. "There are some players who are mixed up and I wasn't able to sort them out. Maybe accepting my responsibility and leaving the presidency we can straighten things out,'' he told Ciaran Giles of Associated Press.

Perez said he decided to quit after Madrid lost 2-1 at lowly Mallorca on Sunday, leaving it third in the Spanish league, 10 points behind leader and arch rival Barcelona. The result left Madrid heading for its third successive season without a title. "I was a cork that needed to be popped to shake up the club,'' Perez said. However the club did enjoy initial success on the field under Perez, winning a record ninth European Champions Cup in 2002 and the Spanish league titles in 2001 and 2003 - the latter for a record 29th time.

Giles recalled that Perez, who is also president of construction giant ACS, took over the football club in 2000 and whipped it into a global brand, spending $492 million on 17 new players, including a record $89 million to acquire Zidane from Juventus in 2001.Money from the sale of the club's training ground on prime real estate helped him acquire such talents as Beckham, Ronaldo and Portugal's Luis Figo, earning the collection of superstars the title of "Los Galacticos.'' Perez's pledge each season was that the world's best would play for Madrid.

Financial success ensued, based on clever exploitation of Madrid's huge marketing potential around the world, especially in Asia. The club increased its revenue by 17 percent to $327 million for the 2004-05 season. A new training ground was established near Madrid's international airport and a centerpiece of future projects is the refurbishment of the 80,000-seat Santiago Bernabeu stadium with a steel-and-glass sliding roof by 2008.

See also: Brand it like Beckham ... (18 Feb) and Real Madrid overtakes ManU as world richest club (17 Feb)