In the corporate world in which Real Madrid president Florentino Perez spends most of his waking hours, a certain lingo is often employed to describe concepts that can improve the performance of his huge conglomerate.
Words like "benchmark" and "best practice" describe the business world's obsession with identifying references in every field and copycatting their way of getting things done. During his long corporate life -- 17 years as president of construction and services company ACS, plus another 16 in other positions and companies -- Perez has had to sit through hours, days, maybe even weeks of presentations from his own team or hired consultants telling him to gather inspiration from the best practices of the one or two industry benchmarks.
At Real Madrid, his team have applied these concepts impressively well when it comes to everything that surrounds football. When Perez took over, believe it or not, it was hard to find an official Real Madrid jersey for sale in Madrid, or any merchandising item for that matter. Real Madrid's agreement with their apparel provider was hardly profitable, and there was little in the way of pushing sales outside of Spain.
The stadium, in precarious situation, lived off its last serious reform under Santiago Bernabeu -- he died in 1978 --, leaving several possibilities to generate additional revenue, such as corporate boxes or food stands, completely untouched.
When Perez won the elections for the first time, back in 2000, his team took a deep look at what the leaders in those fields were doing: they thoroughly analysed the best revenue generators in the top American Leagues -- NFL, NBA, MLB -- and started to build the necessary infrastructure to increase their income through merchandising, as well as to get more out of the stadium.
Today, thanks to that patient and well-structured work, Real Madrid have become the revenue benchmark in world football. And, by the way, they did this without extorting the socios, who still pay very reasonably figures for their season tickets.
It's something to be proud of, indeed, but why haven't they followed the same approach with football itself? Why not copy one successful team and apply the brutal amount of resources at Real Madrid's disposal?
Things aren't that simple nowadays. Even if the Barcelona kool-aid drinkers insist, currently there is not one successful team based on a pure model of homegrown talent and one unique style of play. The Real Madrid of the Quinta del Buitre, with the flair of two or three extremely talented foreigners, is a thing of the past, just like the Barcelona of Johann Cruyff, with their similar mixture of local lads and mesmerising imports like Romario or Hristo Stoitchkov.
Even if you have a few exceptional players who came through the ranks, as is the case at Barcelona with Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique or Andres Iniesta, you will have to complement them with a few handsomely paid stars such as Neymar or Luis Suarez. With all due respect to the entertaining players of yore, Barcelona's current trio bears no comparison in adjusted price, performance or consistency with anything we saw in previous eras. The stakes have upped immensely.
And spending all that cash would not be enough. The club would still need the luck to see a few unexpected bets such as Javier Mascherano or Claudio Bravo to pay off way beyond their expectations.
Even though it is impossible to select one successful football team, analyse it and put together a powerpoint presentation for Mr Perez that tells him exactly what to do to improve his degrading domestic record, one does not need to go far to look for inspiration.
The most shocking thing about the constant management mistakes of Real Madrid is that his president has something very close to a benchmark to follow inside his own club, but for some reason he hasn't made the connection yet.
In a surprising display of mental clarity when compared with the constant changes of the football section, Real Madrid's basketball team is managed in a completely different way by the same president, and accumulates silverware and successes while the richer brother can't stay alive in all competitions well before the usually key months of the season.
What is different with the basketball team? For starters, in June 2011 Mr Perez chose a low-profile coach, with experience in lower leagues and zero glamour, but who knew the club, as he had played for Real Madrid three seasons in the mid-1990's. Far from a big name, Pablo Laso's designation surprised many who expected Perez to bring another star coach, as he had done previously with Italian manager Ettore Messina.
Since he took over, Laso has won two La Ligas, four Copas del Rey and one Euroliga -- the Champions League basketball equivalent. His team have also played in another two domestic and two European league finals, demonstrating a degree of consistency that the basketball section had not shown since the late 1970's-early 1980's.
Solid as those results seem, it took Laso four seasons and three finals to win a Euroleague title, an investment of time that Mr Perez would have not tolerated in the football team.
In addition to the patience with the manager, Perez employs and respects a Sports Director, Alberto Herreros, who has also been with the club for over a decade in different positions (player, scout, etc). Herreros has complete control over hirings and firings, with which he consults Laso, but never Perez. The talent management in the basketball team is quite active and assertive, with its share of hits and misses, but with a clear blueprint.
This obviously has nothing to do with the situation in the football team, which lacks a real Sports Director since Jose Mourinho disposed of Jorge Valdano. After him, former player Miguel Pardeza tried to take that role, but quickly saw his opinion had little weight on decisions.
The personnel decisions go through Perez, who has given proof of his fickle affections towards one player or another depending on recent performances. The decision-making regarding the 23-man squad is obviously easy to improve, as we see in specific positions such as left-back in which there is no alternative to the injury-prone Marcelo.
Finally, the basketball team has built a core of key players highly identified with the club. The football club, with the revolving doors policy of the last decade, can barely count on four or five players who appear to be committed long-term to the club.
The approaches to manage both teams differ almost as much as their respective results, but the president is the same one. Using the corporate lingo, there is no need to go very far to find a benchmark, analyse its best practices and implement the learnings: it's the basketball section.
Is it that hard to apply the same logic to the venerated, iconic football team, Mr Perez?