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World Sport

Los Galacticos lose their luster

By Don Riddell, CNN World Sport
Real's collapse could have long-term implications for the Spanish giants

LONDON, England -- There's rarely been a dull moment with Real Madrid in recent years.

Although their current plight isn't quite what they had in mind, it's been no less entertaining for outside observers.

In recent weeks, Real's much vaunted "treble bid" has spectacularly run aground starting with defeat in the Spanish cup final.

Then came an unexpected departure from the Champions League when they were leading Monaco 5-2 on aggregate with 45 minutes remaining.

And now, apparent self-destruction in the Primera Liga. Los Galacticos have taken just three points from a possible 12 -- handing the initiative to Valencia.

Seasoned football analysts will not be too surprised. Real's continued strategy of buying a major star every season could only work for so long.

David Beckham was ushered in amidst much fanfare last summer, while several squad players were discreetly being taken out the back.

Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Zidane, Figo, Beckham ... Real's team looks great on paper, but in reality the squad is now paper thin. The defense in particular has been clearly exposed this year in three grueling campaigns.

Whether he likes it or not, Beckham was bought as much for his corporate image as his brand of football. And perhaps that too is now taking its toll.

The England skipper was an excellent acquisition in providing the key to previously untapped markets in the Far East -- but they've been forced to take the rough with the smooth with Beckham.

Real could surely have done without the fuss caused by the recent allegations concerning his private life.

The logic of the pre-season tour of the Far East is also now being questioned.

Out of steam

Just as Real approached the business end of the season, they seemed to run out of steam -- and there is talk of scrapping plans to tour the U.S. or Asia this summer.

There are also the great unknowns. The Madrid train bombings, for example, occurred at a crucial time in Real's season.

The atrocity that so scarred the capital, and a nation, may well have adversely affected the team.

Coincidence or not, Real have lost more than half their games since March 11.

Real still have a chance to salvage their season, but failure to win any silverware will surely result in major changes.

Remember, the previous coach Vicente del Bosque was fired for winning two league titles and a European Cup. So far, Carlos Queiroz has drawn a blank.

There are daily rumors that Ronaldo and Beckham could be heading to England. And the President, Florentino Perez, may find re-election a bit tricky off the back of a fruitless season.

If Real's fortunes don't improve dramatically in the coming weeks, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end of Los Galacticos.

Don Riddell presents World Sport on CNN International at 0930 GMT, 1130 GMT and 1430 GMT daily and writes weekly for

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