More significant, though, he has quashed almost any outlet for criticism. It has been instructive, for example, to read the accounts in much of Madrid’s news media of the Mbappé deal. Rather than a defeat for Madrid, Mbappé’s decision has been cast as that of a mercenary and a traitor, a turncoat who gave his word to Pérez and then betrayed him.
Mbappé’s family has been so distressed by that depiction that his mother moved to correct it publicly, asserting on Twitter that her son had never “given his word” to Real Madrid.
That he chose “El Chiringuito” for his first appearance to discuss the Super League was not an accident, either. The show regularly features prominent Madrid-supporting journalists who have been known to break down in tears over the club’s successes, or rail against those — Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard — who are deemed to have dishonored the club.
The show is not, in that, an outlier. Pérez oversees a vast network of pliant news media, dependent not only on his grace and favor for information and access but cowed, too, by the sheer scale and heft of his business interests. Pérez has always claimed that he is powerful only because he is president of Real Madrid, but that is not quite true. He is powerful in many other ways, too.
That has allowed him to run Real Madrid as he sees fit. Despite its size, the club’s hierarchy is relatively tightknit, with many recruitment decisions overseen by Pérez; his chief executive, José Ángel Sanchez; and his chief scout, Juni Calafat. Real Madrid is, in that sense, something of an outlier, almost a throwback, in an era when most of its peers have diversified and deepened their staffs.
Pérez would argue, of course, that it works: five Champions League finals in nine years is all the evidence he needs. That, perhaps, is his greatest gift. No matter what he does, no matter how unlikely it seems, Pérez has a remarkable ability to emerge triumphant.
This might have been the year that destabilized the kingdom he has so painstakingly built. It may, instead, prove to be the year that cemented it for good.