By Richard Martin
(Reuters) – Florentino Perez will stay on as Real Madrid president until 2021 after no other candidates presented a bid to rival the incumbent before Sunday’s deadline, the European champions announced in a statement on Monday.
Perez, who began his second spell in 2009 and has overseen three Champions League wins in the last four years, has barely had to contend with any rivals for his post since the Liga club changed internal rules for presidential candidates in 2012.
The alterations mean anyone aspiring to be president has to have been a member of Real for at least 20 years, compared to the old requirement of 10 years, and have a personal guarantee of over 75 million euros (£65.8 million) from a Spanish bank.
The barriers saw off potential challengers in the last election in 2013 and no candidate has emerged in the 10-day period since the electoral process began on June 8, leaving construction magnate Perez, who turned 70 this year, a free run to his third successive mandate and fifth overall.
Perez first became Real president in 2000, seeing off incumbent Lorenzo Sanz by promising to lure winger Luis Figo from bitter rivals Barcelona, which he quickly delivered on by bringing the Portuguese international to the Spanish capital for a then world record fee of 62 million euros.
Perez’s expensive and ambitious ‘Galacticos’ project, which later brought the likes of Frenchman Zinedine Zidane, now Real’s manager, England’s David Beckham and Brazil’s Ronaldo to the club, had initial success but ended with the team floundering on the pitch, prompting his resignation in February 2006.
The Spaniard returned to the top role at the Santiago Bernabeu in elections in 2009 and picked up where he had left off by breaking the world transfer record twice in a week with the signings of Brazilian Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.
His large-scale investment in the team did not yield a Liga title in his second term as president until 2012, with a first Champions League triumph in 12 years following in 2014.
The club have proved shrewder in the transfer market in recent years, however, and last season’s Champions League and La Liga double was built on a robust squad, allowing coach Zidane to freely rotate his side while still winning domestic games, keeping his first choice team fit and fresh for European ties.
Perez faced furious opposition from Real supporters following a harrowing 4-0 defeat at home to Barcelona in November 2015, although he eased tensions by appointing crowd favourite Zidane to succeed Rafa Benitez two months later.
The Frenchman has won back-to-back Champions League titles in his 18 months in charge as well as snapping a five-year spell without the Liga title, lifting the pressure off Perez, whose position is now stronger than ever.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Ken Ferris)