Florentino Eduardo Pérez Rodríguez (Spanish pronunciation: [floɾenˈtino ˈpeɾeθ roˈðɾiɣeθ]; born 8 March 1947) is a Spanish businessman, civil engineer, former politician, and current president of Real Madrid C.F., as well as Grupo ACS, a civil engineering company. He is most famous for ushering in Real Madrid's period of Los Galácticos, a time when the club paid extremely high transfer fees for elite footballers.
Pérez attended the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
Pérez joined the Union of the Democratic Centre party in 1979, serving among others on the Madrid city council.
In 1986, Pérez ran in the Spanish general elections as candidate for the Partido Reformista Democrático (Democratic Reform Party).
In 1993, he was named vice president of OCP Construcciones. After the fusion of OCP with Gines y Navarro into Actividades de Construcción y Servicios, S.A. (ACS) in 1997, he became president of the new company.
Florentino Pérez first ran for the presidency of Real Madrid in the 19 February 1995 election. He campaigned on the poor financial situation of the club and the alleged extensive mismanagement by the board, but lost to the incumbent Ramón Mendoza by 699 votes.
His second attempt was more successful; he took over as president in 2000, beating the current chairman at that time, Lorenzo Sanz. Sanz assumed that the recently won European Cups in 1998 and 2000 would give him enough credit to win the elections, but Pérez's campaign, once again highlighting the financial problems of the club and claims of mismanagement by the previous boards, proved otherwise. Pérez's promise to bring in Luís Figo from arch-rivals Barcelona also played a decisive role in the elections. Pérez was reelected in 2004 with 94.2% of the total votes.
Figo also marked the start of Pérez's policy to bring one of the best football players in the world to Real Madrid each season. The strategy was initially known as that of Zidanes y Pavones - in which superstars would play alongside the Canteranos, but the players were soon popularly referred to as Galácticos. In 2001, Zinedine Zidane was signed from Juventus for a then-world record transfer fee of €73.5 million. He was followed by Ronaldo in 2002, David Beckham in 2003, Michael Owen in 2004 and Robinho for a short while in 2005. Initially, Pérez's policy worked to great success, as each new Galáctico had the squad built around them, and the team had a good balance between attack and defence. In his first years in office, Real Madrid won two Spanish championships and its record ninth European Cup.
Pérez claimed success in clearing the club's debt; however, this was contradicted by director Ramón Calderón.
After the 2002–03 season, Pérez decided not to renew Vicente del Bosque's contract, despite Real capturing a 29th La Liga title. Del Bosque was able to balance the many different player egos in the star-studded team. It was widely believed that there was a political split, with del Bosque and his players (Fernando Hierro, Fernando Morientes, Steve McManaman and Claude Makélélé) on one side, and Pérez on the other. All of the aforementioned players left the club in 2003 in Pérez's shakeup bid to regain control.
In particular, Claude Makélélé, considered one of the best defensive midfielders at the time and a key component to Real's successes, decided to ask for an improved contract with the support of teammates Zidane, Raúl, Steve McManaman and Fernando Morientes. Up to this time, Makélélé was also one of Madrid's least paid players, earning a fraction of what was paid to the Galácticos, but Pérez flatly refused to consider Makélélé's request. Upset, Makélélé handed in a transfer request, whereupon he was promptly dispatched to Chelsea. Pérez infamously poured scorn on Makélélé's footballing abilities and proclaimed that Makélélé would not be missed, saying, "We will not miss Makélélé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 90% of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways."
After Makélélé was sold, Pérez signed a number of high-profile attackers, including Michael Owen, Júlio Baptista and Robinho, in accordance with his Galáctico policy. Unfortunately, all of the Galáticos were attacking players with generally limited defensive roles and abilities, and Pérez failed to adequately replace Makélélé in the holding midfielder's role. Negotiations to sign Patrick Vieira from Arsenal in 2004 failed because of Pérez's refusal to pay high wages for "defensive players."
Several years after leaving Real, McManaman and Morientes stated that Makélélé was the most important and least appreciated midfielder, the latter saying, "The loss of Makélélé was the beginning of the end for Los Galácticos... You can see that it was also the beginning of a new dawn for Chelsea." From the 2003–04 season onward, with the absence of del Bosque and Makélélé, Real Madrid failed to win a trophy.
Though Pérez's policy resulted in increased financial success based on the exploitation of the club's high marketing potential around the world, especially in Asia, it came under increasing criticism for being focused too much on marketing the Real Madrid brand and not enough on the football. He announced his resignation on 27 February 2006, acknowledging that the team and the club as a whole needed a new direction.
On 14 May 2009, Pérez announced his candidacy for president of Real Madrid in a press conference at the Hotel Ritz Madrid. On 1 June 2009, given that he was the only candidate able to provide the €57,389,000 guarantee necessary to run for the presidency, Pérez was announced as the new president of Real Madrid.
Pérez has continued with the Galácticos policy pursued in his first term. On 8 June 2009, he bought Kaká from Milan for just under £60 million, while on 11 June, Manchester United accepted an £80 million offer for Cristiano Ronaldo, which would once again break the world record. On 25 June, Pérez and Real Madrid announced the signing of Valencia centre-back Raúl Albiol for €15 million. On 1 July, Pérez bought Karim Benzema from Olympique Lyonnais for a fee of at least £30 million, which could rise to £35 million, depending on the player's success.
On 5 August 2009, Real Madrid confirmed the signing of Xabi Alonso from Liverpool for £30 million; Alonso became the second Liverpool player to join Real Madrid in the same transfer window after full-back Álvaro Arbeloa's £3.5 million switch to the Santiago Bernabéu in July.
On 31 May 2010, Pérez presented José Mourinho as the new coach of Real Madrid in a £6.8 million deal.
During the next three years, Pérez brought a lot of new faces to Los Blancos, including the German wonderkid Mesut Özil, and Ángel Di María, who both attracted attention from Europe's elite football clubs during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This squad enjoyed its share of domestic success in 2011 and 2012, with the club bringing home a Copa del Rey title. and a La Liga title. However, the club's lack of success in European competition and a disappointing 2012–13 season encouraged Mourinho to depart for his former club Chelsea.
On 2 June 2013, Pérez was awarded a fourth term as the Real Madrid president, bringing in Carlo Ancelotti to replace Mourinho. Mesut Özil and Gonzalo Higuaín were sold to Arsenal and Napoli, respectively, at the start of the season to secure spots for Luka Modrić and Karim Benzema in the first team. Pérez also brought in Welsh footballer and PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale, purchased from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee reported to be in the £86 million range, yet again breaking the world record. Two promising Spanish talents, playmaker Isco and holding midfielder Asier Illaramendi, were also secured by Pérez prior to the start of the season. The following season proved to be a resounding success, as Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey and its tenth Champions League title.
During the 2014 summer transfer window, Pérez brought in 2014 FIFA World Cup stars James Rodríguez, Toni Kroos, and Keylor Navas to Real Madrid for a combined cost of £95 million, as well as Javier Hernández on a loan deal from Manchester United. As a result of the mounting competition for starting spots and wage disputes, Ángel Di María left the club for Manchester United for a British record transfer fee of £60 million. Xabi Alonso also left during this transfer window to join Bayern Munich. In January 2015, Pérez again showed his muscle in the transfer market when Real Madrid signed the 16-year-old Norwegian "mini-galactico" Martin Ødegaard in competition with many of the big clubs in Europe, including Bayern, Barcelona and Arsenal.
After Iker Casillas' move to Porto in July 2015, Casillas' agent, Santos Márquez, criticized Pérez, saying, "He doesn't like black players, but is not a racist," and that is why players like Claude Makélélé and Samuel Eto'o weren't paid as much as other players. Márquez also expressed that he expects Pérez to leave Real Madrid after Casillas' transfer.