By Simon Baskett
MADRID – It wasn’t that long ago that Real Madrid were the envy of Europe as players queued up for a chance to join and top managers were ready to give their eye-teeth to take charge at the Bernabeu.
But after three trophyless seasons,
the humiliating failure of Florentino Perez’s Galactico experiment and a seemingly endless succession of upheavals at the club, Real have slipped down the pecking order of European football.
The nine-times European champions are now in the unwelcome situation of having to watch as a string of leading managers rule themselves out of the running for the coach’s job.
The current occupant of the Bernabeu hot-seat, Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, is on his way out following Real’s exit from the King’s Cup and the Champions League.
“Real will have 99 percent of its squad ready by June 30, that’s for certain and will have a new coach in two weeks,” the club’s new president Fernando Martin told sports dailies Marca and AS earlier this month.
AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is the latest high-profile coach to be ruled out after extending his deal with the Serie A club on Tuesday until 2008.
His contract extension came just a day after Marca described him as the favourite to take over at Real.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez, who began his coaching career with Real’s reserve team, and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger, a childhood fan of the club, have done the same by pledging their future to their current sides.
In theory, coaching Real remains one of the most alluring jobs in the game. But recent history suggests it is also one of the most precarious.
Perez, who threw in the towel as president last month, got through six coaches in his last two and a half years in charge – without improving the results.
Further disruption is likely over the next few weeks as director of football Benito Floro is tipped to quit his post.
Floro, who took up the job after Arrigo Sacchi quit at the end of last year, is reported to be negotiating his departure as he does not enjoy Martin’s confidence.
Vice-president Emilio Butragueno’s position is also under threat, with speculation rife that he too may choose to fall on his sword before the season is out.
“It’s an attractive job certainly, to everyone who has no job,” Wenger commented last December when asked about the chance of becoming Real coach.
“But on the other hand, it looks to be not a stable job. When rotation within a club becomes too quick, that means the problem doesn’t always lie with the manager.”
One option that Martin is believed to be mulling over is recalling the former regime of Vicente del Bosque, Jose Antonio Camacho and Fernando Hierro, following their controversial departures under Perez.
Coach Del Bosque and captain Hierro were discarded by Perez just a day after Real won their last major trophy, the 2003 league title. Camacho quit as boss after just three league games saying he was unable to deal with the club’s Galactico structure.
Their return would, however, be a humiliating U-turn by the club and might prove too much to stomach for the rest of the board who were enthusiastic supporters of Perez’s policies when he was in power.
Yet the club’s remaining options are being reduced all the time.
Fabio Capello, who led Real to the league title ahead of Barcelona in 1997, remains one of the favourites but he failed to win over the fans with his conservative style of football and has little reason to leave high-flying Juventus.
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson will be available after the World Cup, is used to dealing with big-name players and enjoys an excellent relationship with Real midfielder and England captain David Beckham.
But the Swede is not thought to be ruthless enough to deal with any recalcitrant Galacticos that survive the end-of-season clear-out and, in any case, Beckham has yet to sign a contract extension with the club.
The latest favourite to take charge at the Bernabeu is perhaps the most realistic option.
Getafe coach Bernd Schuster, who has received widespread praise for the way he has managed Real’s modest neighbours this season, has made no secret of his desire to coach one of Europe’s big teams.
The former German international, who played for Real, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, has the ability and confidence the job requires. Though he is still a novice in coaching terms, there is little doubt he would grab the chance.
With Martin having given himself a relatively short deadline to find the right man, the next couple of weeks will be particularly busy ones for the Real president. — Reuter