Real under fire

The sound of knives being sharpened could be heard ominously in Madrid on Wednesday, following Real’s shock Champions Cup elimination at the hands of modest Monaco.

Coach Carlos Queiroz is the predictable target in a season that promised so much but has gone sour so quickly.

But two men who have largely been immune to criticism since taking charge at Real in 2000 are also in the firing line: sporting director Jorge Valdano and president Florentino Perez.

Queiroz was the first target of media indignation. Sixties Real star Manuel Velazquez let fly at the Portuguese coach on radio station Cadena Cope, just minutes after Pierluigi Collina blew the final whistle in the Stade de Louis II on Tuesday night.

“Queiroz has been out-thought by [Monaco coach Didier] Deschamps,” moaned Velazquez. “His tactics have been inadequate, his substitutions have been useless.”

Wednesday’s edition of sports daily Marca criticises Queiroz’s “tactical naivety”, and rival paper As claims “the only thing” that could save the coach from the sack is the Spanish league title.

El Pais, for its part, contrasts the present situation at the club with that of just one month ago.
At the start of March, Real had just eliminated old enemies Bayern Munich from the Champions Cup, were looking forward to a Spanish cup against unfancied Zaragoza—and had a seemingly definitive eight-point lead over Valencia in “la Liga”.

What a difference a month makes. Zaragoza deservedly have the cup in their trophy cabinet, Valencia have reduced the gap to just one point—and Real have flopped in Europe for the second year running, with, according to television channel Antena 3, “one of their most humiliating defeats ever”.

As El Mundo pointed out, the Monaco defeat is “historically important” because it ends Real’s habit of winning the Champions Cup every two years, a sequence started in 1998. In addition, this is the first time that “los blancos” have not reached the semis since 1999.

But El Pais and El Mundo do not only criticise Queiroz for the latest failure. El Pais appropriately points out that Queiroz was given a “severely weakened squad” when he took over last summer, due to the sales of midfielders Claude Makelele, Flavio Conceicao and Albert Celades—plus the “enforced retirement” of defensive lynchpin Fernando Hierro.

El Pais has frequently scoffed at Perez’s policy of never signing a defender, and has been critical of Valdano for not pointing out to his boss the team’s defensive problems—and for forcing Queiroz to patch up his back line with greenhorns such as Francisco Pavon, Raul Bravo and Alvaro Mejia.

El Mundo, for its part, takes Perez and Valdano to task for loaning Fernando Morientes out to Monaco in order to make way for Ronaldo, a decision that rebounded on Real in the most dramatic fashion on Tuesday night.

Madrid newspaper La Razon accused Ronaldo of “again looking slow and overweight”, and ABC claims that Valdano made a “terrible decision” in farming out Morientes.

La Razon also has a swipe at Valdano for the “appalling physical condition” of key men such as Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo on the grounds that the squad is so limited that Queiroz has to rely on the same handful of players every single match.—Sapa-DPA

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