Another year dawns, another manager damned. Tim Stannard on Real Madrid's latest coach change...
Over the Yuletide period, Ashton Kutcher popped up on La Liga Loca’s tellybox in The Butterfly Effect, the tale of a time-travelling student trying to undo mistakes of the past but generally making the present exponentially worse.
It’s a film that pops back into the blog’s mind on Tuesday morning, as it sits in a comfy armchair at seven in the morning, clad in a smoking jacket and swirling a 60-year-old brandy in its hand. Don’t judge.
The news was delivered with the nonchalance of announcing that the club was investing in a more quilted model of the official bathroom paper
Early on Monday evening, Florentino Pérez popped up before the media in a very hastily arranged gathering to announce the sacking of Rafa Benítez and the appointment of Zinedine Zidane as the next Real Madrid manager. No questions were taken on this occasion, and the news was delivered with the nonchalance of the Madrid president announcing that the club was investing in a more quilted model of the official bathroom paper.
As much as Pérez will be no fan of his presidential predecessor Ramón Calderón, the Bernabéu kingpin was trying to recreate the swoop pulled off back in 2008 when a press conference was called to announce the sacking of Bernd Schuster while wheeling in his replacement Juande Ramos. Not literally. Although that would have been fun.
In such a manner, Florentino gets to have the head of a Real Madrid playing legend on Tuesday’s front pages, as opposed to headlines questioning the competence of the Madrid überboss. “La Soluzzión” purred the cover of Marca along with a moody picture of Zizou.
The drastic but highly predictable move was another desperate attempt by Pérez to undo the damage caused by the utterly pointless sacking of Carlo Ancelotti last summer. And maybe even the removal of Vicente del Bosque, 13 years and 13 managers ago.
The solution or the problem?
Madrid managers since 2003
- Carlos Quieroz, hired 25 Jun 2003, lasted 59 games
- Jose Antonio Camacho, 25 May 2004, 6
- Mariano Garcia Remon, 20 Sep 2004, 20
- Vanderlei Luxemburgo, 30 Dec 2004, 45
- Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, 4 Dec 2005, 24
- Fabio Capello, 5 Jul 2006, 50
- Bernd Schuster, 9 July 2007, 75
- Juande Ramos, 9 Dec 2008, 27
- Manuel Pellegrini, 2 Jun 2009, 48
- Jose Mourinho, 28 May 2010, 178
- Carlo Ancelotti, 25 Jun 2013, 119
- Rafael Benitez, 3 Jun 2015, 25
- Zinedine Zidane, 4 Jan 2016, ?
Last summer, Pérez could offer no proper reason for Ancelotti’s axing, and that is the reason why the prez took no questions from the media on Monday. He had no explanation as to why he had suddenly decided to sack a manager he had repeatedly backed by saying that he was “the solution” to Real Madrid’s problems. Just over two weeks ago, Florentino told Spanish radio that “Benítez will not be substituted by Zidane, despite some media outlets saying this has been arranged. Benítez is the solution, not the problem.”
As Sergio Ramos put it aptly last month: “Florentino Pérez is the king here and we are the pawns.” No explanations are needed. No apologies for wasting more of the club’s money in paying off the contracts of Ancelotti and now Benítez. Pérez doesn’t make mistakes; everyone else does. “Florentino had a stomach ache, and now he’s rid of it,” were the opening lines of Tuesday’s AS editorial.
In desperately trying once again to find the right man to fix the mistake of firing Ancelotti, Pérez may have created yet more unfortunate consequences for himself down the line. While few tears will be shed for Benítez, a figure largely unloved by fans and apparently players alike, the new Real Madrid coach is a legend of the team’s recent past. Zizou will be a very difficult to head to chop.
That’s not to say that the Frenchman won’t be a perfectly fine manager, despite just a season-and-a-half in charge of the club’s Castilla team, down in the third tier of Spanish football. The 6,000 fans who turned up for an open training session on Tuesday morning will be wishing him all the luck in the world and the heavyweight players will no doubt have a fair amount of respect for a figure who is one of the best in the history of the game.
The league title race is open – not so much with the Copa del Rey – and the Champions League is also on the agenda too. But even winning that is not enough to keep King Florentino happy. Just ask Ancelotti, the mistake that Pérez is still trying to fix.