If Florentino Pérez was trying to get a positive spin out of Monday’s hastily called press conference, then the media horde in attendance and thousands of minute-by-minute tracking sites set up around the globe bore testament to the global footprint that the Real Madrid president is so keen to implant.
Unfortunately for a forlorn Florentino, pictured two days before with ‘whadda ya do?’ exasperation in the stands, rather than a triumphant speech after glorious victory against Barcelona, the construction company king was looking to deflect any blame for the loss on everyone but himself.
Within seconds of walking up to the podium at 7.40pm local time, Florentino announced that he and his board were fully backing Rafa Benítez. There was an almost audible sigh of disappointment, not because of any animosity towards the former Liverpool man, but that it would have been fun to watch the club president sacking a coach in November, after sacking his Champions League-winning manager just a few months before and not really knowing why he did it in the first place.
Although Florentino didn’t really have too much choice in the matter, his support of Benítez was vaguely admirable. Less so was his declaration that the form of the club had been in decline since January, putting any blame rather unfairly on the shoulders of Carlo Ancelotti.
Since the beginning of the year in La Liga, Real Madrid have played 35 games and lost six, winning 24 along the way. In that time, the club reached the Champions League semi-finals and are currently top of this year’s group. The Barcelona defeat was only the second suffered by Madrid in all competitions this season. “It’s absurd to insist on something that makes no sense,” was the counter-argument from über-Madridista, Tomás Roncero, in AS on Tuesday.
The second crutch for Florentino to lean on was that the general hankie-waving and stadium-wide calling for the president’s resignation was largely the work of the club’s Ultra group and certainly not a general malaise against a president who changed the club statutes in 2012 to make it nearly impossible for anyone to be able to stand against him. The new rules, being challenged in a court case heard on Wednesday, declare that any presidential candidate must be Spanish, have been a member for 20 years and have 15% of the club’s budget in personal funds. All that was left out was needing the initials F.P.
The final part of Florentino’s traditional tripod was to blame the press for running a conspiracy against him and generally making stuff up. In one sense Perez had a point, as stories placing him in a Paris restaurant during the previous week with Jorge Mendes and the PSG president are probably hokum of the highest order. “When they are out to destabilise, the respected media shouldn’t allow it,” said Florentino.
And this is where the club president may be guilty of high-order hypocrisy. In 2009, former club president Ramon Calderón was forced to resign largely in the face of stories that he had been abusing club funds. Some of those stories came from two El Mundo journalists who were since found guilty of libel.
Those two gentlemen, Carlos Carbajosa and Jesús Alcaide, were then given plum jobs at the club, the former being a link between the press and the squad, and the latter as director of the club’s TV channel. Amazingly, they were seen as the best possible candidates for the position, when normally ‘guilty of libel’ is a no-no in the communications world.
It's not known if Perez was personally responsible for their hire, but he must, as president, take some responsibility for it. Perhaps they were the best candidates. The alternative view is that they were being rewarded for their work by the man who most benefited from Calderón’s downfall and then made it even harder for anyone to challenge him again.
The team's performance on Saturday, the appointment of Benítez and the buying and selling of players with little thought to tactics, are merely irritants to the Madridista world. The real problem was standing at the podium on Monday and he isn’t going to do anything about it anytime soon.
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