Real taking risk with Ramos appointment

MADRID - Real Madrid's shock decision to sack Bernd Schuster on Tuesday and bring in Juande Ramos with less than half the season gone is a big risk given the Spaniard's less than consistent record.

To do so less than a week before "El Clasico" against arch rivals Barcelona also smacks of desperation.

Ramos, who has agreed a contract with Real through to June 2009 with an option for an extension, arrived at Tottenham Hotspur in October 2007 with expectations sky high following his outstanding stint in charge of Sevilla.

But hopes he could repeat the success that brought the Andalusians five trophies in two years, including two successive UEFA Cups, were dashed this season when Spurs made a poor start and slumped to the bottom of the Premier League.

Reasons cited for his failure in London include the loss of key strikers Dimitar Berbatov (to Manchester United) and Robbie Keane (to Liverpool) and his inability to motivate either the players he inherited or those he brought in.

His patchy command of English was also seen as a hurdle to an effective management of the side and the club's decision to sack him in October appears vindicated by the impressive turnaround under successor Harry Redknapp.

It seems, however, that Real president Ramon Calderon and sporting director Predrag Mijatovic were forced to act by Schuster's injudicious comments after Sunday's 4-3 home defeat at the hands of Sevilla.

Whatever reasons the German had for saying it was impossible to win next Saturday against Barcelona at the Nou Camp -- motivating his players, lowering expectations, toying with the opposition -- it was apparently the last straw for the pair who appointed him in June 2007.

Barcelona have been in stellar form under new coach Pep Guardiola this term and the contrast between the quietly-effective former Spain international and the combative Schuster only served to highlight the gulf between the sides.

Schuster, who played in the Primera Liga for Barca, Real and Atletico Madrid, has a long history of uneasy relationships and frequently clashed with the Spanish sports media.

Writing in newspaper El Mundo, Orfeo Suarez said it was Schuster's difficult personality that made it impossible for Calderon to stand by him and give him a chance to haul back the nine-point gap to leaders Barca.

The president also had to endure an angry assembly of club members at the weekend which further increased the pressure to act, Suarez said.

In his first public comments as Real coach, Ramos appeared much more at ease with the Spanish media than his predecessor and pointedly said the club had the quality to win in any stadium in the world and the players should be going for victory in every match.

Addressing Real's poor defensive record this season -- they have leaked 24 goals in 14 matches -- he said what had been missing was a collective sense of responsibility and some players had been too focused on attack.

His admission that he has seen only "at least six or seven" of Real's matches this season will probably not do much to assure worried fans that their new coach, Real's 11th in 10 years, has what it takes to turn things around.