Thursday, 28 June 2007

Chronicle of a sacking foretold

It's official.

Calderón has finally got his way and Fabio Capello won't be back at the Bernabéu after his summer holidays in Tibet. Following the postponed board meeting that finally took place Thursday lunchtime, Miguel Angel Arroyo, the spokesman for the board, and Brylcreem Boy Mijatovic confirmed the news. The decision was "consensual and unanimous" and "without the need for a vote" (another victory for that paragon of democracy, Ramón Calderón).

What was not cleared up was exactly who would be taking Capello's place. While Bernd Schuster is the president's clear favourite candidate, even before last summer's election, and the former Real Madrid and Barcelona player has made little secret of his desire to manage the squad, he is still under contract to Getafe, at least until the end of next season. Getafe president, Angel Torres, though a Real Madrid socio is deeply unhappy at the way at the way the situation has been handled and the club's webpage has "categorically denied" that any agreement has been reached over Schuster's contract (though As, unsurprisingly, begs to differ).

Capello's farewell could be costly for Real Madrid: in the purely financial sense estimates vary between 5 and 9 million euros. However, it puts at significant risk, in my opinion, the club's recovery from the excesses of the galáctico years. Capello, for all the criticism he has received, was a known quantity. His methods are well known, and they yield results. Noone can deny that Real Madrid has had a large slice of luck in the run-up to the league championship, but the players, particularly in the second half of the season, showed a resilience and a team spirit that has not been seen for many a year.

Bernd Schuster, for all his brilliance as a player, and his success managing "modest" clubs like Xerez, Levante and now Getafe, has never been in this situation before. He may well turn into a superb manager and, if he signs, I would love to be proved wrong, but he has zero experience managing players of this calibre (and ego) and the high expectations of an impatient fan base.

What has been fascinating (if not frustrating) to watch over the past few days, has been the behaviour of the Madrid sports press. As, for many the official mouthpiece of the club (or at least of some factions within the club), has made no secret of its desire to be rid of Capello for some months now. They have been happy to peddle the fiction that nobody wants Capello and everyone wants Schuster. It really is manipulative journalism at its worst (both in the sense of being manipulative, but also in how unsubtle and obvious it is).

Marca, on the other hand, is little better. For the past week, they have been happy to run story after story predicting Capello's sacking, with little or no mention of any objections from the fans. Shortly after breaking the story last night, they proceeded to publish the results of polls asking for the Italian to stay, and the lack of coaching continuity. Still, they have to sell papers, don't they...

There is trouble brewing in the technical direction of the club. The president has often claimed that he does not get involved in such matters, but it is clear that he is not the sort to sit back and let others manage, particularly when there is PR capital to be made. He does not have to call elections for a few years yet, and I expect he won't. At least it looks like when they do come, there won't be the same accusations of fraudulent postal votes. This reform, forced on the club, may be the only bright spot in Calderón's legacy.

Let's hope not.


Kevin said...

I think you're right -- this is a huge gamble by Real and it comes just as a bit of stability looked on the cards at last. Apart form anything else, Capello deserved another season after doing everything that was asked of him. Poor behaviour on the part of the club to get rid of a coach for no justifiable reason. I'm sure he'll insist on being paid every single penny of the remainder of his contract.

Gonzalo said...

The Kevin Fylan I've been reading your Reuters match reports for years...

It seems crazy to pay out Capello's contract (and those of the rest of his technical staff) to the tune of up to 10 million euros to gamble on the unknown quantity that is Schuster (assuming he finally signs on the dotted line). Some news reports (even the BBC reflected this) claim it has to do with his treatment of David Beckham. They conveniently forget that Beckham was only 'dropped' (however unjustifiably) after he had announced he had signed for LA Galaxy, so that doesn't wash.

It's a clash of wills between the president (or his cronies) and Capello. The level of interference from a president who has publicly stated he would not make any sporting decisions cannot make coaching Real Madrid an attractive proposition for any half decent manager with a plan to build a competitive squad; in other words, Wenger or Benitez would be crazy to leave their respective clubs for the Real Madrid madhouse.