1820: Real Madrid: Will Benitez and
by : Kevin Buckland
The lessons of recent history show that when Real Madrid performs poorly, it is the coach who must shoulder the blame.
It is a fact that must be making current coach Wanderley Luxemburgo a bit anxious as he watches the club’s last chance for silverware, the Liga title, slip further and further out of reach. He is surely aware that the last coach to end a season without a major trophy, Carlos Queiroz, was given an ungracious sendoff.
It was an inglorious end for the man who at the beginning of March last year had looked like guiding the team to a historic league, domestic cup and European cup triple. But when Real Madrid lost in extra time in the final of the King’s Cup, it began a downward spiral that saw them subsequently crash out of the Champions League before plummeting to a club record five consecutive losses in the last five league games of the season.
Club President Florentino Perez was seeking a second term in elections that summer, and someone had to take the blame for the dismal results. Not surprisingly it was Coach Queiroz. Taking the blame himself would have hurt his chances for reelection. And blaming the players would call into question his policy of signing a new world class attacking player every season, the famous “Galacticos” policy or “Zidanes and Pavons”.
So the coach was made the scapegoat. Perez declared flatly that he had made a mistake bringing Queiroz to the club in the first place. And he named Real Madrid legend Jose Camacho as Queiroz’s replacement, saying the no-nonsense former defender had “the attitude and authority” to get the club back to winning ways. Perez went on to win reelection taking a landslide 94-percent of the vote.
But the change of coach also called into question the reasons for Queiroz’s surprise appointment only one year earlier. Despite coaching Sporting Lisbon and the Portuguese national team, did he really have a high enough profile to manage Real Madrid’s star-studded dressing room?
But in life it’s not just what you know but who you know that counts. The same time that Queiroz’s name began to circulate as a replacement for long-serving Real Madrid coach Vicente Del Bosque, the club had just signed midfielder David Beckham from Manchester United, the very same club where Queiroz was working as assistant to manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Although it was clear that Beckham was keen on his upcoming move to the Spanish giants, there were a lot of factors that must have made it a nervous time for the England captain. Of course Beckham didn’t speak any Spanish. (some remain unconvinced of his ability in his native English.) But beyond the obvious difficulties of moving to a new country, he faced several other obstacles in moving to his new team.
The position on the right wing where he had played all his life, and where he excelled, was already occupied by former world player of the year Luis Figo. The shirt number that he had worn all his professional life, the number “7” that was so much a part of his identity on the pitch, was the property of team captain Raul Gonzalez. Despite being a big star, Beckham was entering to the land of “los Galacticos”, and neither Figo nor Raul looked ready to give up what was theirs.
The announcement that Queiroz would follow Beckham to Madrid must have heartened the English winger. The multilingual coach could facilitate communication among the team’s players. And he already knew what Beckham could do on the pitch. Queiroz was already a close friend of Figo, the player who was reputed to have had the unenviable task of keeping peace between the team’s many egos.
There could have been no better coaching appointment to smooth the Beckham’s transition – the man so central to the club’s push into the lucrative football merchandise market in the Far East.
Queiroz’s replacement, Jose Camacho lasted only three games in charge before he stepped down. Rumour had it that he was forced out by the team’s superstar players.
Camacho’s assistant, Mariano Garcia Remon, was handed the reins. But despite Perez’s assurances the “Garcia Remon will be here for the whole season and we hope many more”, the smart money said he was just a stopgap. And the punters proved right when, shortly after Christmas, in came Brazilian coach Wanderley Luxemburgo.
But why Wanderley? Certainly he had a high profile – at least in Brazil – and a winning record to match. But again, who he knew might have made the difference.
In December, transfer rumors were again swirling around Madrid, and the name at the top of the list of coveted players was Brazilian wonder boy Robinho, touted as the “new Pele” by none other than the original Pele. What better way to secure the youngster’s signature than recruiting his coach and mentor from his club, Santos?