Sunday, May 24, 2009

Candidates for the Hot Seat

It's quite a funny thing: just as we are bracing for what will be a drama-filled summer for Real Madrid: things seem to be taking shape so fast that perhaps by summer time, there won't be any drama left.
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Florentino Perez is more and more looking like the sole candidate for the elections and at this rate, he will be president by next week (well, the Monday after next week rather... June 1). Florentino is also supposedly going to give his name-dropping speech after next week's Champions League Final: where he is expected to name Jorge Valdano as his right hand man and my personal hero Zinedine Zidane as a senior adviser. The question that remains at this point though is who the new manager will be. And I will be the first to admit that the possibilities have/are getting me all worked up...
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Arsene Wenger
In a Perfect World without war or hunger: Arsene Wenger would be Real Madrid Manager
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In a fantasy world, 'The Professor' should be the manager of Real Madrid. What he has done for Arsenal, when enlarged to Real Madrid-scale: is the stuff of wet dreams for Madridistas: suave and professional, tactically brilliant, an advocate of beautiful football and of course a believer in youth. His arrival would have almost definitely generated a re-birth of Real Madrid and would put it on-course to become the best club of the 21st Century. We would have seen a Galactico-laden lineup pulverizing one team after another week and doing so in absolutely dazzling style. We would also see a renaissance of Madrid's cantera and find more players from Castilla finding places in the first team. His arrival would have left an indelible mark on the club for many many years... possibly the same effect that Johan Cruyff has made with Barcelona. Too bad the answer for the nth time for him to come to Madrid is once again a big, fat resounding 'no.'
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Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho: If only his Football was as stylish as his Fashion Sense...
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On paper, Jose Mourinho also seems to be a good prospect for Real Madrid. After all, the man practically guarantees titles: the minimum for a Real Madrid Manager. Mourinho will also bring the kind of work ethic, discipline and second-to-none preparation that he is so renowned for. He will shake the club's foundations by shaving off plenty of the club's excess 'fat'. He will surely command the respect of all his players. Aside from being a master tactician, Mourinho is also a master of mind games: a strength of his that I believe will be further amplified in Spanish Football and especially given the number of Madrid-touting press outlets out there. But we also all know that winning is not enough for Real Madrid: winning must be done in style. Fabio Capello knows all about that. Florentino Perez and the Madrid faithful are not interested to watch 1-0 wins starved of creativity and flair. We also know that Jose Mourinho's venomous mouth can be turned the other way towards the hand that feeds him: something that is far less acceptable in Real Madrid than in other clubs. I also find it difficult to imagine how he can work successfully alongside the likes of Valdano and Zidane as he's not the type who welcomes people he deems as outsiders... Mr. Avram Grant will attest to that. All in all, though I won't find myself raging at the thought of it... I as a Madridista am not keen to see him on the Bernabeu Bench.
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Laurent Blanc
Laurent Blanc: Too little experience by my reckoning...
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I have not seen his Bordeaux side play. They are on their way to breaking Lyon's stranglehold of Ligue 1 though, which is nevertheless and achievement. I am however not in any position to comment on his team's play. What I can say though is that I thin it's too early in his career as a manager to be coaching a side as big and as Real Madrid. Most of the sentiments about this matter are captured in what I've written on Michael Laudrup below. I put him above Laudrup because we can all say that at least Blanc has a title to show for in his infant-career as a football manager.
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Michael Laudrup
Laudrup: The Main Ingredient to a Recipe that will Repeat Past Mistakes
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I am so sick and tired of suggestions for the position of Real Madrid Manager ending up favoring amateurs like Bernd Schuster and his ilk. Michael Laudrup has had ONE season as a La Liga manager and was fired in his next job in some God-forsaken place in Eastern Europe (Russia I think). Is this our equivalent of trying to have our own Pep Guardiola? To be honest, I still believe that the jury's still out on Guardiola: after all he's only managed for one season a team whose talent is clearly at a level much higher than the rest of the world. It also helps that half of his squad plus himself played in the same style/system of football for many, many years. The foundations for such formula for success as Pep's Team were laid a long time ago. We are not at that level yet. For Michael Laudrup to be favored out of sentimentality over the fact that he was once a Rel Madrid player and that he managed was was viewed to be a successful Getafe side in his one and only stint is the stuff of picking Bernd Schuster (who cam up with that stupid idea anyway???). We should really steer clear from this option I believe. Real Madrid deserve a manager who is a proven winner (i.e. have won silverware) and a proven advocate of beautiful, attacking football... with experience, impeccable knowledge in tactics and man management. Michael Laudrup has none of the above.
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Manuel Pellegrini
His achievements at Villarreal deserve respect undoubtedly: But is he an upgrade from Juande?
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It is said that Jorge Valdano likes the option of having Manuel Pellegrini come in for the job. Villarreal, after stabilizing their place in La Liga took their big step forward with him at the helm: pretty football, consistent top 4 finishes in La Liga, a semi-final appearance in the Champions League all on a modest budget. His stance over Juan Roman Riquelme also helped his reputation a lot: (where he essentially told the Argentine 'fuck off we don't need you here if you're going to be such a prick') proving to the world that he knows how to deal with a superstar ego. The fundamental question however is: Is he a step over Juande Ramos? My answer is no.
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Which brings us to...
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Juande Ramos
Thinking about it logically: I find that it's perfectly sensible to retaining Juande Ramos as the Manager.
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Juande has won titles with what was then a modest Sevilla side still romantically remembered for it's high-octane, high powered attacking style. In his time at Real Madrid, he took a side that looked like it wasn't even going to qualify for the Champions League and made it a contender for the La Liga title, pushing THIS Barcelona team (which I believe to be their greatest ever) almost all the way to the end before falling short. Like many managers, Juande has made a few tactical mistakes. We can also fault him for failing to win the big games (our mauling at the hands of Liverpool and Barca's goal-orgy at the Bernabeu come to mind). Some are also giving him stick for the string of dull 1-0 victories we had. What few have done however is look at the circumstances by which Juande came in and how different things can be if he was given an offseason to work with the players and even make recommendations on the types of players he needs. Juande came in and it was like 'Ey Juande, we're really fucked right now and we need you to clean this mess up right away.' Was it not logical for Juande to work on the fitness levels of his players and then work on defensive solidity and organization? After having achieved that the next thing to do is ask the man 'So now, what do you need for you to bring to Madrid that high-powered attacking style you had in Sevilla before?'
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I say: unless you can bring Arsene Wenger in, give Juande a Chance. Give him one more year AT LEAST. If we get more of the same (no titles, no good football), then fine, maybe he's not the right man for the job. I do believe though, that things will be different this time around...

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