x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Madrid's press must get Real and see bigger picture

While the media are calling for Pellegrini to be sacked, the Spanish giants need stability.

Real's Iker Casillas in training on Thursday, a day after the club's Champions League exit. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP
Real's Iker Casillas in training on Thursday, a day after the club's Champions League exit. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP

Getafe play Mallorca tonight, while Athletic Bilbao travel across the Atlantic coast to Sporting Gijon. In the evening's most intriguing game, fifth-placed Sevilla entertain Deportivo La Coruna, in sixth. Few are paying attention. The only story in Spain at the moment is Real Madrid. Level on points with Barcelona at the top of the league, things were going so well for Manuel Pellegrini's side until Wednesday. The players are desperate to get on the field at Valladolid tomorrow night and avoid the continued fall-out from their calamitous Champions League elimination by Lyon. For everyone at the club the bad news cannot be brushed under the carpet soon enough.

Virtually no one in Spain expected Real's sixth consecutive elimination at the last 16 stage in the Champions League. In Barcelona, fireworks lit the night sky in celebration. Six hundred kilometres away in the capital, the knee jerk reactions began before the end of the game. The Bernabeu was a third empty 10 minutes before the final whistle, some fans already resigned to another failure as the 3,000 delirious travelling French contingent celebrated high up in the third tier.

In the nearby newspaper offices, the obituaries were being written. The banner headline of the leading paper Marca screamed: "Get out! Adiós, Europe; Adiós, Pellegrini." Rivals AS described Real's aggregate loss as a "catastrophe". The media, pumped up with its own self-importance, but also wielding genuine influence, sets the agenda and Real reacts. It is not good for Spanish football. When Manchester United fans wanted Alex Ferguson to be dismissed in 1990, the club chairman held firm in the belief that the Scot would come right. When the Madrid media have it in for a coach, they usually get their way and so the negative cycle continues, while all the time Real - the football club with the highest revenue in the world - go another season without coming close to winning the European Cup.

If Real sack their Chilean coach Pellegrini, they will have to appoint a ninth manager in just six years - a statistic which has become laughable. Real remain in a state of shock. Their obsession was to win a 10th European Cup at their Bernabeu home on May 22. Now, the prospect of arch-rivals Barcelona retaining the trophy there looms ever larger. "To become European champions in the home of our main rivals would be incredible," said Gerrard Pique, the Barca defender. "Nobody needs to tell any of us about the history between the clubs."

Real fans considered it fate, the perfect place to realize the dream of Florentino Perez's ?256million (Dh1.3bn) investment in players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. The former has been a success, the latter was withdrawn against Lyon after another poor game, with his press agent and wife criticizing Pellegrini on Twitter and calling him "a coward" and "incompetent". Manchester United, the club Ronaldo left to pursue his dream of winning the European Cup with Real, are the second favourites for the competition. This was not the script Ronaldo expected.

Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez have both been linked with the Bernabeu job, but they know it is a poisoned chalice with a short shelf life. When a club sack their coach after winning the European Cup as Real did in 2002, what chance does anyone have? Real approached Wenger last summer and he turned them down. He reiterated that he will see out his Arsenal contract, which ends in 2011. Given that Real's short-term values are the opposite of his own, he made the right decision. Great players do not always make a great team, but statistically this is the strongest ever Real Madrid side over the first 25 games of a season. They play enchanting football and they are getting better. Some in Madrid need to see the bigger picture.

sports@thenational.ae