x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Real backlash from fans

The supporters are indignant that a side packed with top class players could be so emphatically defeated by a third tier team.

Real's players look distraught after conceding to Alcorcon at the Santo Domingo stadium in Madrid.
Real's players look distraught after conceding to Alcorcon at the Santo Domingo stadium in Madrid.

The discontent has started in Madrid. Before their humiliating 4-0 Spanish Cup defeat at third tier Alcorcon on Tuesday, it was confined to the more extremist fans who are impossible to please, but the whispers soon became a growl in the fickle world of Real Madrid politics. With no shortage of radio stations and websites to air their views, supporters were indignant that a side packed with top class players such as Raul, Karima Benzema, Esteban Granero, Mahmadou Diarra, Guti, Alvaro Arbeloa and Raul Albiol could be so emphatically defeated by a team who usually average 600 fans for home games.

Temporary stands boosted the capacity of their stadium to 4,500 for the visit of Real. "It's an embarrassment, I have no explanation," was the limp appraisal from the coach Manuel Pellegrini. Sporting director Jorge Valdano went further and apologised to Madrid fans, pleading for their forgiveness. Real have a second leg to try to overcome the deficit and progress in the cup, but they need to conjure up the type of performance they have been incapable of in recent weeks.

Though it is not a crisis, there has been serious concern about Real's recent form. Such preposterous notions as a defeat in a game of football were not in Florentino Perez's election prospectus when he was re-elected unopposed in the summer. Perez kept his promise of delivering several of planet football's greatest and emerging talents. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim and Kaka were supposed to break down the sternest of defences and propel Madrid back to their perceived rightful place as the greatest club in the world, without exception, sweeping away the threat of the evil Catalans from the Camp Nou in the process.

Real's fans had been sold a dream and, according to a fawning Madrid media, Perez makes dreams come true. And Perez might, but on the evidence so far, Real are far from being a team who are going to sweep all before them this season - like Barcelona did last year. Pellegrini is a very good coach and he proved that at Villarreal. I have interviewed him several times and never been anything but impressed.

Valdano is one of the brightest minds in world sport and Perez is one of the most powerful and wealthy men in Spain. Real have bought well, but the fact is that just as overnight success usually takes 15 years, so building a successful team takes time. Real are expected to win the title and or the Champions League this season. If they don't, it is unlikely that Pellegrini will have 15 months. The reason for such impatience is down to the structure of Spain's biggest clubs. Barcelona and Real are owned by their fans. The democracy of sorts which exists gives fans the power to install and dismiss managers and presidents.

Presidents have to appease public opinion, but public opinion is notoriously fickle. Minds are swayed without knowing the full facts. The majority of Manchester United fans wanted Alex Ferguson to be dismissed as manager in 1990, but the then chairman Martin Edwards was not swayed and stuck by his man. He could see the work being done behind the scenes, unknown to most fans. He was right, they were very wrong.

Spanish football would be better if fans were more patient, because the culture of sticking by a manager is alien to them. Real have worked through eight coaches in five years and their fans cannot understand why the likes of Ferguson, Liverpool's Rafa Benitez and Arsenal's Arsene Wenger enjoy such extended stays in the English Premier League. They cannot see the correlation between longevity, stability and success. Instead they shrug and call it the Anglo Saxon mentality. It's a mentality which would improve Spanish football.

@Email:amitten@thenational.ae