Rumours about the Real Madrid coaching job dominated the headlines of yesterday’s sports press. It’s highly unpleasant to be witnessing Lopetegui’s slow, agonizing downfall and while his players all backed him after Saturday’s game, Butragueño didn’t. He merely called for calm. I’m sure that up there in the president’s box, he must have heard the comments that a lot of people heard – the way they tend to talk about the coach up there – his decisions, whether Vinicius should have played, or Benzema, or Bale... The person who Florentino hired, causing pandemonium for the national team just two days before the start of the World Cup, is now being ridiculed as Turrontegui* - i.e. he'll be sacked before Christmas. They are already looking for a replacement. Even if the team wins the next two games, the mockery isn't going to stop.
But looking at it closely, it’s really not that strange to see what’s happening at Real Madrid. During the past two summers, the squad has been gradually depleted – first it was Pepe, James and Morata who were sold, then this year, Cristiano. So from Zidane’s trusty second string side, who could win games when called on, we now have a much weaker squad - as the results clearly show. The loss of quality has also led to a decline in competitiveness - that competitive spirit seems to have gone. That has allowed, for example, Asensio to be handed a first choice starting role without the pressure of Vinicius pushing for a place. As for Bale and Benzema, there's nothing more to say. They’re both the president’s golden boys and therefore afforded some protection.
What we’re seeing now has been a long time coming. The last expensive signing (very expensive I might add) was Bale. The days of big spending stopped there and then. During the last five years, Barça’s transfer balance sheet, incoming and outgoing, is -374 million euros, Atlético’s comes to -125 million. Yet at Real Madrid, the accounts books shown a very different figure - -8.7 million, which means all spending has been offset by selling players. The last such transaction was offloading Cristiano to boost the coffers with another 100 million and save on the costs of his high wages. In return for that, the club brought in Mariano. And despite so much cost cutting, they still need a 600 million euro loan to put a roof on the stadium and make it look like a giant sardine tin – a screwball idea which was sold to Florentino by an alleged international conman who has several arrest warrants out on him. So there you have it.
*Turrón is a Spanish, nougat-like sweet, traditionally eaten at Christmas.