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Round one to Liverpool, but don’t believe Benitez rumours
Rafa Benitez celebrated a famous victory over his hometown club when Liverpool beat Real Madrid 1-0 in their Champions League last 16, first leg on Wednesday.He outfoxed his counterpart Juande Ramos with an astute tactical display, but anyone linking the Spaniard with a move to the Bernabeu in the near future would be mistaken.
Real Madrid are in limbo. Former president Ramon Calderon sacked Bernd Schuster in December and installed Ramos on a contract to the end of the campaign, and then was forced to resign in disgrace after a vote-rigging scandal at a club general assembly was exposed.
The current president Vicente Boluda, like Ramos, is only in the post temporarily until a new presidential election is held, which is likely to be in June or July.
Until then, decisions over the coach and the buying and selling of players are on hold. Sports director Predrag Mijatovic, a close ally of Calderon’s, is widely considered a lame duck and likely to be dropped quickly when a new president arrives.
Once the date for the election is officially announced, candidates will throw their hats into the ring, and promise to land players and coaches who will appeal to Real Madrid’s demanding ‘socios’ – the 85,000 or so club members.
The candidate with the most appealing package, and mastery of the local media, will win. Benitez could align himself with a candidate, but it is a lottery.
The man touted as the most likely to win at present is former president Florentino Perez, who has yet to declare any interest. He has been linked with Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger in the local media.
Benitez has the right credentials in terms of background and with his record in Europe. At present he is on course to lead Liverpool into their fourth Champions League quarter-final in five years. Nine-times winners Real have not passed the first knockout round since 2004.
But Benitez’s conservative approach would not appeal to Real Madrid fans who demand attacking football and entertainment as well as silverware. Just ask Fabio Capello who was sacked in 2007 after delivering the Primera Liga title.
Benitez is hardly a vote-winner for an election.
PHOTO: Liverpool’s coach Rafael Benitez gestures during their Champions League victory over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, Feb. 25, 2009. REUTERS/Sergio Perez