With the Copa del Rey securely in Atletico Madrid’s coffers, and the La Liga trophy headed for Barcelona, the Europa League silverware ensconced at Chelsea, and the Champions League trophy certain to rest shortly in either Dortmund or Munich, little is left to play for among the teams that represent Spanish Football. So, with many saying “wait ’til next year,” we now turn to the events of the past 24 hours to see what we can glean about the future.
Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho will leave the club at the end of the season. Club President Florentino Perez put it this way at yesterday afternoon’s press conference: “The club and the manager agree that the timing is right to bring our relationship to an end…we wish him all the best.” Thus ended the longest, and one of the most contentious, coaching stints at the club. Given the relative meager silverware haul, as opposed to the major blows to player morale and employee-management relations, the stint can easily be seen as a failure for the Only One.
Looking forward, Perez must do three things: find a replacement coach when none of the obvious candidates are currently available, retain the team superstars and disgruntled others who form the team’s core, and bring about some new energy, perhaps in the form of still again another signing. With a core of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Verane, Fabio Coentrao, Marcelo, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, and Ronaldo, and with a new signing, (perhaps a striker partner for Ronnie) this is a super club for years to come.
But Perez is but one of the players with cards at the table.
If all parties involved are to follow their self interest, Cristiano Ronaldo will stay at Madrid until after the World Cup if only to maintain a certain assured continuity, ahead of the quadrennial tourney, at a club that desperately needs him, has surrounded him with a very strong supporting cast, and is paying him handsomely. The core stars will remain as long as a coach they believe in can be secured, otherwise defections galore will be the norm for all who have an option. Those reaching the end, or the peak, of their negotiating strings, such as Kaka, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria, Karim Benzema, Pepe, et. al, must decide if they will risk sticking around for another coach who might not play them routinely or move to a team that clearly needs them on the starting line-up.
In short, it seems most likely that one of two diametrically opposed alternatives will hold sway, either a stronger and more calm Madrid moves into a new era of success with a new coach, returning stars, and a new signing, or the team implodes, nearly disintegrates, and goes into a period of rebuilding, perhaps with a new President.
At the other end of the spectrum, if Brazilian newspaper O Globo, and the rest of the echoing media are right, Barcelona FC and Lionel Messi might be welcoming Brazilian superstar Neymar this summer. The Rio de Janeiro daily said today: “After resisting the onslaught, Neymar will present himself to Barcelona FC this July. His game against Flamengo this coming Sunday will be his last wearing the Santos shirt.”
If that alleged letter of intent between the Santos player and the Spanish Giant is true, it will make the Catalan club the instant ultra-favorite to win everything put before it henceforth. If the two sensations can blend their talents, and if Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, and Marc Bartra, remain, and a suitable replacement for departing goalkeeper Victor Valdes can be found, this will be the club to beat, in Spain and Europe, come next year. I can hardly wait for next year.