Respite for Rafa Benitez but not for Real Madrid president

Just before kick-off in Real Madrid’s 4-1 win at home to Getafe on Saturday afternoon, a loud chant of “Florentino resign, Florentino resign” rang around the the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

The same song was sung at the end of Madrid’s previous home game — the 0-4 Clasico defeat to Barcelona — after which club president Florentino Perez felt the full force of angry fans.

Perez reacted then by blaming a mendacious media for trying to “destabilise” the club, and said the chants against him originated from violent ‘ultra’ fans he has been trying to exclude from the stadium.

Rafa Benitez’s side won their next three games after the Clasico, but the mood around the club has not improved. Fans arrived at Saturday’s game knowing their team had just been thrown out of the Copa del Rey for fielding reserve winger Denis Cheryshev at Cadiz on Wednesday, even though the Russian was suspended for the game.

Perez’s reaction to this latest embarrassing setback has been again to direct the blame at others. According to him it is the Spanish federation, Cheryshev’s former club Villarreal and the player himself who have erred.

Once more the message is that nobody at Madrid has done anything wrong.

Just as it was Manchester United’s fault that the transfer of David De Gea broke down last summer. And how in recent years the club’s problems have been due to biased referees and administrators, disloyal dressing-room leakers or ‘anti-Madridistas’ lurking around all corners.

This latest snafu at the Bernabeu has dominated the Spanish media through recent days — meaning even the arrival of former Manchester United captain turned TV pundit Gary Neville as Valencia’s new coach has been overshadowed.

“It’s obvious that those in charge of Real Madrid are behaving ridiculously,” respected pundit Antonio Romero said on radio show El Larguero on Friday.

“To me it seems that looking for one guilty party is difficult, but Florentino Perez’s way of managing the club is upside down. There is no real sporting director, no real academy director, no director of football. It is the ‘Florentino Perez club’, not Real Madrid football club. There is not one person at Madrid — not a director, coach or player — who will say ‘look guys, this is a disaster’.”

Construction magnate Perez is clearly an intelligent man and skilful political operator.

In 2015, Forbes estimated his personal wealth at $1.79bn — making him the 949th wealthiest person in the world, and number 12 in Spain.

During his two spells as Madrid president [2000 to 2006 and 2009 to present] his business acumen has made the club the world’s richest.

But the football end has been more of a problem. His first spell as club chief ended in a humbling resignation amid turmoil on and off the pitch. And now he is under mounting pressure again.

With Madrid already 4-0 up at half-time on Saturday, thanks to goals from Karim Benzema (two), Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Bernabeu began to debate the president’s future.

There were more ‘Florentino resign’ chants from the sides of the stadium, followed by whistles from other areas, which were all then usually drowned out by songs of “Now more than ever, I love you Real Madrid,” from the officially approved ‘animation section’.

There is no sign yet however that Perez himself has any mixed feelings. Madrid plan to appeal their Copa elimination as far as the Spanish government’s Administrative Court for Sport.

Benitez and the players again protested the club’s innocence over the weekend. Informed sources suggest there is no chance of having the decision overturned — and the attempt will just bring more ridicule on the club.

But there’s nobody willing to tell Florentino he’s in the wrong ...... if he would listen.

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox