The Real Madrid president, Florentino Pérez, insisted that the coach Carlo Ancelotti will continue at the club "whatever happens" but avoided saying for how long, during a 35-minute press conference in which he bit the hand he has been feeding.
Pérez called the media to the Santiago Bernabéu and then turned on them, accusing them of creating an “atmosphere of negativity” and having an “agenda” against Madrid and against him after waking on Thursday to the front page of Marca. The sports newspaper’s cover story claimed that Ancelotti would be sacked if his team produced another “debacle” in the clásico against Barcelona in 10 days’ time.
Madrid dropped five points in a week in La Liga, seeing Barcelona climb above them at the top of the table, and then scraped through to the Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday night, despite losing 4-3 at home to Schalke. At the final whistle, the captain, Iker Casillas, who later admitted the team had hit "rock bottom", forced the players into the middle of the pitch to applaud supporters who were whistling them, just as they had whistled Ancelotti before the game.
Now, Marca reported, the coach was on his last chance. Pérez denied it.
This press conference had been unexpectedly called at midday and Pérez appeared at 1.40 to “clarify some stories that bear no relation to the truth”. He opened by announcing: “Whatever happens, Carlo Ancelotti will continue being the coach of Real Madrid.” He also insisted that the board have “full confidence” in the coach but, asked whether the Italian would be there next season, he failed to give a categorical answer, replying: “Look, I said what I said, whether Marca likes it or not.”
Pushed on the issue, Pérez angrily shot back: “I don’t have to ratify anyone,” even though that was ostensibly exactly what he had come to do.
Instead, this was an exercise in control and criticism, and a personal defence as much as an institutional one, the thrust of which was perhaps best expressed in two striking phrases: “Much of the media is Madridista, but not all of it;” and: “Some of the media’s raison d’etre is to have a go at me.” He added: “They’re not going against Madrid, they’re going against me.”
That Pérez’s target was the media generally and Marca in particular was striking. Pérez’s influence in the media is extensive and Marca has been among those closest to him. Recent reports undermining the coach’s position and praising Pérez’ management of the crisis carried the stamp of strategic leaks, something that has not gone unnoticed by the manager.
In the summer, Pérez inadvertently admitted that he prefers not to do interviews but to instead have “informal” conversations with journalists. But here he distanced himself from reports and portrayed the media as an external enemy seeking internal influence, one that was out to get him. Although he mentioned how “injuries have destroyed us”, the recurring message was clear: Madrid’s problems are the media’s fault.
Pérez repeated the phrase “there are those who do not love us” often and engaged in three accusatory exchanges with journalists. “You blame me for everything [bad]that happens at Madrid, like your paper,” he replied to one reporter; he accused another of talking up a negative atmosphere “every day on your radio station”, and told another: “what your paper says every day is false. It’s a determined campaign, with an agenda, and the fans know that.”
On Gareth Bale, he said: "When I signed Bale, when we signed Bale, what a fuss we caused: first they said he had a slipped disc, then that he was not a footballer and now they try to invent new formations so that he does not play in the team. That damages him. [The media]trying to condition the will of the coach is unacceptable. He is one of the best players in the world."
As for Ancelotti, Pérez did not respond with a “yes” when asked if he likes the way the manager works but did note that the Italian had won four trophies in a year, including la décima. “All I ask for is that they let Ancelotti do his work,” Pérez said.
Pérez also had appealed for fans who have been whistling players to support them instead, noting: “If we don’t, who will?” He explained those whistles by describing some supporters as “confused by certain reports” and insisted: “It’s not acceptable for them [the media]to take advantage of the fact that we’re not at our best to attack us.”
By the end, he talked for over half an hour, the tone shifting: at times he talked like the victim, at others like the accuser. There was anger, too. Most of all, there was blame. When he finished he was given a smattering of applause from the directors in the front rows. “Here I am telling the truth,” he had said. Guardian Service