The storylines continue to come thick and fast out of Real Madrid in a manner more befitting a soap opera than one of the world’s leading teams.
Madrid’s problems on the pitch were eased to some degree by an eventful victory over Real Sociedad on Sunday, but the speculation off the pitch shows no signs of abating. There currently appear to be three men at the heart of doubts about the future of a club that still sits a lowly 16 points behind Barcelona in La Liga.
First and foremost is coach Jose Mourinho. It seems increasingly inevitable that the Portuguese will be leaving Madrid at the end of the season, regardless of whether he achieves his ambition of leading the club to Champions League glory.
Spanish publication AS is reporting a new rift between Mourinho and president Florentino Perez. Mourinho was not in attendance at Monday’s FIFA Ballon d’Or gala, stating a need to prepare for Madrid’s Copa del Rey encounter with Celta Vigo on Wednesday. However, AS filmed Mourinho watching his son training with a local youth side at the time of the event. According to the report, Mourinho’s non presence at the ceremony in Zurich, despite being nominated for Coach of the Year, was seen as a sign of disrespect by Perez.
In an article on Tuesday, Marca, which reportedly has close ties with Madrid, said that Mourinho “is increasingly moving away from Real Madrid.”
Mourinho’s future could well impact that of goalkeeper, captain and club icon Iker Casillas. In a hugely controversial move, Mourinho dropped Casillas from the starting lineup for the past two matches, although he was restored in goal following the sending off of replacement Antonio Adan against Sociedad.
The move has been widely seen as an effort by Mourinho to reassert his authority by benching a player believed to be part of a group that is not fully supportive of the coach.
Marca claims that Adan will again be selected in preference to Casillas when he returns from suspension, leading to speculation about the Spanish No. 1’s long-term future.
Reports in England suggesting that Arsenal are monitoring the situation have been picked up by Marca. There has also been talk of Casillas moving to Manchester United with Madrid reportedly interested in United’s goalkeeper David de Gea.
But talk of Casillas’ future is likely to be futile if, as expected, Mourinho departs at the end of the season.
England is seen as a likely destination for Mourinho, although Paris Saint-Germain are also thought to be interested. After comments coming out of the French club recently suggesting that they were very much keen in securing the former Inter, Chelsea and Porto coach, PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi has tried to cool the speculation.
"I think that Mourinho has made his future at Real Madrid clear," Al-Khelaifi said in L'Equipe.
"He said that he will only leave Madrid once he has won the Champions League with them. That is clear, no?
"We have Ancelotti now and have complete confidence in him."
PSG have also been linked with the third part of the much-discussed Real Madrid triumvirate—Cristiano Ronaldo. It has been reported that the Portuguese forward would reject a new contract due to his current unhappiness in Madrid.
Big-spending PSG are one of the few clubs that could likely afford the 27-year-old and have previously suggested they would be interested. But, again, Al-Khelaifi has been diplomatic about the potential move.
"Ronaldo plays for Madrid and I respect this club a lot and their president,” he explained.
"If I wanted to bring Ronaldo to Paris I would first call his club before making any declarations."
In their latest report of the situation Marca claims that Madrid still believe that Ronaldo will finish his career at the Bernabeu and that the £80 million man will sign a new contract before president Perez stands for reelection this summer.
Whatever happens, it promises to be an eventful next few months for Los Blancos.