Jan 16, 2012
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14th​ May 2012
Mourinho leaves Madrid

Just one day after the season finished, Jose Mourinho has announced he will depart as manager of Real Madrid, with immediate effect. He stated that he wanted to thank the club, wishing them the best for the future, also hinting at the possibility of taking a year away from club management. Whilst he was disliked by virtually a majority of Madrid fans, he guided them to back-to-back Champions League semi-finals, and won two trophies in his time with the club. Los Blancos won the La Liga title this season, although notably Mourinho was not present in the celebrations.

SkyBet have opened bets on the Special One’s next club, Manchester United being the early favourites at 4/1, with outside bets of Porto, PSG and Anzhi Makhachala. In the meantime, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has released a statement on their search for a new manager:

“I would like to reassure supporters that the Real Madrid board have identified the man we want to replace Mr Mourinho, and hope to have him appointed in the next few days. We ask the media to respect our privacy on the matter, until the new manager is confirmed.”

Sutton guides Murcia to promotion

Liga Adelante club Real Murcia have been promoted to the La Liga via the play-offs. With turbulent financial problems off the pitch, many predicted relegation for Las Pimentoneros. And, at Christmas, they looked to be heading for Segunda División B. However, a miracle run of 54 points from 20 games in the second half of the season saw them sneak into the final play-off spot, by just one point, ahead of FC Pontferradina. They then beat Valladolid 1-0 on aggregate, in the semi-finals, before beating Hercules CF in extra time to clinch promotion.

So what was the magic behind this success? Well, young manager Gabriel Sutton was the name on everyone’s lips, as he received praise from players, and supporters alike. Club captain Oscar Sanchez said of him: “He’s been an inspiration to us all, and instilled remarkable confidence in the team. We cannot thank him enough for what he’s done for the club.”
Acting chairman Jesus Samper stated: “He’s only been with the club for a year, I was concerned about his grasp of the Spanish language when he first moved, but he’s picked it up very quickly. The impact he’s had on the club is there for all to see, so we wish him well - whatever he decides to do with his future.”

The fans began to sing ‘Uo oh Real Murcia’ outside their ground and celebrated into the night, as Birmingham man Gabriel Sutton has now been linked with some of the biggest jobs in Spanish football, including the biggest of them all.
16th​ May 2012
A hotel in Salamanca

Gabriel pulled up in his red Volvo outside the Plaza Hotel. He had been invited for an interview with Florentino Perez and other members of the Real Madrid board, for talks about becoming manager. Whilst he had been approached weeks beforehand, and had already formulated his basic future plans for the club, he still found it difficult to comprehend just how far he had come since his injury at Birmingham.

But it had been a 4 o’clock start, a 5 hour journey from his house in Murcia, with nothing more than an apple for breakfast. Feeling quite tired, he took a final swig of coffee to perk himself and made way to the entrance. It was a glamorous building, with a large reception area and all glass windows. Whilst it was a beautiful place, it had the quiet, slightly disorientating feel of a place in preparation for the summer, as Gabriel nodded at several builders and cleaners on his way in.

He approached the welcome desk, and asked in part-English, part-Spanish: “Hola, I’m here for entrevista a Sr. Perez.”
The girl, in a manner not dissimilar to that of a reception girl in some James Bond scene, replied in perfect English: “Ah, Mr Sutton, we have been… expecting you. Mr Perez will see you now. Here is your pass, you will find your meeting room, at the end of the corridor on the 16th​ floor.”

Finding the room easily enough, Gabriel took a deep breath, and knocked clearly on the door.
‘Enter’ came the response. ‘Hello Gabriel, pleased to meet you.’ Perez shook his hand and ushered him to a chair, yet Gabriel got a minor impression Perez was slightly irritated at his presence.
‘Gabriel, I am Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid. I trust you don’t mind the journey, we wished to find somewhere off the track to avoid media attention. This is my consultant, Pablo, and our director of football, Zinedine Zidane.’
‘It’s great to meet you.’ Gabriel nodded lightly at each of them, but found himself slightly starstruck in front of Zidane, who he had idolised growing up. Perhaps noticing this, Zidane gave him a nod back and an encouraging smile.

‘Okay, we should get started. What do you feel you can offer this football club?’

‘Essentially a new approach, and a long-term legacy, which I feel is essential to sustained dominance. Over the past 10 years, the club has spent around €1,000 million. Conversely, Barcelona have spent under €400 million. But in that time, Barcelona have won 20 trophies, we have won 9. We don’t seem to be getting the maximum out of our spending rate. A clear factor behind this seems to me to be stability. In these past 10 years, Barcelona have only had 4 managers, Guardiola being in charge for the 4 years during their most successful period. We’ve had 10 managers, averaging a new one every season, which hasn’t necessarily been of benefit. I would intend to stay at this club for the long hall. Furthermore, my approach would be to heavily utilize my youth recruitment network, all across the world. What I will try to do over a period time, is bring in the best kids at a very young age. This will give them the opportunity to settle early in their career, and become ingrained into the Madrid culture, before they become exposed to first team football. That’s not to say that I won’t spend money on established players if necessary, but I will only do so intermittently and prudently. Developing players early and with passion has been the secret of Barcelona’s success, and we can do this in our own way.’

Perez looked impressed, perhaps in spite of himself, on an ideology that went against the grain of his heavy spending philosophy. ‘Whilst this is a respectable proposition, the high demands of Real Madrid fans dictate that immediate success is a priority. Therefore on a short-term scale, our expectations are that you win the La Liga title, and reach the Champions League final in your first season. Do you believe this is a suitable demand?’

‘Not necessarily. I think that to achieve those goals on a regular basis, the foundation stones must first be put in place. I will need time, with my coaching staff, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the squad, and build an atmosphere of teamwork, trust and respect within the camp. From my experience, this is the key to success in football, but it doesn't happen overnight. However, a proposition I might put forward should you offer me the job, is a ‘two-year plan’ deal. If I haven’t won the La Liga title by the end of my second year, I would accept mutual termination of my contract.’

‘Which areas of the squad would you be looking to improve in the near future?’

‘Apart from on nominal fees for youngsters, I wouldn’t plan to spend in my first year, but I would say the defence may need addressing in due course. I will observe the performances of backup goalkeeper Antonio Adan, either in Castilla or when I’m prepared to give him game time in the first team. If his performances don’t reach the desired standard, I will invest in a long-term replacement for Iker Casillas. Backup right-back Nacho’s contract runs out the following summer, and I’ll judge whether his performances merit a new one. If not, I’ll look to find a versatile backup for Alvaro Arbeloa. Ricardo Carvalho may retire at the end of this season, and his place will need filling, with a defender who has the potential to eventually replace Pepe. I do have in mind the players I’m considering for these roles, but they will need extensive scouting and I feel it’s fairer to judge the players I have initially. Whilst I would be happy with my more attacking players, I plan to offload Kaka. I have watched his performances under Mourinho, they have far from justified his wage of £200K a week, and he does not fit with my tactical plans for the team.’

‘Which are?’

‘Well, I’m a great believer in the importance of having a solid, well organised defence. (Perez shuffles uncomfortably in his seat) In the past 3 years, we’ve scored more goals than Barca, but they’ve always had a better defensive record than us. My plan is to have 2 defensive-based midfielders, one of which will be Alonso in a deep-lying playmaker role to help us switch play quickly. Essien alongside him, with either Modric or Khedira in central midfield, depending on the need for extra creativity from Modric, or physical presence from Khedira. With a midfield trio that operates from deep, we can afford to allow Marcelo and Arbeloa the freedom to provide the attack with extra width, so they can give us a numerical advantage. I will look to field Ronaldo as a winger on the left, but will use his physique to close down and bully the opposition defence. The forward and right sided roles will rotate based on fitness and performances. In general, I believe that marginally favouring the second string players in team selections will be key to getting the most out of the squad. It will motivate the second string players to perform better in the matches they do play, and motivate the first string players to perform better, knowing their place is not guaranteed. It's important the players are kept on their toes at all times.

Having exchanged positive looks with Pablo and Zidane, Perez spoke: ‘Although we may take different opinions on what we believe is best for the future of this football club, we must say we have been impressed with what you have to offer, Mr Sutton. We would like to take you up on your two-year deal offer, as you suggested. The team will return to pre-season training in late-June, when we can arrange a press conference to officially unveil you as our new manager. You have 5 weeks break until then, to prepare yourself. In terms of your contract offer, we would be willing to offer you £100K per week.’

‘Thank you, Mr Perez. I would be delighted to accept these terms, but would request to only take £10K per week. I’m happy for the rest to go into the club’s wage budget. I look forward to what I hope will be a long and happy relationship with yourself and Real Madrid.’

Gabriel shook hands with everyone for the final time, made his way downstairs, before climbing into his car to ring his family and happily tell them the news. This was going to be the start of something special.