Perez flexes his muscles in rare blast at MARCA

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Real Madrid are not the only football club to have their own television station, but they are probably the only football club that could have their own primetime television slot -- on a daily basis. Another day, another drama. Only this one was a cliffhanger. A real season finale moment. A ratings winner.

The lead roles? Club president Florentino Perez, captain Iker Casillas, vice-captain Sergio Ramos, the club's director-general Jose Angel Sanchez and Jose Mourinho. The bad guys? Madrid-based sports newspaper MARCA.

It all happened in whirlwind fashion -- there was little time for breath. Thursday's edition of MARCA ran a front page claiming Casillas -- who could be sidelined with a hand injury suffered in Wednesday night's draw at Valencia in the cup -- and Ramos had issued an ultimatum to Perez during an annual meeting over player bonuses. Mourinho goes, or we do. No sooner had the paper started flying off the shelves than Madrid had called a press conference. Was this the moment Mourinho was going to get the sack? The rumours were doing the rounds, they were gathering momentum.

Nothing of the sort happened. In fact, the exact opposite happened. Perez, who admitted that he was forced to "break his own rules" on not discussing the day-to-day runnings of the club, hit back. "It is absolutely false that any kind of ultimatum was discussed regarding the coach or anything similar at the lunch we had with the captains last Tuesday", said the Madrid president.

There was no beating around the bush, Perez got straight to the point. He does not call such press conferences unless the matter is a serious one. This was a serious one. "What has been said is not true, not in its content or in how much was said. I respect the press and I respect criticisms although they seem unfair. There are ethical limits that should be respected by those that aren't a part of our project. It doesn’t seem ethical to resort to lies to destabilize the club".

It was strong from Perez. Unusually so. MARCA has certainly rattled his cage.

It goes without saying that Perez -- heck, anyone -- would deny claims, rumours and reports that they believe are simply not true. But Madrid has been in a position of false accusations and reports before, and it will again. This was a show by the Madrid supremo, a show that he is the man in charge, that he will lead the club in an ethical manner (with ethical being the buzz word from the conference) and that Madrid will be united as it continues to aim for the Copa del Rey and a tenth European crown. A show of power just in time for June's club elections. His thinking? "Why would the Madrid socios want to vote for anyone else?"

He showed an authority that has been distinctly lacking at the Bernabeu in recent weeks and months. An authority that the club's socios and supporters have been crying out for. There has been no authority on the pitch -- you only need to look at Madrid's disciplinary record since the turn of the year -- and the usual publicity megaphone that is Mourinho's mouth has been in relative silence of late, with his future at the club very much in doubt beyond the end of the season.

Perez needed to step up. He needed to defend his club and the club's honour. With it, he will give Madridistas some hope. Some hope of unity in a season that has gone terribly wrong, but one that can still be rescued with the Champions League and the Copa del Rey still intact. To save Madrid's season and to win those trophies, Madrid needs a strong leadership and some pride and Perez is providing it right from the very top. "I'm here to deny a false report that aims to achieve personal goals and destabilize the world's most prestigious organization that has 100 years of history," he said. "These reports come to no good for Madrid nor for the newspaper that publishes them."

It was probably a show for the elections and it was probably a show for the supporters, as well as an act to clear his name on any potential backstabbing on his manager. One would be naive to think all is happy in the Madrid camp and all is good between Mourinho and his players. One would also be naive to suggest no discussions took place at the meeting between the captains, Perez and Sanchez over the future of the club, no matter what level they were on. But Perez is firm on this one. He is acting to protect the club on so many levels.

There are few reasons to doubt him, too, especially with MARCA back-tracking somewhat after the press conference. In their favour, they have produced leading articles on their official website laying out Perez's quotes from the press conference, as well as a joint statement from Casillas and Ramos that backed up the president's words and included the line: "We want to show our support for our coach, Jose Mourinho, for whom we have the greatest respect." They also included a statement from Editor Oscar Campillo that said the paper does not want to unsettle the club or play a part in ridding anyone -- Perez or Mourinho -- from their positions.

Campillo insisted there was no ultimatum involved but that "All we claim is that the players said: 'President, we're more united than ever, we're going all out for the Champions League and the Spanish Cup. However, some of the coach's actions have disconcerted us and if he stays next season, some players will consider their futures". MARCA are usually pretty good with having sources inside the club, at whatever level, but for a paper that traditionally has such close ties to Madrid -- much more so than media and football club relationships in, say, the English Premier League -- this article is a dangerous one for the relationship between the organizations. They must believe in the information their sources have provided.

It has all ensured a drama-packed second half of the season for Madrid, both on the pitch and off it, and that is probably exactly what Perez wanted. Publically backing the club and trying to pull it together with the Champions League clash with Manchester United, and a Copa del Rey semifinal with Barcelona on the cards, while flexing his muscles ahead of the presidential elections at the club in the summer, could be seen as killing two birds with one stone. It has probably opened up a big can of worms too, of which we could be about to see spill out in the coming days and weeks.

Follow Nicholas on Twitter @nicholasrigg

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