José Mourinho not the only one set to depart
5 May ~ It took just 24 hours. Wednesday's Spanish sports papers were filled with eulogies to Real Madrid's glorious failure in the previous night's Champions League semi-final at the Estadio Santiago Bernebéu, when they came within one goal of clawing back a 4-1 first-leg deficit against Borussia Dortmund. But by Thursday morning, when Carlo Ancelotti's face peered out from AS's front cover, it was time to stop bemoaning their deserved 4-3 aggregate exit to the German club and start planning for the future.
Inside, AS editor Alfredo Relaño was arguing that it was time for a "new project" at the club, with current Paris Saint-Germain boss Ancelotti the preferred choice of Madrid president Florentino Pérez to replace José Mourinho and lead this new era. Few across Spain's other many sports media disputed this, with the only debate over which of Gareth Bale, Marco Verratti, Sergio Agüero, Edinson Cavani, Marouane Fellaini, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Robert Lewandowski would be arriving with the Italian coach in the summer transfer window – some said all.
AS also said Madrid's directors were ready to listen for offers for "at least 12" first-team squad members. This figure included players whose time is obviously up (Kaká and third-choice keeper Antonio Adán), some who have never properly settled or become disillusioned with life at the Bernabéu (Raúl Albiol and Karim Benzema) and a few surprises such as Xabi Alonso and Gonzalo Higuaín, who is apparently "in competition with Benzema to get away".
Friday's Marca focused on the 11 players (out of a senior squad of 25) who were "untransferable" and guaranteed to stay. Alonso and Benzema made this list too but then impact, rather than accuracy, is generally the aim of Spain's sporting press.
While Mourinho's return to Chelsea was by now being taken as a given, the name of Cristiano Ronaldo was conspicuously absent from the list of those who might leave, a surprise given Madrid's papers rarely miss an opportunity to use his photo. Speaking to reporters after the Dortmund game Ronaldo had – again – spoken of possibly moving on. "I want to win wherever I am," said Ronaldo, whose agent Jorge Mendes was presumably aware of stories linking his client with a return to Manchester United this week. "That is what I want most, I am not concerned about a new contract [at Madrid]."
Pérez said recently that Ronaldo would be offered a new deal soon and looks keen to get Madrid's summer business sorted ahead of next month's presidential elections at the Bernabéu. The construction magnate is unlikely to face any serious challengers, especially as he used last September's AGM to change the voting rules in his favour. But some nice new faces – say Ancelotti and Bale – and a new deal for Ronaldo, would go down well with Madrid's voting socios.
So it remains difficult to know who will be the coach of the Blancos next season, or to predict the make-up of his squad with any certainty. But one thing is sure. Even with another chance blown to claim the club's long-awaited décima European Cup, Pérez remains in charge in Madrid. Dermot Corrigan