Bernd Schuster, Real Madrid's title winning coach from last season, was expectedly sacked this morning, Real find themselves well off the pace in fifth place in La Liga, and Schuster has paid the price for a poor start to the season.
For Madrid, the timing is not perfect with the derby against FC Barcelona this weekend, but Real have moved quickly to replace Schuster with Juande Ramos.
Schuster, whose side won the La Liga championship last season, has never been entirely popular at Los Merengues. Even though Real won the title last season, many felt it was mainly with Capello's team and Schuster, who became embroiled in a personal battle with Sporting Director Predrag Mijatovic, has long been expected to be the loser in this battle.
His sacking, while expected, is the latest chapter in Real Madrid's colourful history of managerial appointments and sackings. Schuster it must be remembered, won the title last season, and while Madrid are off the pace in the league, a victory this weekend could have gone a long way to remedy their situation.
However, if Schuster thinks himself unlucky then perhaps he should think again.
Take the case of Jupp Heynckes, whose Real Madrid team won the Champions League trophy in 1998, Real's first in 32 years, but it was still not enough to save Heynckes from the sack, as the board felt that the club had had a poor season domestically.
Or Vicente Del Bosque, a club legend who had been at the club since 1964, and as manager had navigated the club through their most successful period in recent times, winning two European Cups and two league titles. But the day after winning his second league title in 2003, Del Bosque was told his contract would not be renewed.
Or Fabio Capello, who has twice left the club shortly after delivering league championships to the club, the second time being sacked because they felt his style was too pragmatic. How England are celebrating them doing this!
As we can see, Schuster's tale is nothing new. Real Madrid, especially in recent years have gone through managers at an astounding rate. Since Capello's departure (the first one) in 1997, the club have gone through nine different managerial appointments (can you guess them all?) including new appointment Juande Ramos, working out at nearly one a year.
The fact is that being Real Madrid manager is a special occupation, a role very unlike any other in club football around the world. The fact is that it is not results are not the be all and end all, as it is for every other manager, but the manner of results, as President Ramon Calderon has stated in the past: “(Real Madrid) cannot have a manager who is happy to win every game 1-0".
As a rule, Real Madrid are a club who are big box office. A trip to the Bernebau is like a trip to the theatre, if the fans are not entertained, then the manager must pay the price. An extract from the brilliant book Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football by Phil Ball perhaps best illustrates this:
“When Real Madrid lose, I still feel slightly uncomfortable, as if the natural order of things has been challenged and the apocalypse is just around the corner. Their supporters, judging by their perennially ill-humoured reactions to defeat, must feel the same. Spain's most successful club is almost neurotically fixated on winning, on hammering home the idea that nothing else matters—this being the essence of madridismo.”
The fact is that, Real Madrid are more than a club, a symbol, a flagship for Spain as a whole. Most Spaniard's second team is Real Madrid, even if they have never been to Madrid, the club simply exist to be supreme, and to be a representative of Spain's supremacy—something which has been linked to the club since General Franco's rule.
With this status, comes special significance, an obligation that there are standards to be met, and traditions to be upheld. This is the club of Di Stefano and Puskas, Butragueno, Zidane and Figo. Winning, and winning in style is expected, nothing else matters.
Real Madrid is pure entertainment, and as Bernd Schuster, and many other Real Madrid managers of years gone by have found out, entertainment comes at any cost, and so the end of Schuster's reign marks the beginning of the next chapter of Madrid's managerial story.
To quote a popular phrase; "The King is Dead, Long Live the King."
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