Real Madrid glit­ter may yet turn out to be fools' gold for Po­chet­tino

Weekend Herald - - Tennis - Sam Wal­lace Tele­graph Group Ltd

It was an­other bad week­end for Real Madrid, beaten 2-0 at home by Real So­ciedad, now 10 points be­hind lead­ers Barcelona and still out­side the places for the Cham­pi­ons League, a com­pe­ti­tion that they have come to think of as their own over the past three years.

This Madrid sea­son, un­der two man­agers and count­ing, has been more chas­ten­ing than even the de­cline of Manch­ester United un­der Jose Mour­inho, given that the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons had that much fur­ther to fall, al­though the signs have been there for years. A club bor­row­ing to pay their bi-an­nual wage bill, the sec­ond big­gest in Europe; a stalled sta­dium re­de­vel­op­ment that re­quires a €575 mil­lion loan but will not add a sin­gle ex­tra stan­dard seat to the ca­pac­ity and a team in need of fresh blood.

All fac­tors for Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino to con­sider when he re­flects on his fu­ture over the next few months, as the most sought-af­ter man­ager in the Euro­pean game who could have the Madrid job should he want it. He would be the first choice there or at Manch­ester United if he chose to leave Tot­ten­ham this sum­mer, but you won­der if he knows ex­actly the scale of the job in Madrid af­ter Zine­dine Zi­dane got out at the top of the mar­ket last June.

The club are still in the Cham­pi­ons League and may yet win it for the fourth time in a row, but oth­er­wise there seems to be no con­tin­gency in their lat­est set of fi­nan­cial re­sults for a fail­ure to qual­ify next sea­son.

Most English clubs take the pre­cau­tion of in­clud­ing a worst-case sce­nario in the event of miss­ing out on Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion, but for Madrid the prospect re­mains un­think­able.

As usual, the per­cep­tion of the club in the trans­fer mar­ket as the ul­ti­mate des­ti­na­tion for all play­ers and many coaches re­mains strong. They are the ghost at the feast when it comes to the un­cer­tain fu­tures of Eden Haz­ard and Chris­tian Erik­sen, now into the last 18 months of their con­tracts at Chelsea and Spurs re­spec­tively.

This is clearly the way Madrid in­tend to go, us­ing the old lus­tre to tempt those big names who are de­lay­ing over their fi­nal big con­tract, and in the mean­time they have picked up a young cut-price con­tract re­fusenik in Brahim Diaz from Manch­ester City.

The ques­tion re­mains, how­ever, as to where the money will come from for the fees and con­tracts that Haz­ard and Erik­sen would ex­pect to com­mand. The last re­sults showed that with­out the sale of Cris­tiano Ron­aldo for €100 mil­lion to Ju­ven­tus the club would have pro­jected losses of €87 mil­lion, which even for the au­toc­racy of pres­i­dent Florentino Perez would have been hard to bear.

There is an en­dur­ing be­lief in foot­ball — unswerv­ing in its child­like con­vic­tion — that when it comes to Madrid the money will come from some­where. But where? In Septem­ber Perez had to ask for per­mis­sion from the club’s gen­eral as­sem­bly to bor­row €575 mil­lion for the sta­dium re­de­vel­op­ment that was sup­posed to be­gin in 2011 and has lost its main nam­ing rights backer, Abu Dhabi en­ergy com­pany IPIC. Since then no word on whether he has been suc­cess­ful in se­cur­ing the loan.

This is the re­al­ity of the club Po­chet­tino would walk into were he to de­cide to leave Spurs in the sum­mer.

His cur­rent club are at least reach­ing the end of a de­layed sta­dium de­mo­li­tion, re­lo­ca­tion and new build. Madrid have not even reached the start of the Bern­abeu project.

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