It is a long-held belief that Real Madrid has struggled to compete with Barcelona in terms of the number of trophies won over the last decade primarily due to the lack of continuity. Since 2003, Barcelona have sacked two managers – Frank Rijkaard and Gerardo Martino – whereas Madrid have sacked an astonishing 11 during the same period. It is the continuity that could hand Barcelona a fifth European Cup, which will move them level with Liverpool in terms of overall trophies. Barcelona are backed at odds of 6/10 in the Champions League final 2015 odds from Betfair.
Madrid were celebrating the La Decima or the 10th European Cup only 12 months ago, but the manager merry-go-round at Real Madrid has begun once again. The club are extremely close to appointing Rafa Benitez as the manager of the first-team. Rafael Benítez Maudes is no stranger to life at the Santiago Bernebeu after having started his playing and managerial career at this club. Benitez represented the Real Madrid Castilla or the ‘B team’ in almost 250 appearances before concluding a relatively unsuccessful playing career.
However, the 55-year-old has enjoyed a much better time as a manager after winning numerous accolades like the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and la Liga. Benitez has been in charge of top clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, and Valencia. He is currently in charge of Napoli, who are expected to announce his departure in the coming days even though the Italian Serie A season is yet to conclude. After a decent start to this life at Naples, Benitez will leave the club on a disappointing note as they are unlikely to secure Champions League football for next season.
Carlo Ancelotti was sacked a few days ago after a disappointing season in which Real failed to win any major honour in the second half of the campaign. Following the Champions League success last season, Ancelotti led the club to a UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2014. However, a horrible run of form since the start of the year sees them finish second best in Europe and domestic competitions.
Extremely well loved by the team, Ancelotti can leave with his head held high. After all, he was the manager who led the club to the famous 10th European title when several other top managers like Fabio Capello and Jose Mourinho failed before him. Even Real Madrid president Florentino Perez admitted after sacking the Italian that he did not know what went wrong this campaign. Only towards the end of 2014, Madrid had set a record for the most number of consecutive victories in all competitions.
There have been signs that Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to break all records when it comes to scoring goals played a huge role in Madrid’s downfall. For much of the campaign, Ronaldo played almost on his own with a burning personal ambition. There have even been times when the Portuguese was visibly annoyed on seeing his teammates score from opportunities that were on a plate for him. Ronaldo ended the season with 56 goals, but more crucially, without any titles like the la Liga or the Champions League. His main rival Lionel Messi may have scored a couple of goals fewer, but he is edging closer towards a treble.
Betfair places Barcelona as 1/6 to win the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, who have conceded seven goals against the Catalan club in two matches this season.
Another big-name signing who appears to need help is record signing Gareth Bale. Despite having played an integral role in the club’s Champions League and Copa del Rey success in his first season, Bale has found himself being increasingly compared to Ronaldo. Whereas the Portuguese has only been about goals and more goals, Bale has struggled to keep pace. A new manager will have to get the best out of Bale if he is to keep his own job. After all, Bale is president Florentino Perez’ own signing whereas Ronaldo’s transfer was effectively sealed when Ramon Calderon was in charge of the club.
Benitez has shown in recent years that he appears to be getting better at the art of winning cup competitions. He was already successful during his early years at Liverpool in this regard, but his recent successes with the likes of Chelsea and Napoli are likely to have been a major factor in convincing Perez to bring back the 55-year-old to the Santiago Bernebeu. Despite this long connections with Madrid in one form or the other, Benitez will be aware that the club will not think twice about sacking him if he does not win either the league or the European cup in his first season.
Other options that Madrid have include the likes of Jurgen Klopp, who is now free to join any club after having left Borussia Dortmund. The way Klopp transformed Dortmund – on a limited budget – into a real competitor for Bayern Munich is quite amazing and a number of clubs are in the queue to sign him as their next manager.
Madrid may not have to make wholesale changes to the squad that finished only two points off Barcelona in the league and knocked out in the semi-final of a European tie against reigning Italian champions Juventus. Just a few tweaks can see them becomes successful once again.