The Spanish media previewed Real Madrid's weekend game at Valladolid as a win-or-be-sacked affair for its coach, Bernd Schuster
. Never mind that Madrid had
not lost a league game since opening day, or that Schuster had lead it to the league title just last season. It had also lost twice in Champions League group play to Juventus (though it's still
likely to qualify for the tournament's knockout phase), and been dumped out of the Copa del Rey by third-tier outfit Real Union de Irun. For a team-cum-global-brand with such high demands, that
might already have been enough to justify Schuster's departure.
Real lost 1-0 at Valladolid, and the team duly called a press conference Monday, exciting media speculation that
Schuster was gone. Yet Sporting Director Predrag Mijatovic
only wanted to confirm that the coach had the club's full backing. "Both the squad and the
coaching staff will probably read tomorrow what I'm saying tonight," he said, "so I want to say to them that both myself and the organization that backs me have faith in them."
English soccer especially, the vote of confidence has become dreaded as the precursor to dismissal, because a club chairman's pronouncement that he fully backs his manager is so often succeeded
within days by his sacking. In Spanish soccer, there's rarely such a drawn-out ritual or any need to read between the lines -- when a club wants to fire a coach it just goes ahead and does it. So
Mijatovic's vote of confidence should perhaps for now be taken at face value, including his claim that it's too early in the season to judge the team.
"This has just begun," said
Mijatovic. "There have only been eleven games in the league so far this year and we've won seven, drawn two and lost two. These are figures worthy of a champion team. I think Real Madrid has one of
the best squads in Europe. That's my opinion. And I also think this team is capable of reacting and making us all very happy."
Mijatovic insisted that he remains "positive and
optimistic," while acknowledging that as a club, Real is "incredibly demanding. I've experienced this as a player and I know the fans aren't happy with our King's Cup elimination... If I didn't
have any faith in our players I would say so, but I do and I am sure they can make us very happy."
"We have much confidence in Schuster," Mijatovic told the press. "He had a great
season last year and we are very happy with him. The problem is that we aren't earning good results right now and the press has started to talk. But we shouldn't be hasty in the current situation
because we could make mistakes. There are examples of this happening both in Spain and elsewhere. We will analyze the season when it's over and we'll see what has to be done. But the only thing we
can do only eleven games into the season is to send a message of tranquility, serenity and calmness."
Read a full transcript of Mijatovic's press conference here