Nov 25, 2015

    Real Madrid fully supports Benitez: Perez


    REAL Madrid president Florentino Perez has rebuffed calls from angry fans for him to step down and backed coach Rafael Benitez after Saturday's humiliating 4-0 defeat at home by Barcelona in the La Liga "Clasico".

    Real's drubbing by their arch-rivals, which left them trailing Barca by six points, prompted supporters at the Bernabeu to chant for Perez to go and the construction magnate said on Monday he understood and respected their frustration.

    However, he said there had been no discussion about holding new elections at a board meeting on Monday, at which it was decided that Benitez, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last term, retained the club's "full support and confidence".

    A clearly irritated Perez attacked the Spanish media for what he said were attempts to destabilise Real and added that an extremist fans' group known as the Ultras Sur had been behind the chants for him to resign and were trying to "intimidate" him.

    "I can't tell you what will happen in the future but what I can tell you is that we did not discuss the possibility of holding new elections for even one minute," Perez told a news conference at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.

    "Rafa Benitez was chosen for his professionalism, for his achievements and for his experience and he has the proven ability to get the best out of this squad which has been in gradual decline since January.

    "We understand the anger of our fans after Saturday's result but we feel it is the moment to continue working with rigour, with calm and maximum intensity.

    "Rafa Benitez has just started his work. Let us allow him to continue and the triumphs will surely come."

    Perez, in his second stint in charge of the club he has transformed into the world's richest by income, has been blamed for Real's woes due to a perception that he interferes in team selection.

    Rather than give his coaches a free hand, he is believed to instruct them to deploy Real's marquee signings instead of players who may be in better form or better suited to a particular match.

    Perez denied he tells coaches what to do and said Benitez had "full powers".

    "Since I arrived in 2000, there have been a lot of coaches and none have ever said that I have suggested anything to them," Perez said. "They have always had autonomy."

    The last time the fans turned against him in 2006, Perez quit abruptly and he will be desperate to win back their trust.

    Benitez may survive for the time being but if results do not quickly improve he is likely to fall on his sword.

    The former Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Napoli manager, the 10th coach Perez has employed could be replaced by former Real and France great Zinedine Zidane, who is currently in charge of the club's B-team, local media have reported.

    Real's next outing is today's Champions League Group A match at Shakhtar Donetsk.

    The Spanish giants are already assured of a place in the last 16 and will look to secure top spot with a win in Ukraine.