Ron hangs head as Pellegrini keeps his
USUAL business at the Santiago Bernabeu was halted yesterday as Real Madrid's shell-shocked stars faced up to the club's sixth successive Champions League exit at the last-16 stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo pulled out of an energy drink commercial scheduled to be filmed yesterday lunchtime, with Real Madrid citing family reasons for the no-show. Ronaldo, who scored his seventh Champions League goal in six games in vain on Wednesday night, trained apart from the majority of his team-mates in the gym.
There have been tears in the last two years as Champions League finals ended either with him missing a spot-kick or with him finishing on the losing side, and such an early exit from the competition is understood to have left the player very low.
Ronaldo's fellow countryman Jose Mourinho immediately became the favourite to take current coach Manuel Pellegrini's job but it seems the Chilean will not be sacked before the end of the season as president Florentino Perez attempts to save face.
Pellegrini will be given until the end of the current campaign to wrest the Spanish title from Barca and, if he manages it, such is Perez's desire for continuity he will see out the remaining year of his contract.
Madrid have been through seven coaches in six years and none have taken the team beyond the last-16 of the European Cup. "You cannot evaluate such a big project over just a six-month period," said Pellegrini in response to calls for his head.
The Real coach woke up to headlines of 'Adios Champions League, Adios Pellegrini' but there was support from sporting director Jorge Valdano, who said: "Pellegrini has a contract and the club's plan is that he stays in charge."
Madrid-based sports paper 'Marca' yesterday tempered its usual post-Champions League elimination question to fans from: "Who should take over as coach?" to "Who should be the coach at the start of next season?". Pellegrini was surprisingly out in front, with Mourinho the number one choice of those wanting change.
Players also defended Pellegrini, with Iker Casillas saying: "He has the support of the players and he knows that. The coach is always the first one to be blamed but the main culprits are the players."
This year's exit will be all the more painful for Madrid should Barcelona reach the final as it will be held at the Bernabeu on May 22, and Barca director Magda Oranich did not miss out on a chance to question Real's attitude this season.
"This proves that you can't just swagger your way through life," he said. "There were declarations made before the game that they would win 3-0 -- if you say things like that then you can slip up." And Lyon's goal hero Miralem Pjanic added: "We were motivated by their arrogance in the build-up."
Manchester United and Bayern Munich are two more sides Madrid fans will hope don't make the Bernabeu final. United sold Ronaldo to Real in the summer but have carried on regardless in his absence. And Bayern are in the last-eight largely thanks to Bernabeu reject Arjen Robben, who has scored more goals for Bayern in six months than in two seasons at Real.
Attention was last night also turning to who Madrid should sign for next season, with Cesc Fabregas and David Silva overtaking Franck Ribery in the demands of the club's supporters. Despite starting so well on Wednesday, Real lost the midfield in the second half, badly missing the suspended Xabi Alonso as Lyon finished the game having had more chances than Real. (© Independent News Service)