Thursday, December 01, 2005

Perez confident Real can still challenge Barca

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is confident his team will recover from their poor start to the season and challenge Barcelona for the league title.

"We have all been surprised by what has happened so far this year," Perez told television programme Formula Marca. "We have probable got a better team than ever before, certainly the most well balanced one."

Real spent 90 million euros ($105.9 million) on new recruits in the close season, including Brazilian striker Robinho and Spain defender Sergio Ramos, but they lie in sixth in the table, six points behind leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona.

The Catalans, who crushed Real 3-0 at the Bernabeu last month, have also dominated the year's major individual awards.

Barca forward Ronaldinho was named European Footballer of the Year and has been shortlisted along with team mate Samuel Eto'o for FIFA's world player award.

Perez insists, however, that Real are the bigger club and that his side's disappointing showing can be explained by a lack of continuity.

"What with the late arrival of the new signings, injuries to 12 players and international call-ups, we've had too many disruptions," he said. "If we don't have any more injury problems we can make this into a winning team."

Leading players such as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Raul and David Beckham have suffered injuries, but Perez dismissed suggestions part of the problem was his insistence that the big signings play as often as possible.

"The coach has complete freedom to do what he thinks fit," he said.

"What is clear, though, is that it doesn't make sense to sign the best players in the world and then leave them out, unless they are injured or have lost form. But I have never told a coach which players should play."


The side's poor run has put Real boss Vanderlei Luxemburgo under heavy pressure, with fans and the Spanish media calling for his head.

Perez, however, believes coaching Real Madrid needs specialist skills making it different from any other job.

"There is no other team that has so much talent, and administering that talent and magic and bringing it together is not an easy task," he said.

"There are lots of people who are capable at coaching Valencia, Barcelona or Atletico (Madrid) and maybe not so many who are capable of coaching Real.

When asked if Luxemburgo would still be in charge of the club next season, Perez replied: "At the moment no one is questioning Luxemburgo. If I answered differently it would mean we didn't have any faith in him."

Perez said the coach had not asked him to sign any new players during the January transfer window, but added that if Raul's knee injury proved serious then they would recruit a new striker.


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