After a 0-4 thrashing from FC Barcelona on November 21st, things are more uncertain at Real Madrid than they've been in years, to the point that many experts are asking who will be first out Rafa Benitez or Cristiano Ronaldo? The El Clasico loss was not only a big hit to all of the egos at Real Madrid-because the Vikings believed they had a shot to take control of La Liga after Lionel Messi fell injured in September-but it also put the football club in third place, behind Atletico Madrid.
It wasn't just bad luck that caused Real Madrid to suffer one of the worst El Clasico losses in years. On the contrary, the team just looked sluggish, sloppy, and slow. Cristiano Ronaldo had a few decent moments, but on the whole, the reigning Ballon d'Or winner couldn't elevate things for the Vikings-despite the fact that they were playing at home.
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The Rumors of Rafa and Ronaldo
In the hours and days following the match, all of the usual rumors made the rounds. Real Madrid President Florentino Perez was furious with Rafael Benitez for the defeat and was prepared to sack him by Monday. Cristiano Ronaldo was fed up with the direction at Santiago Bernabeu and told his manager that he wanted to move elsewhere.
Needless to say, if both of those rumors came true in the near future, then we would be looking at a very different Real Madrid than we have known for quite some time. Benitez has only been with the football club since last summer, following Perez' controversial decision to sack successful head coach Carlo Ancelotti. Ronaldo, though, has been a constant presence (and a constant bright spot) at the Bernabeu since 2009 2010. It's tough to imagine a version of the Vikings where Ronaldo isn't the top scorer.
Perez: '[Benitez] has all our support and confidence'
For now, at least, Benitez is safe. Following a board meeting on Monday, November 23rd, Perez threw his support behind his soccer club's embattled manager. "Let him keep working and he will achieve all of his objectives," Perez cautioned fans.
Short of going back in time and making the decision not to fire Carlo Ancelotti, Perez is probably making the best choice available to him. Sacking a manager-even one as seemingly unpopular as Benitez-should be a last resort call for any soccer club, and is wholly unnecessary for a team that is still sitting third in the domestic league and doing well in the Champions League.
Perez also denied the rumors that Cristiano Ronaldo is unhappy playing under the command of Rafa Benitez. Those rumors have been floating around since Rafa replaced Ancelotti-a decision that Cristiano supposedly didn't like, and one that reportedly caused him to consider a transfer away from Madrid over the summer.
Still, the ground could be shakier at Real Madrid than Perez is revealing. Cristiano may not have said anything to the president about his frustrations with Benitez, but El Clasico certainly provided a reason to believe that Ronaldo and many of his teammates have lost faith in their coach.
Furthermore, Perez could just be putting on a brave face and trying to keep things stable at his football club, even as he starts a quiet search for a new manager. Or, alternatively, Perez could be ready to let Benitez start experimenting with the lineup to find a team that is willing to play for their coach. With so many footballers on the pitch still loyal to Ancelotti (Ronaldo among them), it goes without saying that Benitez hasn't found a huge amount of success at the Bernabeu. Could the coach actually benefit from benching Ronaldo or other big names?
The bottom line is this: Florentino Perez has some difficult questions to answer in the next few months. He can either dismiss Benitez, admit his mistakes, and try to lure Carlo Ancelotti back into the fold, or he can sell his biggest players and try to start a new dynasty. It is very unlikely that Ronaldo and Rafa will both still be at Real Madrid next season. The question is, who will go first?
Pick up a Real Madrid jersey 2015/16 at Soccer Box, then let us know if you think Benitez is letting the Vikings down or vice versa. Will he be back next season? Will Ronaldo? Will both men depart? Share your predictions with Soccer Box on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other popular social platforms.