Real Madrid's stars are at "war"
with each other as they head for a third straight season without a trophy, with
Brazilian forward Ronaldo and Spanish midfielder Guti having come to blows,
Barcelona-based sports media reported on Tuesday.
"Civil war in Madrid," said Sport daily in a front-page headline, adding the
reason Guti pulled out of last week's friendly international with Ivory Coast
with a leg injury was down to Ronaldo having kicked out at him following the 1-0
Champions League home leg loss to Arsenal two weeks ago.
Sport quoted a radio journalist from Onda Cero, Jose Manuel Estrada, as saying
the usually close friends had had an angry exchange which turned into fisticuffs
following the Arsenal match which left the club on the brink of elimination
ahead of Wednesday's return at Highbury.
Ronaldo, who last month claimed the fans at the Bernabeu have never loved him,
is set to feature on Wednesday. But while he is Real's top scorer in the league
with ten goals suspension and injury have restricted him to just one Champions
League game this season -- when he flopped against the Gunners.
Reports suggest the Brazilian World Cup winner is heading back to Italy at the
end of the season, either to former club Inter Milan or AC Milan.
He was dropped for Saturday's league derby win over Atletico in which
replacement Antonio Cassano scored, but is widely predicted to be given another
chance at Highbury.
"We have to win, with or without Ronaldo," goalkeeper Iker Casillas said curtly
when asked if a Brazilian or an Italian might lead the line.
Amid media predictions the Real squad will be pulled apart at the end of another
under-achieving season new chairman Fernando Martin is looking for a new
generation of superstars.
Teenage Spanish international Cesc Fabregas is top of his shopping list,
according to Marca magazine, which said Martin, who took over last week from
original galactico-buyer Florentino Perez, would proceed cautiously.
"Real Madrid cannot say it went off to look for him -- but that doesn't mean he
doesn't interest us," Martin said unambiguously.
Martin added that a decision would be taken "in two weeks" regarding who will
coach the club next season. Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, who replaced Wanderley
Luxemburgo three months ago, is set to step back into the shadows having come
from managing the reserve side.
"On June 30 I will have 99 percent of the staff (for next season) settled - and
the coach, in two weeks," said Martin, although some media reports said Lopez
Caro might be ousted if Arsenal dump the meringues out of Europe.
Rumours say Juventus coach Fabio Capello, formerly a Spanish league title winner
with Real, is the top choice for the job. Wenger, former Deportivo La Coruna
coach Javier Irureta and Liverpool's Rafa Benitez are also all in the frame.
Meanwhile, former chairman Perez said he would not change a thing if he were to
have his time again.
"I'd do it all again. I believe in emotions and spectacle, and without this
magic it wouldn't be Madrid. Thanks to this philosophy I left the club the
richest in the world," Perez said in an interview with Italy's Gazzetta dello
He added he stepped down to reduce demands on his time from being chairman and
chief of a construction firm.
"But above all I realised the club needed a new impulse," he said, saying
stepping down was an act of "loyalty and responsibility."