Real Madrid director-general Jorge Valdano has been sacked, president Florentino Perez said on Wednesday, in a victory for coach Jose Mourinho in his bid for more influence at the La Liga club.
“We have decided to end the contractual relationship with Jorge Valdano,” construction magnate Perez said at a hastily convened news conference at Real’s Bernabeu stadium following a meeting of the club’s board of directors.
“The experience of this season has shown the need for a new organizational structure giving authority to the coach and avoiding dysfunctions with the directorate general,” he added.
“I do not want to hide the pain I feel at the exit of Jorge Valdano, but my feelings cannot be a reason for not taking the necessary decisions,” he said. “There were two people filling a sporting role between whom there was no understanding. Ignoring the evidence is not practical for anyone.”
Perez’s decision to dump Valdano and back Mourinho, a proven winner in Portugal, England and Italy, is borne of his desperation to put Real back at the top of club soccer and his obsession with winning a 10th European crown.
To further that aim, Real Madrid will appoint French great Zinedine Zidane, who currently works as an advisor to the Perez on first-team affairs, as its new sports director, a newspaper reported yesterday.
Zidane, who played for Real for five years between 2001 and 2006, has been a special advisor to Perez since November.
The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year will now inherit the post of sports director, sports daily Marca, which is close to Real, reported.
Former Real forward Miguel Pardeza occupied the post at Real last season.
Valdano’s position had been in doubt after his relationship with Mourinho deteriorated following the Portuguese coach’s arrival from Inter at the end of last season.
Used to wielding more power in previous managerial stints, Mourinho was reportedly also harboring a grudge over a newspaper column Valdano wrote several years ago criticizing his tactics as manager of English Premier League club Chelsea.
The pair clashed at the end of last year after Valdano questioned Mourinho’s request for another striker to be brought in as cover for the injured Gonzalo Higuain.
“I am not the one who turned Real Madrid into a battlefield,” Argentine Valdano, who typically acts as a spokesman for the club in post-match television interviews, said at a later news conference.
“All my efforts this season were directed toward restraint,” he added. “It has been a long time since I have spoken personally to Mourinho. We greet each other politely, but he sought to deal with people other than me.”
“My responsibilities with the first team were reduced. I did not feel comfortable in that situation,” he said.
Valdano, a former Real player and coach and a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1986, has been Perez’s right-hand man in both his stints as president.
After the arrival of Mourinho, Real’s bid to reverse the recent domination of arch rivals Barcelona met with limited success this season as Real earned silverware only in the domestic cup by beating Barca 1-0 in a dramatic King’s Cup final in Valencia. However, the Catalan club won a third straight La Liga title and knocked Real out of the Champions League in the semi-finals.