Around the World - Football: Sanz to swoop for Valdano to rescue Real

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The Independent Online

JORGE VALDANO is the favourite to replace the caretaker coach Vicente del Bosque as Real Madrid attempt to stop their astonishing slide down the Spanish league.

Spanish media reported yesterday that the appointment of Valdano was the preferred response by the Real president, Lorenzo Sanz, to the club's crisis. El Pais claimed Sanz had arranged a meeting with the Argentinian this week to offer him the position.

Real lost 5-1 to Real Zaragoza on Saturday and lie 17th in the 20-strong Primera Division. The defeat triggered angry demonstrations by fans worried the side could be relegated for the first time.

The Real president held a crisis meeting with other directors at his home late on Sunday, during which he is said to have outlined his plan to instal Valdano as coach.

Sanz's game plan is said to involve Valdano eventually moving upstairs to become general manager, allowing his replacement by the national coach, Jose Antonio Camacho, whose contract with ends after the European Championship in June.

If the deal is struck, it would be the eloquent Valdano's second spell as Real's coach. His first lasted 18 months, ending in January 1996 when he was sacked after a poor run of results despite having won the league title the previous season.

Valdano was dismissed by the recently-installed president Sanz, the first of his seven sackings. "There comes a point when you can't defend someone any longer," Sanz said at the time. After his acrimonious experience with the recently-dismissed John Toshack, who also held the post twice, Sanz might be expected to fight shy of appointing another former coach, but it seems not.

Real, still in the Champions' League, are one point off the relegation zone, ahead of only Valladolid, Oviedo and Sevilla. Sanz, at the receiving end of a torrent of abuse from fans on Saturday, was forced to leave the Santiago Bernabeu stadium during the match - suffering from a stomach complaint.


DANIEL NIVEL, the French gendarme brutally beaten by German hooligans at last year's World Cup finals, has accepted an invitation to attend Thursday's Uefa Cup game between Kaiserslautern and Lens.

The German club said Nivel would be joined by his family and 30 gendarmes. Nivel suffered irreversible brain damage in the attack in Lens. Four men were last month sentenced to jail terms of up to 10 years for taking part in the beating.