Eriksson and Benitez on shortlist as Real lose patience with Luxemburgo

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Real Madrid coach Wanderley Luxemburgo was sacked last night just over 11 months after taking charge of the nine-times European champions. The 53-year-old Brazilian, who was Real's fifth coach in the space of two and a half years, was dismissed following an emergency board meeting at the club's Bernabeu stadium.

"The truth is that we don't think the team's performance has lived up to expectations," said club vice-president Emilio Butragueno. " That's fundamentally what made us decide. It wasn't easy ­ it was a long directors' meeting. Luxemburgo is a professional. We are sad but sometimes you have to make decisions. Everybody gave their opinion and we were all in agreement.

"We are in a delicate moment and we think it was time for a change."

The announcement came a day after Real's lacklustre 1-0 win at home to Getafe, but the detonating factor was the humiliating 3-0 home defeat by Barcelona two weeks ago.

Butragueno said Luxemburgo's four Brazilian assistants would also be dismissed and that reserve team coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro would take over on a caretaker basis. He added that a decision on a definitive replacement would be made in the next few weeks.

Juventus manager Fabio Capello, who led Real to the league title in 1997, former Celta Vigo and Porto coach Victor Fernandez, England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and Liverpool's Rafael Benitez have all been mooted as possible long-term replacements for Luxemburgo.

The former Brazil and Santos coach Luxemburgo was appointed at the end of December 2004 in place of Mariano Garcia Remon when the club was in fifth place in La Liga, 13 points behind arch-rivals Barcelona. He leaves the team in fourth place in the standings with 25 points from 14 games, six behind joint leaders Barcelona and Osasuna. Real have also qualified for the last 16 of the Champions' League.

The club has spent nearly £61m in reconstructing the squad during the close season, bringing in the likes of Brazilian strikers Robinho and Julio Baptista, and promising Spanish international defender Sergio Ramos.

But the expensive makeover has failed to bring about a major improvement in the team's performances. In particular, the side's lack of flair has caused consternation among directors and fans alike.

Saturday's narrow victory over modest city neighbours Getafe, which was not helped by David Beckham's second-half dismissal and ended with more jeering for the home side, finally sealed his fate.

Real have failed to live up to their galactico billing ever since Vicente del Bosque was discarded in July 2003 after steering the club to two European Cups and two league titles. They have not won a major trophy since the former midfielder was cast aside.

Since then the club have gone through four other coaches in an attempt to find a person capable of getting a star-studded squad to live up to expectations.

The task now falls to Lopez Caro, a 42-year-old who has excelled as coach of the club's reserve team, Real Madrid Castilla, but who has no experience of the Spanish top flight.

* Barcelona remained top of La Liga, on goal difference from Osasuna, with an impressive 2-0 win at Villarreal last night. Barcelona scored through a Juan Manuel Pena own goal after 24 minutes and Deco's 63rd-minute strike. Barcelona's Rafael Marquez was sent off with two minutes remaining.

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