Madrid signal policy change with Camacho

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The Independent Football

Just four days after committing his long-term future to Real Madrid, David Beckham finds himself without one of his closest allies at the club after they sacked their coach, Carlos Queiroz, and replaced him with former player Jose Antonio Camacho.

Just four days after committing his long-term future to Real Madrid, David Beckham finds himself without one of his closest allies at the club after they sacked their coach, Carlos Queiroz, and replaced him with former player Jose Antonio Camacho.

"I have to admit we made a mistake in appointing Carlos Queiroz," said Real's president, Florentino Perez, as he announced the decision at the Bernabeu yesterday. "We are now beginning a new era at the club. It has not been a good season and that has hurt us deeply. We are a reference point for world football and cannot permit a season like this to occur."

For Beckham the change is likely to come as a severe shock to the system as the two men could hardly have a more different approach to the job, and the England captain is unlikely to find himself in the privileged position he enjoyed under Camacho's predecessor.

When he landed in Madrid to begin his Spanish adventure last summer, Beckham found his arrival cushioned by the unexpected presence of Sir Alex Ferguson's former assistant, who had been brought in to provide the club with a sophisticated, media-friendly face to accompany the new signing. English-speaking, cosmopolitan and polite to a fault, Queiroz undoubtedly eased the transition for Beckham.

Camacho, a hard-nosed, left-sided defender in his playing days, made his name for his ferocious man-marking of the Barcelona star Johan Cruyff in the mid-1970s. He went on to give his heart and soul to Real Madrid over the next 15 seasons, battling through a career-threatening knee injury to win nine league titles, three Spanish Cups and two Uefa Cups. He also gained a then-record 81 caps for Spain.

Camacho used the old school blood-and-thunder style of player motivation to great effect in his early days as a coach, guiding both Rayo Vallecano and Espanyol to promotion to the top flight in his debut season in charge at each club.

As Spain's coach, he led the national team through successful qualification campaigns for Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup, but he failed to change the country's image as perennial underperformers when it came to the championships.

Beckham may respond to Camacho's old-style appeal to the work ethic, but despite the improvement in his own Spanish, as evidenced by his verbal attack on a linesman that earned him a red card during Real's 2-0 defeat at Murcia nine days ago, he could struggle to understand his new coach.

Queiroz also stood by Beckham despite his dramatic loss of form in the second half of the season, but Camacho is unlikely to be as patient as his predecessor and the former Manchester United midfielder may find himself out on a limb if he fails to perform.

But Camacho's appointment is likely to ruffle the feathers of many of Real's other galacticos before it affects Beckham, who does at least have plenty of experience of Ferguson's fiery temper from his United days.

Some may even choose to move on, as Perez hinted. "If anyone here wants to go to Chelsea and the club wants to make an offer for them, then we'll be delighted to listen to it, because we don't want any players here who have doubts about Real Madrid," the club president said.

What became obvious this season was that Perez's policy of signing big-name, attack-minded players like Beckham has failed to bring about the success the club demands. Although Perez insists there has been no change in policy, the appointment of Camacho and the signing of the Argentina defender Walter Samuel signals a major shift in strategy.

Real's pride has been severely wounded by the team's late-season implosion. Embarrassment by underdogs Real Zaragoza in the final of the King's Cup, crashing out of the Champions' League to Monaco and surrendering an eight-point lead in the Primera Liga to the eventual champions Valencia have left the club's morale at an all-time low.

At the start of the season it would have been unthinkable that a team containing Beckham, Zidane, Ronaldo, Figo, Raul and Roberto Carlos could end the season empty-handed after taking just three points from their last eight games.

For Real the answer lies in a back-to-basics campaign, led by a devoted coach and committed players. Beckham and the other galacticos will have to make a rapid adjustment.

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