Real seek redeemer in Ramos

Former Spurs manager faces Barcelona baptism of fire after Schuster is sacked
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The Independent Online

All that was missing was the puff of smoke. In a 2.30pm press conference yesterday Real Madrid announced that they had sacked their coach Bernd Schuster and just as it seemed there was no further immediate business, the club's sporting director Pedrag Mijatovic added that the new coach would be Juande Ramos... and the man himself walked through the door, to the disbelief of the assembled press.

The failed former Tottenham Hotspur coach has been given a six-month contract. He took his first training session last night, leads his team in the Champions League this evening and has the small matter of El Clasico against the runaway league leaders Barcelona to deal with on Saturday.

With the kind of comic drama that befits a club who have now sacked seven coaches in the last five years, it was like a perverse This Is Your Life rerun: "Bernd Schuster, you thought Juande was back in London counting his severance money, but no, he's here in Madrid to take your job." Ramos was the first to admit the changeover had been swift.

"They called me for a breakfast meeting and everything happened at a dizzying speed. The negotiations have been quick, intense and easy," said the Spanish coach.

He will be given reinforcements as he tries to turn around Real Madrid's season although, such is the nature of the job, he will have very little to do with which players come in.

Last week Real signed the Ajax striker Klass Jan Huntelaar and another forward – probably a winger – will be acquired next month. Two of Ramos's former charges David Bentley and Aaron Lennon are believed to be on a shortlist of candidates. Both appeal because they would not be cup-tied in the Champions League. The former Tottenham target Andrei Arshavin has also been mentioned and Ramos added: "With the four or so hours I talked with Pedrag for, we have discussed many things but not individual players. Arshavin is a magnificent player."

Schuster was dismissed in person yesterday morning, having sealed his own fate after Sunday's defeat to Seville when he said it was "impossible to win at the Nou Camp". If he was playing mind games to try to take some pressure off his players it was lost on those who accused him of surrendering to the arch-enemy before the battle had even started.

Singing from the correct song sheet, Ramos said: "Barcelona are playing some excellent football but Real Madrid have sufficient prestige and calibre to not give up on the possibility of victory in any stadium in the world."

Winning at the weekend, or at least avoiding a humiliating defeat, is the short-term aim. Only four teams have conceded more goals than Real Madrid in the Spanish league so far this season and they face a Barcelona side who are out-scoring every team in Europe. Real also have a horrendous injury list as they approach a fixture that could leave them 12 points off the leaders.

Ramos may well be judged more on what he achieves in Europe than in La Liga. Twice a winner of the Uefa Cup as a manager, he has a fine knockout competition pedigree and Real's directors are aware that sides who are not involved in their own domestic title races can sometimes thrive in the Champions League.

With two new signings (Huntelaar and one other) both set to be available for the competition, Ramos's chances of extending his six-month deal may depend on how close he manages to take the club to what would be their 10th European Cup.

Bye Bye, Bernabeu: Sacked title winners

* The dismissal of Bernd Schuster continues Real Madrid's trend of sacking managers after winning la Liga.

* Luis Carniglia was given his marching orders in 1959 after winning the title in 1958 and two European Cups (1958, 59)

* Leo Beenhakker (1989), John Toshack (1990), Jorge Valdano (1996), Vincente del Bosque (2003) and Fabio Capello (2007) were also sacked after title triumphs, while Jupp Heynckes left the Bernabeu after leading the club to a European Cup victory in 1998.

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