Valdano departure to strengthen Mourinho's hand

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho's "this town isn't big enough for the both of us" saga with Jorge Valdano may have run its course, with Real Madrid's director general expected to leave the club shortly.

Valdano's departure, possibly before June, would give Mourinho complete control over this summer's signings – a process that is already under way.

Real Madrid have added Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin, 22, to the side from Borussia Dortmund and, on Monday, are expected to announce the capture of his international team-mate Hamit Altintop.

The versatile 28-year-old who can play at full-back or in midfield has only started three games from Bayern Munich this season and will leave for a nominal fee because he has just one year left on his contract.

Altintop shares an agent with Mesut Ozil, and with Sami Khedira would complete a quartet of Bundesliga signings for Mourinho, who now wants to focus his attention on a big-name striker.

Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente remains Mourinho's No1 target, but Madrid would need to recoup money on Kaka and possibly Karim Benzema to finance the €40m (£35m) move.

Madrid play their penultimate game tomorrow against Villarreal, with Cristiano Ronaldo going in search of his 50th goal of the season. The Portuguese has netted an impressive 36 league goals and is just two short of Hugo Sanchez's and Telmo Zarra's all-time record of 38 in one season.

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