Atletico's fall puts Gil under pressure

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Atletico Madrid's season reached crisis point as the once-proud club from the Spanish capital slipped into the relegation zone in the Second Division after a 2-1 home defeat to Tenerife on Sunday.

It was a second defeat within a week for Atletico, who were relegated from the Primera Liga last term, leaving them with only 10 points from 11 games and with just three clubs below them in the table.

Irate fans at the Vicente Calderon stadium called for the club president, Jesus Gil, to resign and accused him of leading the club to ruin. "The only way out is by working hard," said the coach, Marcos Alonso, who was appointed earlier this month after the predictable sacking of his predecessor, Fernando Zambrano. "We have to keep our heads up and not give in, because it is a long season."

The former Portugal and West Ham striker Paulo Futre, who was appointed as the club's new sporting director last week, also tried to encourage fans and players to stay calm. "Although I understand the reaction of the fans, we have to keep our heads and have faith. There are still plenty of points to play for."

The Atletico striker Salva admitted that the present predicament was adversely affecting some of the players. "There are a lot of young footballers in the side and they can't cope with the pressure as well as the more experienced players," he explained. "We have had a very tough week."

Across the city, Real Madrid members have approved the largest budget in the history of Spanish football at the first general assembly called by the club's new president, Florentino Perez.

The budget of 32,000 million pesetas (£115m) for the 2000-01 season was approved by a comfortable majority of 658 votes to 153. Perez revealed the financial situation of the club, whose debts he said amounted to £167m, but he assured members that corrective measures were being taken.

Perez added that the club's short-term financial future had been secured by a merchandising deal with a Spanish bank, Caja Madrid, worth £47m. The president outlined other measures, which included the renegotiation of the club's sponsorship agreement with the sports firm, adidas. "What I want is for Real Madrid to be the richest as well as the best club in the world," he said.


The First Division club Omonia Nicosia, who were let down by Howard Kendall last week, have turned to the Dutchman Thijs Libregts in their search for a new coach.

Kendall, the former Everton manager, changed his mind about joining Omonia last week, citing family reasons, within hours of agreeing to a coaching contract.

Libregts, 59, is widely experienced and was the coach of the Dutch national team at the 1990 World Cup. He has recently been coaching Nigeria.