President Perez resigns to plunge Real into crisis

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The Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, threw the club into crisis last night when he resigned just a week before the Champions' League second leg with Arsenal.

The shock announcement also throws into doubt David Beckham's long-term future at the club. Perez made Beckham his fourth galactico signing in 2003 and was once famously quoted as saying he would sell the stadium before losing the England captain.

But Beckham's summer negotiations with the club over a contract extension beyond 2007 will now take place with new president Fernando Martin, the former vice-president.

The resignation completed a week that included the striker Ronaldo threatening to leave because of his treatment by Real fans; Real losing 1-0 to Arsenal in the first leg of their Champions' League tie; Raul criticising Ronaldo for his comments; coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro criticising Raul and Ronaldo; and Real losing 2-1 at lowly Mallorca.

With the prospect of becoming the first president to oversee three years without a trophy since 1954, the construction magnate Perez called to a close his six-year reign. Perez said: "The club needs a change of direction and I've decided to resign."