Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has rejected suggestions that former manager Jose Mourinho damaged the image of the club before his departure at the end of last season.
Mourinho’s contract had been due to run until 2016 but he left for Chelsea after Real failed to retain the Spanish league title and fell at the semi-final stage of the Champions League for the third successive year.
A high-profile breakdown in relations with goalkeeper Iker Casillas did not help Mourinho’s cause but Perez denied that the Portuguese manager’s confrontational style had hurt the club.
“Not at all,” Perez told French sports newspaper L’Equipe. “I notice that, everywhere, our image is improving. Jersey sales, the number of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter prove that.
“Mourinho is a coach of character who brought a lot to us in terms of competitiveness, particularly in the Champions League.
“Like every manager, at a point, there was a certain erosion in the management of the team and we thought, both he and I, that it was better to move on to something else.”
While one big name has left Real, another is growing in influence. New manager Carlo Ancelotti moved quickly following his appointment to name former Real Madrid player Zinedine Zidane as one of his assistants for the coming season.
The ex-France international won both the league and the Champions League as a player with Real and since his retirement he has also operated as a sporting director at the club.
In a lengthy interview with L’Equipe, Perez said that Zidane was a key factor in Real’s decision to sign Malaga attacker Isco and Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi.
“The players have huge respect for him and he’ll play a very important role,” the Real Madrid president said.
“He decided to become a coach and we were talking, for a long time, about the possibility of entrusting him with a youth team. But Ancelotti suggested that he become his assistant. It’s a great chance for him to learn his new trade.
“He has a special eye for picking out young talent – his recommendations were essential in the arrivals of Isco and Illarramendi at Real. I’m not hiding from you that one day I’d like to see Zizou manage Real.”