The row between Real Madrid and Spanish newspaper Marca took another twist, with the daily claiming 'Marca does not lie' on its cover, while revealing text messages confirming its story that the club's senior players want to leave if Jose Mourinho remains in charge next season.
Thursday's edition of the generally Madrid-supporting paper reported that captain Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos had told club president Florentino Perez on Tuesday that "either he (Mourinho) goes or we go" this summer. Perez quickly called a snap-press conference at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu at Thursday lunchtime to rubbish the story as "lies" deliberately published to "destabilise" the club.
Marca director Oscar Campillo replied that afternoon on his paper's website, claiming it was acting to protect Madrid and its supporters, not the opposite.
"Marca does not want to destabilise Real Madrid," Campillo said. "Marca has always been very close to Real Madrid. What Marca does is tell what happens, because we owe that to our readers."
With Perez reportedly considering legal action against the paper, Campillo did drop back a little on the 'ultimatum' claim, but stuck to the story that players would leave rather than put up with more of Mourinho's behaviour.
"It is not true that we said the players had made an ultimatum or an order," he said. "What we said was the players said they are more united than ever, are going for 'la Decima' and the Copa. But some of the coach's behaviour troubles them and if it continues some players will want to leave Real Madrid."
After Perez had repeatedly said at his press conference that "only the four people" present knew what occurred at Tuesday's meeting, Friday morning's edition of the paper "defended its credibility" by revealing some of the communication with its sources, without revealing their identity. "It was not just XXXXX, I tell you there was much more," say the text messages Marca published. "Everything was discussed, XXXXX, the dressing-room, boss, bonuses and more."
The paper's editorial on Friday said it was just making public what everyone knew in Spain.
"The crisis between Mourinho and various players is well known and has been reported by other publications throughout the season," it said. "It is not something exclusive to this paper. It is a secret which everyone knows. If Marca has gone deeper than others, it is with absolute conviction in the truth of our information and the veracity of our sources."
Throughout its 75-year history Marca has usually, but not always, been very supportive of Madrid and its president and players. Four seasons back, when current Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini was in charge at the Bernabeu, the paper led a campaign to remove him, which was not challenged by Perez. It has also been very critical of Mourinho in recent months, and the Portuguese is currently suing Marca editor-in-chief Roberto Palomar after an article published in September described the 'Special One' as the kind of person who would flee a hit and run.
With rumours flying back and forth across Madrid, respected Spanish radio host Jose Ramon de la Morena claimed on his El Larguero show that when Mourinho saw Thursday's Marca he offered his own ultimatum to Madrid's president - either Perez came out publicly to deny the story, or he would quit himself.