Perez calls for unity at Madrid
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has again called for unity at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, but his comments did little to dampen speculation that Jose Mourinho will soon depart the club.
The new comments came at a Real Madrid Foundation event on Monday, less than 48 hours after Madrid defender Pepe criticised Mourinho for showing a lack of respect for currently benched goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Talk of Mourinho's anticipated departure continues to grow in Spain, with one outlet on Monday reporting that the coach was spotted buying €200-worth of packing materials in Ikea as further evidence he will be leaving this summer.
Perez appeared to suggest he could trust his club's footballers to stick together, but was less certain about their coach's commitment.
"We have two new and big challenges in front of us, the basketball Final Four in London and the Copa del Rey final," Perez said. "Now we must be united, for our people and our supporters - to give everything and deliver the best we can. Our players will do that."
Madrid's basketball side face Barcelona on May 10 in London in their Euroleague semi-final, while the football team's Copa del Rey final against city rivals Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu on May 17.
As internal Bernabeu feuds have bubbled over in public in recent months, Perez has regularly used public appearances to give an impression of calm at the top of the club.
In December, he tried and failed to mend bridges between Mourinho and the Madrid sports media. In January, he called a press conference to deny a Marca story that captain Casillas and vice-captain Sergio Ramos had demanded Mourinho be dismissed at the end of the season. In April, he announced that Cristiano Ronaldo would stay at the club, while refusing to answer questions about the future of Madrid's other high-profile Portuguese star.
Mourinho claimed again in the aftermath of last week's Champions League semi-final exit to Borussia Dortmund that he and his "friend" Perez would sit down for an amicable chat to discuss their future once this season ends.
Media reports in Spain, however, suggest that the two men are currently engaged in a high-stake game of nerve, where Mourinho would like to be fired and get a big pay-off, while Perez would prefer that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich paid a handsome fee to release the ex-Chelsea manager from his current contract.