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Arsenal can lay down a marker

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Real 'gradually falling apart', claims dissident director

MADRID, April 18 (Reuters) - Real Madrid is in a desperate situation and it is time to call a presidential election, says club director Ramon Calderon.

'Madrid is gradually falling apart and now is the moment to call an election,' Calderon told sports daily AS on Tuesday. 'Two months have passed since the new president took charge and he still hasn't called the board together.

'We are in a desperate situation. He said he would secure the board's agreement to important decisions and he has not done that.'

Fernando Martin was appointed Real president at the end of February after Florentino Perez resigned when it became clear the club would end a third successive season without silverware. Martin has said he has no immediate plans to call an election.

He issued a statement on the Real website on Tuesday calling for unity and asking for the support of the directors.

'Now is the time for everyone connected with Real Madrid to remain calm, united and responsible so that we can defend the interests of the club and construct a solid future.'

When he took charge Martin said he would get tough with the club's players and said those not committed to the cause would be offloaded.

He also promised to appoint a new coach by the end of March. Although he named a seven-man target list, no announcement has been made about the future boss.

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is reported by the Spanish media to be the club's first choice, with England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson as a possible back-up option.

Calderon said the board has not been informed of any progress in the appointment of a new coach.

'We know nothing about it,' he said. 'We seem to be at the mercy of the gut reactions of the president.

'This club is too serious and too important to be directed by the caprices of someone who hasn't been elected by the members.'

Calderon said he and other dissident directors hoped to persuade Martin to call an election at a board meeting on April 26. He would stand against Martin if an election did take place, he said.

The 54-year-old lawyer, who was appointed to the board by Perez, denied media reports that the club's accounts were not as healthy as the former president had said.

'The economic situation is extraordinary and people who say that know nothing about the accounts.

'There is a debt of £290million, but that can't be considered as an isolated statistic because we have £114million in our current account and we are owed £130.7million.

'So the net debt is £50-55million and this club generates some £45million a year.'

Real are third in the Primera Liga, 13 points behind leaders Barcelona and two behind Valencia. They have gone three seasons without winning a major trophy, their worst run of form in more than 50 years.