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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 1 day ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jan 10, 2008

Sociedad president, players ask Coleman to stay

Chris Coleman has confirmed he will remain as Real Sociedad coach 'as long as the club needs him' after receiving the backing of both his players and new president Inaki Badiola.

The Welshman's future had been up in the air following last week's election of Badiola, whose new ideas on the club's aims for the season and transfer policy differed greatly to the ones set out following Coleman's arrival last summer.

Included in Badiola's plans was the addition of a number of new players that he has already pinpointed, a policy which did not sit well with Coleman, who was against new faces being brought in over his head.

However, after a meeting between the two on Monday, following which Coleman asked for a few days to think things over, Badiola announced last night that the former Fulham boss had agreed to stay on as Sociedad coach.

And speaking at a press conference today, Coleman explained his reasons for staying: 'When Maria [de la Pena, former president] stepped down, I offered my resignation to the directors, who said it was more important I stay and worked with the players at least until January 3 when there will be a new president - no problem.

'The new president has come in and he's told me it's important that I stay, and the players have asked me to stay.

'So what was the most important thing - my ego or the club? I think the club is a little bit more important than that.

'Of course it's difficult for me because it is a different programme and I don't want to look like a hypocrite, which maybe I do. But the most important thing is the club.

'I'll stay as long as the club need me to stay. If the players weren't happy with us and the president said it wasn't important we stay, then that would be it...'

Coleman admits the last few weeks have been tough, with the off-field distractions compounded by last weekend's heart-breaking league defeat to Salamanca.

Sociedad had been on a nine-match unbeaten run heading into that game, but a 95th-minute penalty earned Salamanca the points and saw Coleman's side drop to seventh spot in the Segunda Division.

Coleman added: 'Since after Christmas it has been difficult, with the election, the new president...plus to lose in the last minute against Salamanca with a very bad penalty decision...'

Badiola has set Coleman the target of earning Sociedad promotion back to the top flight this season.

'It's the president's programme, it's a six-month programme. We have to be in the Primera Liga in six months, so we are told,' Coleman said.

'He wants to sign a lot of players, they won't be my signings, they will be the president's or the club's, and we will work with that programme until we are told we are no longer needed.

'We all knew before that our idea for the club was a three-year plan; the [new] president has a different idea.

'Since I've been a manager I've always bought and sold my own players, that is what I am used to.

'When I first arrived here that was the understanding, along with Salva [Iriarte, sporting director], myself and my staff, that's what I am used to doing, making my own decisions, so that was very important for me.

'And I said that if that changed I wouldn't be here.

'I spoke with the president about this, he has told me his plans. The club will buy the players. He wants me to remain.'

Sociedad, who were relegated last season after 40 years in the top flight, play host to local rivals Alaves this weekend with the aim of trying to reduce the four-point gap to Sporting Gijon, who occupy the third promotion spot.

Meanwhile, Coleman has warned against placing too much expectation on new teenage signing Fran Merida.

Merida completed his loan switch to Sociedad from Arsenal yesterday, and Coleman has confirmed the Barcelona-born midfielder could make his squad for this weekend's derby against Alaves.

Merida has been likened to fellow Spaniard and Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas, but Merida himself has played down those comparisons and Coleman said: 'We must not put too much pressure on Fran Merida.

'He's 17, a very young boy. He's a good talent but he's very veryyoung.

'Myself and (assistant coach) Steve Kean, we know the people at Arsenal of course through playing against them for some years, so we know all about Fran Merida but we must not put too much pressure on a 17-year-old boy, who has come here for experience, to play some games.

Merida, who made his Gunners first-team debut in a Carling Cup match last September, was keen to play down any similarities with Fabregas.

He added: 'Many people have mentioned it to me, but Cesc is 20 and has played in a Champions League final and a World Cup.

'I am Fran Merida and I come here with a lot of ambition, right now there is nothing to compare between the two of us.'