"Neymar has left us stranded," repeated a senior Madrid manager last week. "Neymar has gotten us into a mess."
The strategists of the most powerful club in world football understand that fulminate or keep a few days more to coach Julen Lopetegui in charge is no longer, by far, the most serious problem at hand. The Madrid rushes to a swirl of unknown proportions by the current directive. The people consulted in the different Madrid estates agree that the current crisis is caused by the chained effect of a failed planning that sought to replace Cristiano by Neymar with no more effect than the exit of the idol, the decapitalization of the staff, and a sense of amortization increasingly extended between a very significant part of the locker room without Lopetegui did nothing but thin this vicious atmosphere.
"The board and the captains will deny it in public," warns a leader, "but the mother of the lamb is the discomfort that exists between the costumes and Florentino Pérez for sports policy."
Several employees of Valdebebas have been repeating it for a month. More and more football players, veterans of three or four Champions, who feel helpless for an institution they perceive absolutely centralized in a president more obsessed with signing Neymar Júnior than for recognizing their merit in recent successes. They believe that the club is preparing to pay them in the same currency that they paid Casillas or Cristiano himself. The fear grows before a change of cycle that threatens with a wave of losses and they see Lopetegui like the technocrat who arrived to administer the remodeling.
They say in Valdebebas that Cristiano does not stop talking with his ex-companions. He insists that he did not leave because he wanted to but because the club pushed him to do so, denying him a renewal offer for seven months and offering him 28 million net per year, just to justify himself, when he was about to close for 30 with Juventus. This caused almost as much dismay in the players as when they learned that Madrid offered 50 million net euros to Neymar this summer, as a last resort to decide to leave the PSG. A Madrid soccer player says on condition of anonymity that he believes that his teammates obtained this information from Neymar himself through Marcelo and Casemiro, friends and teammates during the month of the World Cup, precisely when the father of the Brazilian idol negotiated the transfer that then refused to complete. What the Brazilians said generated a feeling of injustice in the face of the double standard that Florentino Pérez used between a leader like Cristiano and a meritorious one who has spent an average year between leisure and business in Paris.
The sources consulted in the directive deny that there was a plan for the general renewal of the workforce, nor that Lopetegui received guidelines from Florentino Pérez. On the contrary, in the offices of the Bernabéu they are far from considering the coach as an ally. "Clumsy" is the term they most use when describing their task and they give as an example the substitution of Kroos – extremely susceptible man – before the Levant. The problem is that too many players have stopped believing in the company and Lopetegui has not done anything to prevent the mistrust from multiplying. They may not be the majority but in the direction they point to men of great influence. People like Marcelo, Kroos, Keylor, Carvajal, Casemiro or Modric are increasingly worried about their professional future.
The management of Lopetegui inflamed the unbelievers. In the staff point out that the replacement of Marcelo in Girona, in August, revealed the true character of a technician who does not believe in the old guard. The same proves the hasty substitution to which he relegated Keylor, the goalkeeper to whom his teammates attribute part of the three Champions.
Florentino Pérez, according to a person who was in the box against Levante, knows very well that in the dressing room a feeling of aggravation develops that it is necessary to stop as soon as possible. The president fears that the presence of Lopetegui worsen things in such a way that the team is unable to beat Viktoria tomorrow and complicate its classification for the Champions League.
The conjuncture acquires the darkest of the precedents for Florentino Pérez. The last time he attended a series of five games without success was in 2004, coinciding with the origin of the crisis that dismantled the Madrid of the so-called galactic and ended, in 2006, in his resignation.