Real Madrid sacks coach, captain

Real Madrid's captain Fernando Hierro (left) and coach, Vincente del Bosque have been told by the Real board that their services are no longer needed. With the sacking of Del Bosque and Hierro, the board at Real have brought an end to one of the most glorious chapters in the club's 101-year history.-Pic. AFP Real Madrid's captain Fernando Hierro (left) and coach, Vincente del Bosque have been told by the Real board that their services are no longer needed. With the sacking of Del Bosque and Hierro, the board at Real have brought an end to one of the most glorious chapters in the club's 101-year history.

After the championship followed the "Night of the Long Knives." Just 24 hours after winning the Spanish League title, Real Madrid showed the door to coach Vicente del Bosque and captain Fernando Hierro.

The club's executive committee decided not to extend the contracts of the two men.

Manchester United's assistant manager Carlos Queiroz is being spoken of a possible replacement for Del Bosque. Queiroz is known in Portugal as the "father of the golden footballer generation" for his discovery of stars such as Luis Figo and Rui Costa.

Since Real's 29th Championship resembles "a madhouse," the As sports newspaper wondered what would have happened if the team had not won the title.

With the sacking of Del Bosque and Hierro, the board at Real have brought an end to one of the most glorious chapters in the club's 101-year history.

For Del Bosque a cycle had come to an end, Real's sporting director Jorge Valdano said in defence of the sacking. However, the decision attracted unanimous criticism in the press. "The renunciation of Del Bosque is completely unjustified," The El Mundo newspaper said, warning that Real president Florentino Perez is taking a high risk.

During his three and a half years in the job, the coach steered the team to seven titles, including two Champions League titles and two victories in the Spanish League. What more did he have to win to keep his job, one Real player asked.

Del Bosque with his calm, occasionally grumpy, demeanour provided a pleasant contrast to the superstar egos of the players, but apparently was deemed to lack the gloss and charisma considered essential for marketing at a club like Real Madrid.

The 52-year-old reached heights which no-one had expected, assembling a team of superstars such as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Figo. Del Bosque managed to get along with all of these players, even though in other teams they had often been in conflict with their coaches.

The "trainer of the stars" was originally only called on as an emergency coach. Del Bosque spent 35 years at the club, first as player, then as youth coach and finally as head coach. He once said he would gladly stay at the club even without a contract.

While Del Bosque may have expected his dismissal, it came as a complete surprise to captain Hierro that he must look for a new job.

The 35-year-old, who has been with the club for 14 years, appears to have been punished for leading a players' rebellion.

After winning the title the players had refused to do a second lap of honour in the stadium and had threatened to boycott the reception ceremony in the city hall. The celebratory dinner with the board was also said to have been a sombre affair.

The captain must now pay for the "saddest celebration in the club's history," according to sports paper Marca. The signing of David Beckham also meant the club was becoming somewhat overcrowded.

Valdano gave as an official explanation that "Hierro had reached the age limit." However, many fans felt a captain who had played for the team 601 times over 14 years deserved a better parting.