Florentino Pérez's decision to resign as Real Madrid CF president has provoked a broad spectrum of reaction from players, coaches and journalists.
Pérez announced that he had quit last night, almost six years after winning the presidential election of June 2000. Sunday's 2-1 Primera División defeat at RCD Mallorca, coupled with a 1-0 UEFA Champions League home loss to Arsenal FC, prompted the head of the world's wealthiest club to stand down.
'The wrong path'
"This decision was taken after the Mallorca match," the property magnate told a press conference on Monday evening. "I was convinced something had to be done, and that my decision will be a positive influence because we are on the wrong path.
"My decision is based on loyalty and responsibility towards the supporters and I'm to blame for spoiling the players," he added. "We created a team of great players but some of them have got it all wrong. My departure is a way of reminding them that the only important thing is Real Madrid."
Madrid coach Juan Ramón López Caro was shocked, saying: "I didn't expect this decision. We're upset, not only because of the defeat in Mallorca, but also because of the situation we have created. We have let down the club, the supporters and the shirt. I think some players didn't rise to the occasion."
'A Poisoned Legacy'
The Spanish press seemed to be equally surprised by Pérez's decision to hand power to his 58-year-old right-hand man, Fernando Martín Álvarez. "A sad end," wailed the headline on Diario AS. "Florentino resigns," led Marca matter-of-factly. "A poisoned legacy," warned Diario Sport ominously.
Meanwhile, Brazilian striker Ronaldo said: "I'm very sorry he has left. He's the only one that defended me so it's a sad day for me. A great president has left." However, despite continued prompting, all team-mate Roberto Carlos would say was: "I don't care, it's not my problem."
Pérez's decision means Martín now has 18 months in charge before the next presidential elections are held in summer 2007. "I wish him all the luck in the world," said Pérez. "He can do it. I have been the main character in this project and I think someone else can do it better than me."
Pérez's tenure has seen plenty of activity at the Santiago Bernabéu, with the arrival of Luís Figo from FC Barcelona heralding a phase of huge investment in players. Madrid won the Primera División in his first season in office.
The following campaign, 2001/02, witnessed the signing of Zinédine Zidane, and the club crowned their centenary with a 2-1 victory against Bayer 04 Leverkusen that sealed their ninth European Champion Clubs' Cup success. Ronaldo's acquisition the next term heralded the second league title of Peréz's reign.
However, that was to be his last major honour, as despite landing David Beckham from Manchester United FC ahead of the 2003/04 season, the dismissal of coach Vicente del Bosque started a period of instability. Carlos Queiroz, José Antonio Camacho, Mariano García Remón and Vanderlei Luxemburgo all came and went in the following years before López Caro's appointment.
The final word goes to Beckham, the last of the 'Galácticos'. "First of all, I want to thank Florentino because he gave me the chance to play for such a huge and amazing club," the England captain said. "He is a great person, a very intelligent person. What he has done for the club is incredible, he has to be congratulated on that."
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