Just 24 hours after securing a record 29th Spanish league title, Real Madrid CF have shown the door to two of their greatest servants, coach Vicente del Bosque and captain Fernando Hierro.
'End of a cycle'
Madrid sporting director Jorge Valdano said the club had reached "the end of a cycle" after confirming that neither Del Bosque nor Hierro would be retained once their contracts had expired at the end of this month.
While Hierro, at 35, had shown on occasions that Father Time was beginning to catch up with him, Del Bosque's four years at the helm brought Madrid two league titles and two UEFA Champions Leagues, in addition to the UEFA Super Cup and European/South American Cup.
'The best option'
Valdano said: "We could call it the end of a cycle. It's been a hard decision for us but we, all the board of directors, finally decided it was the best option.
We would like to express our thanks to Vicente del Bosque for all he has done for the club and would like to offer him the opportunity to continue with Real Madrid in another post."
Unlikely to stay on
However, Del Bosque - who had twice served as caretaker coach at Madrid before he succeeded John Toshack in November 1999 - said he would almost certainly not accept the role of technical director at the Santiago Bernabéu: "I don't want to cast a shadow over Real Madrid's next coach so I don't think I will accept the offer to be technical director."
Del Bosque 'proud'
The 52-year-old said that he would "continue coaching if another interesting project comes up", unless it were at Club Atlético de Madrid or FC Barcelona, Madrid's two great rivals. Del Bosque, a former Madrid player who spent years coaching the club's junior sides before taking the senior post, added: "I am proud of what I have done all these years and also hopeful about what the future may bring."
Talk of replacement
Asked about a replacement, Valdano said it would not be a "falcon" - in other words, rigid tacticians need not apply. "We don't understand that kind of coaching and this team doesn't need that kind of discipline," he said. One possible candidate is Carlos Queiroz, currently Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United FC.
As for Hierro, his departure marks the end of a 13-year spell with the club he joined in 1989 from Real Valladolid. He arrived as a midfield player but soon stepped back into central defence and became a pivotal figure, winning the Champions League in 1998, 2000 and 2002 as well as six domestic titles. His international career was equally rewarding, yielding 29 goals from 89 games, as well as appearances at three FIFA World Cup finals and two UEFA European Championships.
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