New sporting director Emilio Butragueño is looking to steer Real Madrid CF to calmer waters.
By Darío López
Since replacing Jorge Valdano as Real Madrid CF's sporting director, Emilio Butragueño knows he has his work cut out as the club aims to get through one of the most turbulent periods in its recent history.
Having failed to win a trophy last season, Madrid have already lost one coach - José Antonio Camacho - this term and have yet to show significant signs of recovery under his successor, Mariano García Remón. As sporting director, the task has fallen to Butragueño to help steer the Madrid ship to calmer waters.
Recent weeks have brought mixed fortunes. Coming back from two goals down to secure their first UEFA Champions League win against AS Roma on Matchday 2 was a major plus following the 3-0 defeat at Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 1, but the situation in the Primera División has been less encouraging.
A 1-0 defeat at home against RC Deportivo La Coruña two weeks ago was a miserable result for the club. A 1-1 draw at Real Betis Balompié at the weekend was not much better. It left Madrid in eleventh place in the table, nine points adrift of leaders FC Barcelona.
None the less, the 41-year-old Butragueño is looking on the bright side. "The league campaign is very long and we are still only at the start," he told uefa.com. "We must look on our situation with a cool head and that will help us to reflect upon what has been happening."
However, while their domestic campaign still provides some room for slip-ups, the Champions League is not so forgiving. Madrid face back-to-back ties against Ukrainian giants FC Dynamo Kyiv in their next two games, and defeat in either is something that the Merengues can ill-afford.
"In the Champions League, we face a series of matches that can be described as being critical, like in the case of Roma and the public is well aware of that," said Butragueño. "Our next game could not be more make-or-break because we are meeting the group leaders.
The truth is that we never expected Dynamo Kyiv to have six points at this stage of the competition," added Butragueño as he looked ahead to Tuesday's home tie against Dynamo. "Now we must make sure that we win all of our remaining home ties and try to accumulate points away from home."
While Madrid know what they must do to progress, the question is how to do it. Defensive mistakes and a lack of concentration have marred some performances this season, and ironing out the rough spots will be essential if they are to make progress.
"It is not a question of attitude because this squad's approach has always been impeccable," insisted Butragueño. However, he implied that some changes may be made to the squad in order to restore balance. "Once Roberto Carlos gains dual nationality, we could see many interesting developments," he said.
New signings are very much Butragueño's department in his new role, but the key to a successful season will be consistency in all competitions and for the sporting director, the Champions League remains the most unpredictable of them all.
"Seven or eight clubs could finish as champions," he said. "Madrid put in a fantastic display up until March last season but we were unable to maintain that momentum. The truly great clubs are those that can stand the pace and reach the later stages in good condition."