The team traveled (along with the Under-19s) today to Lviv and were greeted by hundreds of eager fans at the airport.
And everyone wanted Cristiano’s autograph and/or picture. Even the customs officials got in on the action.
The team is now headquartered at the Hotel Leopolis. They had a training session this evening at the Arena Lviv. (Video)
Benítez: “We’re hurting and eager to bounce back”
by Javier Garcia (Lviv)
“Shakhtar are tough opponents with quality players, but we’re here to try to ensure we progress as group winners”, said the coach.
Rafa Benítez faced the media as he looked ahead to Real Madrid’s match against Shakhtar Donetsk (Wednesday, 8:45pm CET), with the Whites looking to clinch top spot in Champions League Group A: “We have a fantastic team and a fantastic squad. That’s why we went 14 matches unbeaten, were top of the league and had spectacular stats. It’s true that we’ve lost the last two games and that the last one was very important, and for that reason we’re hurting and really eager to bounce back. The best way to give the fans something to shout about is by winning as soon as possible and working hard to do that”.
“The team hasn’t collapsed. We’re upset about losing to Barcelona. We have to look forwards. We’re here to try to ensure we progress as group winners. We have to focus on that. They’re tough opponents, with quality players and an experienced coach. We’re out to get the win and make sure of top spot.”
“We’re united. I’m grateful to the Board of Directors and to the president for their support. We’ve spoken about the mistakes we made, and that starts with me. We’re out to do as well as we had been. These two defeats mustn’t affect the impression of growth offered by this team. In football you can never guarantee results, but you can guarantee dedication and effort in our fight to give our fans something to shout about”.
Starting line-up against Barcelona
“I understand your interest, but we analysed the Barcelona match the other day. We know the mistakes that were made and also the many things that we had been doing well beforehand. We’re in November and our objectives are still within reach of the team, and we’re going to fight to achieve them. The other day wasn’t a question of a lack of character; I have no doubts about these players”.
Conflict with Cristiano Ronaldo?
“No, absolutely not. Cristiano is a fantastic player and is crucial for us”.
Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro
“They’re three quality players, but it wouldn’t be fair on the rest. I have a group of players with huge quality. What’s key is that we all show quality, effort and cohesion. We’ve put in matches in which we’ve played good football and played an attacking game. Above and beyond individual names, what’s important is that the team keep putting in good performances as we had been doing before these last two games”.
The fans in Ukraine and his state of mind
“The love of the fans for Real Madrid has been clear to see. As for my state of mind after the game against Barcelona, I’m hurting a lot. I have confidence, energy and desire, and am out to bounce back and come away with some silverware from the trophies we’re competing for”.
“I’m optimistic, because this team have a lot of quality.”
“I’m hurting at the defeat. As a Madridista, I’m upset about losing any match, and all the more so against Barcelona at the Bernabéu, in a match where we could have gone top. I focus on my job, I can’t control what is said. We’re going to get back to what we were doing well to get back to winning games”.
“My responsibility, what matters to me, is to do as well as possible so that the fans, the club, everyone is happy and things go well. It may be that there are people whose interests go against ours. A team that was doing so well was being criticised for anything. Reports come out that those of us on the inside know aren’t the case. The team has so much quality that we’re going to manage to turn these two defeats into many wins”.
The president’s words
“I’ve been in football for many years. I’m confident that two defeats won’t change all the good that was done before. The fact that the president comes out means that he supports the coaching staff and the team, is sticking up for us, and is there to help us out, and that’s positive. We have to stick together, that’s key”.
Do the players believe in the coach?
“Of course. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone 14 games unbeaten and qualified from the group stage with two matches to spare. We’ve had difficulties in these past two games. What we have to do is stick together to keep on doing as well as we had beforehand. The group has quality and professionalism and we all have to move in the same direction to achieve the results that we want”.
Dip in recent games
“I don’t think that has been the case. Our recent results include the second half against PSG at home, in which we played well, and the first half against Sevilla, which was up there with the best we’ve produced this season. We’ve made mistakes and there have been adverse results. We have to get back to the things we were doing well, make the most of our quality and all work together from the first to the last whistle to make sure we don’t make any mistakes.”
Line-up against Shakhtar
“What I think isn’t going to change what is written or said. In the time that I’ve been here, it has been a constant. A team that’s top of the table, and you’re on the end of criticism. It doesn’t matter what I do, because everyone is going to interpret it in their own way. When you’re playing two games a week I like to rotate, and I will rotate. I’ll give other players the chance to show their quality, and that encourages competition for places”.
Navas: “We’re all in it together and we’re clear on our objectives”
by Javier Garcia
“We have to play with intelligence against Shakhtar and put in a really focused performance if we want to win”, he added.
On the eve of Real Madrid’s clash with Shakhtar Donetsk, Keylor Navas spoke to the media alongside Rafa Benítez in the Arena Lviv press room. The goalkeeper underlined the importance of getting the win: “Our aim was to qualify and we’ve done that, and now we have to keep on going with the same level of desire. It’ll be a difficult game because they’re an excellent team. That could also spur us on to go out there with confidence and look for the three points to help us take another big step forwards in the Champions League”.
“We expect them to go after the three points, because they need them. We have to play with intelligence and put in a focused and responsible performance. We have to go out there to win, like every game. Hopefully we can come away with all three points”.
The match against Barcelona
“We’re all really hurting because of what happened; we’re professionals and we’re aware that we put in a very bad display. Both the players and the coaching staff take responsibility for their mistakes and we know that there are aspects we have to change if we’re to be successful. We’re out to fight to achieve the goals that we have in front of us. It’s down to us, and over the remainder of the season we want to bounce back”.
“We know what we have to change to be successful.”
“We all have to run that bit harder. We’re a team, and it isn’t a question of some of us running more or less. I have confidence in all of my team-mates. I know the qualities that they have and the type of team that we are. We’re a team; when we win, we win together, and when we lose, we lose together”.
Fitness issues and confidence in Benítez
“My adductor is fine, that’s important. The medical staff did a great job. We’re all in it together, we’re clear on our objectives. People can say what they like, but what’s important is what all of us think”.
The team’s conclusions
“We put in a bad performance; that’s something that you can never hide. Our conversations with the coach stay between us. We know what we have to change to be successful. We all reached the same conclusion and we’re very clear in our minds”.
Florentino Pérez’s words
“Every team has good and bad moments, no matter the year. Saturday was a very bad performance and we’re hurting, because we didn’t want that to happen. What’s important is to look forward, correct what we did wrong and focus on our aims, which we’re very clear on”.
And just in case you’re interested, here’s the Peez’s remarks from the press conference yesterday.
“He was the manager chosen for his professionalism, for his trajectory and for his experience”, stated the president.
Florentino Pérez appeared before the media at the Santiago Bernabéu following the board meeting. The Real Madrid president stated: “I am here to inform you about the board meeting that has just taken place. We have carefully analysed the sporting situation and I want to inform you that the manager of Real Madrid, Rafa Benítez has our full support and our full confidence”.
“Rafa Benítez was the manager chosen for his professionalism, for his trajectory, for his experience and he has proven his ability at getting the best performance out of this squad, which as we all know, suffered a gradual wearing out from January onwards this year. I understand the anger of our fans following the game on Saturday but we believe that this is the time to keep working, with rigour, with calmness, with maximum intensity, and with all of the Madrid fans united together”.
“Rafa Benítez has just begun his work. We must let him work, the wins will definitely come. That has been achieved in the first four qualification games for the round of 16 in the Champions League, and in La Liga, up until the last two games that we played. The team was unbeaten and joint-top despite several significant absences due to injury that we suffered at the start of the season”.
“We are convinced that we have a great squad of magnificent players that will be able to bring a lot of joy to fans that deserve everything. For the Board of Directors and for me as President, the most important thing is the success of the team and the institutional stability that Real Madrid needs to achieve that”.
“I repeat, I understand the unease and anger of our fans faced with what happened on Saturday but I ask for their support for our team and for our players. Now more than ever they need the strength of our fans. I have always worked to ensure that members continue to be the sole owners of the club and those that determine the future of Real Madrid. I can assure you that will continue to be the case”.
Following his statement, the president of Real Madrid answered questions from the media.
Lack of attitude from the players
“That could be a poor interpretation of the match. We had a very bad match. Everyone saw it but these things happen. It wasn’t due to a lack of attitude, I can assure you of that. Perhaps it was a series of things, among them, it was the first time that many players had featured following a long period out of action. You cannot question the attitude in a game as important as that”.
Campaign against him
“I respect any manifestation and more so that of fans and members of Real Madrid. They have the right. We know that our fans are very demanding and I understand that. I cannot tell you more than the fact I respect it. It has nothing to do with the other question that you asked me; do I believe there is a campaign against me? I have to be honest: you believe so, I do and so does everyone here.
Bringing forward elections
“Do not tell me what may happen in the future. As things stand we have not even talked about elections. We analysed what happened on Saturday and faced with doubts that there may be about our manager, we have total and unequivocal support and we hope and are confident that he will be able to turn around a situation that began in January of this year”.
“He has complete control. Nobody is going to suggest anything to him. Since 2000, there have been lots of managers and nobody has ever said that I have suggested anything. They have always had freedom and I understand that this is a squad with lots, and lots of good players, so choosing is sometimes difficult. However he has full control to do whatever he deems appropriate, which will be the best thing for the club”.
“Nobody in the Board of Directors has made any mention of a dismissal. Furthermore, the note that I read represents the unanimous view of all members of the Board. It is necessary to let him work. There are players that have been out of action for practically two months. It is necessary to play together for a long time for the team to function as we all want it to do”.
“Our team has suffered gradual deterioration since January. We chose Rafa Benítez with the belief that he was able to turn things arounds. He has only been here for a very short time and it is not possible to fix every problem overnight”.
“I am to blame for a lot of what happens. It is not normal to be constantly denying things. However, I am reflecting on things and I am going to talk much more. I understand that there may be the odd journalist that wants to destabilise us. I understand it but I have to say it”.
“For example, on Saturday, the same day that we played, a sports newspaper in Madrid stated that according to Radio Montecarlo on Thursday night the president of PSG and Jorge Mendes had dinner together. It then says: this newspaper is able to confirm that the Real Madrid president was at the dinner. The day on which the match took place!”
“There are people who turn lies into a way of harming not my image but rather, that of Real Madrid.”
“I can tell you lots more stories like that, and look at how easy it would be to ask me or to go to the restaurant and ask if Florentino was present. There are people that turn lies into a means of harming not my image but rather that of Real Madrid, because they think that without me they have more influence on the club. I have lots more stories like that”.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has never told me that we are never going to win anything with this manager. Look, Cristiano Ronaldo is a good guy and everything the press puts out lately is about whether I want to sell him, how I have meetings, they lie and that is to destabilise. Nor does Benzema earn 10 million euros after tax. I don’t even think he earns that much before tax”.
“I have reached the conclusion that I am also to blame because if I gradually allow people to believe these things, there will be someone naive that believes it and rightly so, if I do not go and tell them: look, it is a lie. For example, we have not paid 10 million for De Gea. There are people with the sole purpose in life to attack me and Real Madrid. Well then, I have to come out and say that it is a lie. I don’t know if it is a campaign. What they are trying to do is undermine the club’s stability and I am not going to allow that to happen”.
Similar speech to the one in which he backed Ancelotti
“I did not confirm that Ancelotti was staying. A newspaper had put on the front cover that if we did not win on Sunday he was going to be dismissed, I came out to say that wasn’t true. That has nothing to do with this. Whatever people say, the person that Benítez most speaks to is me. The players have total support for him, as does the Board of Directors”.
“The Board of Directors wanted to say that we are committing to a manager that has been here for a short amount of time and, well, that we lost a game. I was born in this environment and I understand that level of demand and we are going to work to satisfy the members. Sometimes it is possible to think that there is a little disproportion between a terrible game that we played and which was tough for us to take and everything that has been said about it. Perhaps it is also down to that atmosphere of destabilisation. I blame myself too for not having been able to eliminate it”.
Conversation with Benítez
“I am not going to tell you what is said between me and others. I told him about the confidence that I have in him, the same confidence that I am now expressing publicly. He was doing well. I saw the players, some of them were really destroyed, as you would expect. They played very badly and I understand that but they were also affected a little by the pressure. It was a shock for some of the ones that still do not know Real Madrid well”.
Chants calling for resignation
“I respect the fans and the club members, they are the best thing about the club. I am very respectful towards them. The “Florentino resign” thing was said by a lot of people but it is always started by the same ones. Two years ago we decided that the ultrasur and violent fans were not going to be allowed into the stadium. Since then, they have done everything within their powers to intimidate me, both on an individual and group basis. It doesn’t matter because they are not going to have their way. I am more annoyed by the fact that a newspaper offers them coverage and puts a sign up with “Florentino, resign”, takes a photograph, removes the sign and that the media outlet then publishes it. Especially if the media outlet presents itself as a serious publication, that worries me more”.
“I also ask the members to help me. They are the ones that started it, then others continued it because when there is a sad atmosphere, like on that day, they have chanted it. However, I also call on members to help me, and to help us to ensure that these people play no role in anything, and that they must not be in the stadium. If things go badly one day, I would like them not to follow people whose aim is to take hold of a club as prestigious as Real Madrid. I am not going to tell you where those people should be, but it is not in the Santiago Bernabéu”.
Continuing in the role
“I am annoyed by criticism that is untrue. I am annoyed that today the newspapers say, like they did on Saturday, that I dined with some men in order to sell Cristiano Ronaldo. I am annoyed that people tell me that Cristiano told me something, because it is a lie, I am annoyed about what people say regarding the wages of one or two players, because it is all lies”.
“I am annoyed that there are people with a sole objective: to go against me. That is not going against me, that is going against Real Madrid. That is because now I am president, but tomorrow it could be someone else and they would do the same, because those journalists with names that I do not want to mention, do not need to have the right to state something, at least in the media outlets that I know. I never thought that those media outlets could write such things that do not obey any code of conduct”.
“Checking a news story is a normal procedure, but there are also times when I have been called to confirm something, and I have always talked. When there is a desire to destabilise I believe that serious media sources should not allow it. However, as they do allow it, I am going to inform my club members and fans that in my opinion it is a way of destabilising and that it is also lies. Because lies are lies”.
“Yes, Rafa Benítez. I have just said it very clearly. We brought him in to turn this situation around and we believe that he is the right person however I am also saying that we need to let him work. If people that are not interested in stability go about saying that the players do not love him, that the directors do not love him..well, somebody will believe it. I am categorically stating that this is a lie. He has a good relationship with the players and he has a good relationship with the Board of Directors and with me in particular”.
Trial regarding the club Statutes
“It is not everyday that I have court cases, however I have a group that comprises 1500 companies, 210,000 workers, we currently have an endless number of contracts in force. Two years ago, someone here appealed changes that were made to two important points of the statutes: extending the period of membership required to present a presidential candidature from 10 to 20 years and also what the law says, which is that members of the Board of Directors will guarantee 15% of the expenditure budget.”
“For me, members of the Board of Directors are members are the members of the Board of Directors, and we should not have a member taking someone from outside that backs them and aims to make them part of the life of Real Madrid through a confused interpretation of the statutes, and that is why we clarified it. What is taking place the day after tomorrow is only the first instance judgement. Within a short period they will make a ruling, afterwards there will be an appeal and the most probable situation is that it will end up at the Supreme Court after a very very long time. That is to say, nothing will happen on Wednesday”.
“I have also read that it will be necessary to call elections. Well, no, that is not the case. The statutes are in force and the ruling is only final at the last instance. If tomorrow, next year or the year after there are elections, we will have the same statutes as we do now”.
Y’know, I often wonder how I ended up picking up a team with such drama to love. BRB, re-examining my life choices.
(But as always, Hala Madrid!)