Abu Dhabi: The sacking of Jose Mourinho by Manchester United has triggered a lot of speculation, including a possible comeback to his previous club Real Madrid.
Understandably, Los Blancos’ current coach Santiago Solari was asked if the news makes him more nervous as his team gears up for their title defence of the Fifa Club World Cup with the semi-final clash on Wednesday against Japan’s Kashima Antlers.
Solari, however, played it down saying: “Why would I be worried about rumours or speculation about Mourinho as these [are] things we keep hearing every day?”
Real are going through a lean patch and Solari and his star-studded team will be well aware that it’s absolutely imperative for the Spanish giants to retain the Club World Cup and prove to their faithful that they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Solari revealed that the side is well aware of the importance of the tournament and they want to reap the rewards of winning the Uefa Champions League for the third time in a row last season.
“I like this tournament a lot and I thank Abu Dhabi for hosting us,” said Solari, whose team since their last visit to UAE has lost a lot of sheen.
“This tournament allows all the continental champions to spend some days here. We give a lot of importance to this tournament as to be here one has to go through a long path. You have to win Champions League and we did it again and that was extraordinary and hence there is motivation to win this title again.”
Effects of Ronaldo’s departure
The departure of their prolific goal scorer and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo has hit Real hard and affected their performance severely this season.
The Club World Cup title gives them the opportunity to redeem themselves before they try to put their La Liga campaign back on track after the festive break.
Real are currently placed fourth, five points behind arch-rivals Barcelona and their recent slip-up coming into the tournament has been the 3-0 loss to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League. Though they won in the league against Rayo Vallecano before flying down to Abu Dhabi, the changes that Solari made were highly criticised.
“All the players are motivated and any of the players can make a difference to qualify for the final,” the manager said. “I have the same vision when I came here and the same when I came here as a player in 2000. My philosophy is the same and that is to ensure that the time wins.”
Solari added that Real’s opponents Kashima are a far more experienced team that the one Real played two years ago.
“Their football players are almost the same but now they are continent champions,” he said. “They have three or four foreign players who are high quality and they are a fast-paced side. They are going to be a worthy opponent and a beautiful match.”
Real’s Brazilian star Marcelo, who had been a mainstay under Mourinho during the latter’s three-year stint with Real, when asked if he would like to see his former coach return to the Santiago Bernabeu, said: “Mourinho’s sacking is a pity as he is a great coach and for him to be without a club is a pity. It’s not for me to say if he should come to Real Madrid or not. I’m not the one to decide that but I really appreciate all he did for me at this club.”
The 30-year-old asserted that the players are keen on doing well in the semis and progressing into the finals.
“We are hungry for titles and this is a short competition,” he said. “We are playing straight in the semis and, God willing, we will play in the finals. In the team we are like a family. We are playing a short tournament and that is important for our football.”