With a long summer of transfers and rebuilding ahead of him, and in the market for a new coach, it's unsurprising that Florentino Perez would have so much to say. Unsurprisingly, he was diplomatic (or devious) depending on one's interpretation of his interview. Even in his evasions however, Perez showed a certain charm.
But of course of chief interest to the interviewers was something that had already happened: the departure of José Mourinho. Perez would not be baited however. He insisted the personal relationship between Casillas and Mourinho was absolutely fine. In fact, he refused to blame either and heaped scorn on the press. Casillas had been used, unfairly, by the press as someone on whom to base stories. As for Mourinho: "I have never seen anything like it" was his generous verdict on Mourinho and the way he had been presented in the press.
Rumours of "tension" were swept aside. Real Madrid, Perez said, is so huge that everything is blown out of proportion. "Nothing is allowed to be normal." And as such: even the most minor disagreements are turned into huge stories with little behind them to fill up column inches. "From a professional point of view the players valued Mourinho...I have never heard anything but praise from them."
On Neymar's transfer (taking place that afternoon) he was faintly mischievous. He had no idea how Barca paid only 57 million, he said - though he was sure their books would work out. Transfers involving so many owners were complex and, all things considered, not in Madrid's policy. His own accounting showed a higher bill of 150 million.
Shown a clip of Barcelona's vicepresident accusing him of entering negotiations only to drive the price up by 17 million (very precise calculation there!) Perez was typically diplomatic. He denied it, and congratulated Barcelona on acquiring the player and bringing one of the world's best into the league.
On Thiago Alcantara he said he had no intention of paying a buy-out clause (Alcantara's is only 18 million and has been activated) for any player because it only causes bad blood between the clubs. Madrid will make no hostile transfers this year, apparently. He also professed not to know whether or not Alcantara is for sale.
On Gareth Bale, Carlo Ancelotti and Pipita Higuain, there was plenty to say.
Perez was in no mood to hear criticisms of Tottenham's Daniel Levy, and showed a businessman's sympathies when he said a chairman is required to do the best for his club. It turns out they are acquaintances. As for the cost? Players of Bale's quality are an investment, said Perez. He shrugged as the interviewer called 100 million "madness". Perez: "He is a great player and Madrid have always liked great players."
On Ancelotti, he was evasive: that coach is still under contract, he noted. He even went so far as to say: "I don't know whether or not he'll want to come."
Zidane, coming in as a sporting director, also provided Perez with the opportunity to evade questions - quite aside from the fact that any talk of Zidane already injects his second term with some necessary glamour. On Bale, for example, he claimed he had yet to talk to Zidane and to evaluate what the team needs for the following year. "Perhaps he'll want to be a coach [of Madrid] one day" noting darkly "maybe Zizou is a masochist."
On Pipita, the interview was at its most disingenuous. Perez denied knowing the player wanted to leave. And affected a faint sense of injury, asking how Juventus could approach a player without the club's permission. He professed to be surprised Pipita wanted to leave or that he wanted to go. "Perhaps because I was just a candidate then...now I'm president." He was shown footage of Pipita claiming there had been a price-tag around his neck from the time of his arrival. Perhaps that footage made him uncomfortable.
Perez's impulse to deny knowledge of Pipita's desire to leave is unclear. Perhaps a higher transfer fee is in the offing. Perhaps this is a desire to make the transfer seem less inevitable. Perhaps it's a final courtesy to a player the fans are very fond of.
On Kaka, Perez defended his Galactico and the player's worth from a financial perspective (thanks to fellow-writer Pedro Falci for the translation of this portion of the interview) while indirectly confirming the difficulty in selling him but also a desire to see him play again if he does stay:
When we go to China or the United States, Kaka is our most acclaimed player, so on economic terms his transfer has been good for us, but on sporting terms his transfer has not been panned out well." Then he was asked what he would do with Kaka if he were in Ancelotti's shoes. Florentino laughed and said "If I were Ancelotti and I were the manager of Real Madrid, I would try to recover him.
But he was very firm on one thing: Ronaldo would stay. In response to a question that said that Madrid fans would consider him "the number one signing" he answered: "We want him to retire at Madrid. We want to win The Tenth with him."
When shown footage of Pipita and Cristiano Ronaldo horsing around during the jersey unveiling, Perez actually chuckled when Pipita was shown to call out: "Hey! Best Paid!" at his teammate. "They're joking!" he said. He sounded almost paternal.
The interview was, of course, very lengthy and Spanish speakers are encouraged to watch the entirety as this summation was only able to scratch the surface.
Casillas' Verdict On The Season
In other news, Iker Casillas, the season finally behind him, said yesterday he had no personal problems of any kind with Mourinho.
I don't bear any grudges against Mourinho, nor do I feel badly treated by him. He made decisions which he felt were the best ones for the club and I personally have nothing personal against him. Unfortunately, we didn't reach our objectives in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League but I wish him the best of luck at Chelsea because he always stood up for Real Madrid.
Mesut Özil Bids Farewell
In a graceful gesture, Mesut Özil said farewell to his coach in a note-perfect post on his Facebook very similar to the one Sami Khedira posted last week. As always, he did it in 4 languages - German, English, Turkish, Spanish.
Here is the English (taken directly from his Facebook and not from any number of Spanish newspapers who incorrectly paraphrased or lazily translated the Spanish into English rather than using his own English version):
Dear José Mourinho,
in professional soccer it's normal that you stay together only for a certain period of time. Then you move on. Three years ago you brought me to Real. During the past three years you taught me a lot, trusted in me and you gave me the confidence I needed. Therefore I want to thank you very much and I wish you all the best for your further career.
Thank you very much