Mourinho gets to work

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MADRID, July 15 – The Mourinho Years began in Madrid as the self-styled 'Special One' met his Real players for the first time on Thursday amid whisperings of who will be joining the club and which veterans may be heading for the exit.As beginnings go, it was a touch on the limp side. With the bulk of the Real Madrid squad – Spanish and foreign alike – still on leave after the World Cup, the new Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho was greeted by just 10 of his players.

They underwent medical examinations before the proper start to training on Friday.

That did not stop the rumour mill, though, which is working overtime on suggestions that two other players who were absent on Thursday – striker Raul and midfielder Guti – will be gone by the time Real begin their quest to unseat champions Barcelona in the Spanish league at the end of next month.

The 33-year-old Raul, who has played his entire professional career at Real, having made 550 appearances since his debut in 1994, has been linked with a move to German club Schalke and has also been associated with English clubs Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers.

The fact he spent time on holiday in New York this summer has also seen talk that he may be about to follow former France captain Thierry Henry to the New York Red Bulls.

Guti, another Real lifer having made his pro debut in 1995, is also reported to have had offers from Turkey and Greece as well as Blackburn and Zenit St Petersburg.

French midfielder Lassana Diarra is also likely, according to the Spanish media, to leave the club after meeting Mourinho on Wednesday to discuss his future.

Mourinho has arrived in a blaze of glory after leading Inter Milan last season to the treble of domestic league and cup in Italy as well as the Champions League.

He has been given a four-year contract and the brief of winning the Champions League within the next two years.

The former Porto and Chelsea boss wants to reinforce the defence and midfield of a Real side which already boasts a number of superstars, players of the calibre of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Iker Cassillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi Alonso and Gonzalo Higuain.

Argentinean international Angel Di Maria has already signed as has the teenage former Santander striker Sergio Canales. On Thursday, Real were also expected to complete the transfer of winger Pedro Leon from Getafe.

The Spanish giants are also trying to use their muscle to lure German midfielder Sami Khedira and Brazilian wing Maicon but their clubs – Stuttgart and Mourinho’s old manor Inter – are resisting the overtures.

Other names mentioned in dispatches are defenders Ashley Cole of Chelsea, Benfica’s David Luiz and Porto’s Bruno Alves as well as Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.

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