MADRID May 26 – Real Madrid fired Jorge Valdano as director general Wednesday in what was seen as a victory for coach Jose Mourinho who had repeatedly clashed with the former Argentine international last season.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said Valdano’s position would be terminated as part of a restructuring aimed at giving the club a more "English" style that would grant Mourinho more autonomy over decision-making.
Perez dismissed media reports that the Portuguese coach had demanded that Valdano be dismissed as a condition for his staying on at the club.
"Mourinho did not make any demands. He asked for more autonomy in line with how English clubs are organised," he told a hastily-convened news conference following a meeting of the club’s board of directors.
"There were two people with a strong sports character and the harmony that needs to exist was lacking. You were all witnesses of this over the past season. There was a clear dysfunction that needed to be resolved."
Valdano reportedly opposed the appointment of Mourinho in May 2010 but was overruled by Perez, who believed the Portuguese coach has what it takes to end Barcelona’s domination.
He has a long record of criticising Mourinho’s style of football in his newspaper columns and television, even long before the Portuguese manager took the reins at the Bernabeu.
In 2008 Valdano wrote that "Mourinho has a flitting charisma that doesn’t really know what it represents.
In January Valdano, 55, angered Mourinho, 48, by appearing to question the coach’s decision to leave French striker Karim Benzema on the bench during Real’s 1-1 draw at Almeria.
"I hope Benzema does not stay on the bench for too long. The situation surrounding him is unfair," he said at the time.
When asked about Valdano’s comments, Mourinho shot back: "I pick the team and if I need any help then I have my coaching staff."
Valdano, a former player and coach at Real, had seen the his role at the club and his access to the first team reduced as the season advanced. By the end of the season he was travelling separately from the squad.
He said he had not spoken to Mourinho beyond a polite greeting "for some time" and had asked to meet with the Portuguese coach and Perez to clear the air "but apparently this was not possible".
"When sensibilities are so different, it does not take long for differences to appear," he told a separate news conference at Real’s Bernabeu stadium from the one granted by Perez.
"I don’t know what was Mourinho’s intention, I know that I made an effort all season to reduce the noise. I am leaving with the sadness of someone who has come and gone from the club for nothing less than 27 years."
Valdano is a key figure in Real’s recent history, having been a striker in the 1980s and coach of the club’s first team in the 1990s, winning the 1994-95 league title.
He served as sporting director under Perez between 2000 and 2004. He returned to Real to occupy the post of director general in June 2009.
Nicknamed "The Philosopher of Football", he was part of the Argentine squad that won the 1986 World Cup.
Spanish media reported that Real would have to pay Valdano around five million euros in severance pay for the termination of the remaining two years of his contract.
Perez refused to comment when asked how much Valdano’s departure would cost the club.
Mourinho guided Real to its first King’s Cup win in 18 years but the club finished second to Barcelona in La Liga for the third straight season and it was defeated by the Catalan side in the Champions League semifinals.