VALLADOLID (Reuters) - Real Madrid finally got some respite after a harrowing week by beating Real Valladolid 4-1 in an action-packed game in La Liga on Sunday but there was a strong sense it was Santiago Solari’s last stand as the club’s coach.
Real have no realistic chance of a trophy after falling 12 points behind leaders Barcelona, who knocked them out of the Copa del Rey in the semi-finals before the Madrid side exited the Champions League last-16 after a 4-1 loss to Ajax Amsterdam.
Spanish media has reported that Solari, 42, is to be relieved of his duties on Monday, less than four months after he was given the job on a permanent basis, and the Argentine spoke in a resigned tone after the win at Valladolid.
Former Real coach Jose Mourinho is the bookmakers’ favourite to take over if Solari is sacked.
Newspaper El Pais, meanwhile, said Zinedine Zidane, who led the team to three successive Champions League titles before resigning last May, had rejected an offer to return.
Asked if the Valladolid game was his last in charge, Solari said: “I cannot make that assessment myself, I will just dedicate myself to working.
“We will continue to work as usual. It’s normal that there is plenty of noise around the club after the week we had. But we have the same spirit as always, to work towards our next game and try to earn all the points we can.”
Real director Emilio Butragueno sidestepped the question when asked by a television reporter if he could confirm whether the coach would stay until the end of the season.
“Solari is a stupendous professional, but we are here to talk about the game,” he said.
Solari was without six first team regulars on Sunday and watched a remarkable game unfold as Valladolid took the lead after having two effort ruled offside and missing a penalty.
Raphael Varane brought Madrid level at 1-1 against the run of play before Karim Benzema gave them the lead with a converted penalty and a header. Luka Modric scored the fourth late on.
Solari praised his players for the victory but there was some regret about their recent results in his comments.
“I have to credit the players for their professionalism and efforts,” he said. “We scored goals that would have been useful in the previous games, but at least we scored them today.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris