Florentino Pérez is still backing Rafa Benítez both publicly and privately. The same cannot be said of most of those around him, the Real Madrid players first and foremost.
The fans who flock to the Bernabéu on Sunday may well have the final word. Their reaction could determine whether or not there is a change in the dugout.
Real Madrid’s last few matches on home soil have been bookended by deafening boos aimed at the coach. However, now the club’s head honcho wants to gauge the crowd’s opinion in the light of what happened in Villarreal and is particularly interested to see whom they point the finger at with regard to the lack of fight shown during the opening 45 minutes at El Madrigal.
Florentino remains keen not to give Benítez the boot just six months after appointing him. What’s more, he knows that doing so over the last few days would have been seen as bowing to player power, in view of the widening rift between the squad and the Madrid-born tactician, and this is an image he was hell-bent on avoiding. The powers that be at the Bernabéu are well aware that there is minimal dialogue between Benítez and the players, but they nonetheless expect all concerned to rally round out of professional pride.
Pérez’s mid-season dismissals during his previous stint at the helm did not pay off and the board believes that there is still scope for a turnaround, since the current struggles are a matter of personal problems that can be smoothed over. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – or at least that is the idea the president is holding on to.
However, if the crowd are particularly hostile towards the coach, the team or even Florentino himself during the Rayo match, this could force the president’s hand and lead him to make a drastic decision that he is resisting.