Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  

Real's Luxemburgo surprise

Former Brazil national coach Wanderley Luxemburgo on Thursday flew into Spain to become Real Madrid's fifth coach in 18 months.

The 52-year-old Luxemburgo, who replaces Mariano Garcia Remon, was previously at the helm of Brazilian club Santos but said Real had made an approach and he had been unable to refuse a "dream" of a challenge.

"It's a great pleasure. To work with Real Madrid is the dream of any coach," he added, as Real presented him formally at a club board meeting minutes after his arrival at Madrid's Barajas international airport.

"I am very happy. Everything happened very quickly with the negotiations."

A Real Madrid spokesman had initially refused to confirm or deny the news when questioned by AFP, saying only here would be a club board meeting on Thursday at 1:30p.m. (1230 GMT).

Events then moved fast and Luxemburgo touched down at 1203 GMT.

He had earlier told daily newspaper Estado de Sao Paulo. "I will sign a one-and-a-half year contract and will take up the position immediately."

Real are in a mini-crisis with the club in fifth spot in the Spanish league, 13 points behind leaders and arch rivals Barcelona, although with one game in hand.

"I think there's a fair amount of work ahead," admitted Luxemburgo.

"There are four factors (which the team needs). Discipline, unity, hard work and professionalism," Luxemburgo stressed as he mapped out "what we need to form a team to win competitions.

"This is a great responsibility for me as the first Brazilian coach of a club which is a byword for quality and greatness.

"But I am not afraid of this responsibility," underlined Luxemburgo, who added that "football is universal."

The new man at the helm already knows two of the club's stars well, having coached samba stars Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos during two years in charge of the Brazilian national side between 1998 and 2000.

In 1999, he led the auriverde to the Copa America only to see the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign almost come off the rails.

However, Luxemburgo has done well at club level in Brazil, where he has taken three teams to domestic championships.

Roberto Carlos, occasionally at odds with previous coaches including Camacho, gave Luxemburgo's arrival the thumbs up.

"He will get us playing real football," said the wingback, who nevertheless added kind words for Remon, who retreats back to the heart of the technical staff three months after replacing Jose Antonio Camacho.

"Garcia Remon has done a great job, he is a fine coach but the chairman has taken a decision and we must accept it," said the veteran defender, who joined the club seven years ago from Inter Milan.

"Luxemburgo is the best coach for Real Madrid," he added.

Other possible targets had been Italy's former Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli, Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to their fifth World Cup title in 2002 (after replacing Luxemburgo), and Sweden's England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

"We believe this is the best decision for Real Madrid," said Real's vice-chairman Emilio Butragueno, unveiling Luxemburgo.

Luxemburgo's move to Madrid comes less than two weeks after Santos won the Brazilian championship for the second time in three years.

Luxemburgo won the title for the second year in a row, having led Cruzeiro to the championship last year for the fifth title of his career.

He also won the competition with Palmeiras in 1993 and 1994 and Corinthians in 1998.