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Most interesting query: Can Real emerge from slump?

For the first time for more than 50 years, Real Madrid has gone three seasons without picking up a major trophy.

india Updated: Sep 22, 2006 11:33 IST

The most interesting question of the forthcoming Spanish football season is: can Real Madrid finally emerge from their three-year slump and challenge Barcelona's domination?

For the first time for more than 50 years, Real Madrid has gone three seasons without picking up a major trophy.

The era of the much-vaunted, over-paid "Galacticos" is now history.

Indeed, new president Ramon Calderon has actually banned the use of the word, due to its negative connotations.

"What we are building now is a real team of hard-working players, rather than just a collection of media stars," Calderon said.

Calderon has entrusted this task to coach Fabio Capello, who has promised "a solid and effective side, rather than a brilliant outfit".

To this end, Capello has insisted on the signing of veterans Fabio Cannavaro, Emerson and Ruud Van Nistelrooy - plus midfield dynamo Mahamadou Diarra.

It was about time Real had a change of style and personnel, but a closer look at the situation at the Bernabeu shows that several alarming contradictions are creating an atmosphere of anxiety and even pessimism.

Contradiction number one comes out of Calderon's election in July, narrowly edging past his rivals by promising to sign exciting youngsters Kaka, Arjen Robben and Cesc Fabregas.

At the same time, though, he said that Capello would be given a free hand to build a new team, which he is exactly what he is doing, to the chagrin of many "madridista" fans.

Capello's signings have not gone down well among a Bernabeu faithful, which expected an ageing squad to be rejuvenated.

This weekend Capello's new-look side finished last in the prestigious Carranza tournament played down in Cadiz, losing to Real Betis on penalties and then 1-0 to Villarreal.

--DPA

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