Real Madrid coach Santi Solari refused to directly answer questions about his future, following Sunday evening’s 2-0 La Liga defeat at home to Real Sociedad at an angry and one-third empty Bernabeu.
Madrid were behind inside two minutes when La Real striker Willian Jose coolly converted a penalty against his former side, with the Basques wrapping up the three points late on through Ruben Pardo’s close range header.
Having drawn derision in the local media for claiming that Madrid can be happy at fourth position and accept draws in some games, Solari’s team are now fifth in the table after losing at home to opponents in relegation trouble.
Asked directly at the post-game news conference whether he felt he deserved to continue in the position — just over two months after he replaced Julen Lopetegui on the Madrid bench — the former Argentina midfielder replied: “We compete to win the next game.”
With 30 after 18 games, Madrid’s points total is the club’s worst at this point of the season since 2005-06 and Solari responded with a stare after it was suggested that Solari’s public comments about being happy with the team’s form showed he did not understand the standards demanded at the Bernabeu.
“We compete to win, always compete to win,” the former Madrid player and Castilla youth team coach said. “We always fight to win. We never underestimate the competition, never underestimate anybody. The only one who has that luxury is he who has never competed. You can never question our winning character; we showed character today, despite the difficulties. Unforgivable would be to lack that.”
Solari did accept that conceding a sloppy early goal for a second consecutive game was not really good enough by his team.
“Nothing went right for us today,” he said. “The sensation is that we wanted to make up three points and we didn’t. This is football, we lost concentration at the start of the game which cost us a goal and hurt us. The same as in Villarreal [2-2 midweek], in professional football you cannot have that. Then we did everything possible to turn the result around, despite the difficulties, possible penalties, or penalties, and the sending off. We made chances but the ball just would not go in.”
Madrid’s brightest player on the night was 18-year-old Vinicius Junior, who was making his full La Liga debut. Home fans roared in disbelief when, with the score 1-0, referee Jose Luis Munuera Montero turned away a second-half penalty claim after the Brazilian starlet went sprawling over visiting goalkeeper Gero Rulli.
“Vinicius is 18 and he has been a joy for this club since he arrived, even his games with Castilla,” Solari said. “His progress has been much faster than expected. We have not spoken with the referees. There are plays that seem obvious in real time, but we believe VAR technology is there to check. We are all humans and make mistakes, but if you do not check to correct the mistake it is difficult to understand.”
The press conference ended on a sharp note, with a question about whether local fans were losing interest; the crowd on the night at the 81,000-seater stadium was a paltry 53,412.
“We will try to get them [back] hooked,” said Solari, as he got to his feet and exited.
Next for Solari and his side is Wednesday’s Copa del Rey last-16 first leg against Leganes, the suburban Madrid side who knocked their more prestigious neighbours out of the competition at the same stage last year.