Christian Schäfer Travels To Dubai, But For Business Or For Pleasure?
Dubai, the home of the world's most ultra-modern architecture. A city of hope and prosperity. The playground of the world's wealthiest entrepreneurs and most successful celebrities. Seen by many as a place of opportunity, the 830m-tall tower known as the Burj Khalifa stood watch over the comings and goings of a hectic summer in 2023. There was no place to hide from the magnificent structure, which cast a long shadow over a portion of the city, with the beaming sun searing down on the remainder.
The residents of Dubai moved around swiftly under the sun, the men garnished in the traditional dishdash (white robe) and keffiyeh (headscarf), while the women bore the abaya (black robe) and hijab (headscarf). Their clothing masked them from the treacherous rays of the sun, but certainly did not prevent the forty-five degree Celsius temperature from bothering them.
Many tourists and foreign businessmen could be seen travelling in large packs, unaccustomed to the Arab traditions. The Europeans, in particular, suffered enormously in the sweltering heat of the Arab summer, and many carried containers of water, savouring each and every drop.
Super cars and expensive coupés passed by on the streets. Imported vehicles were on display at every corner, signifying the wealth of the city. Fancy restaurants and upper-brand shops lined the streets, with extravagant displays. However, nobody stopped to admire these displays. They were nothing but normal in place like this.
One person who did feel out of place in this environment was Christian Schäfer. The German had recently moved back to his home in Dresden following a successful one-year spell as Brazil manager, but was on the move once more in search of his next job opportunity. However, he did not believe for a single second that he would be dragged across the globe, once again, to attend an interview, especially one he did not even apply for but was, in fact, offered with great intent from the owners.
Schäfer was dressed smartly this time. In a place like this and in an interview of this importance, a floral shirt and baggy shorts would not suffice. His suit was brand new, straight from a tailor in Dubai itself. A clean black tie split his shirt in two, and the wooden soles of his dress shoes clicked and clacked as he strode through the streets of Dubai towards his destination.
A sense of déjà vu overcame Schäfer as he entered a café. Little over a year after he met with Romário and Ronaldo to discuss the possibility of him taking the job as Brazil coach, he was here in Dubai doing the same thing but with two different people and with a much bigger job in mind. A French waiter rushed towards him upon arrival and greeted him with eager anticipation. He beckoned the German towards a table on the café's balcony.
The table was almost at capacity, with two men already seated. Much like Romário and Ronaldo, these two were of great standing in football. One man had played over 450 games as a striker for Real Madrid, and 69 times for Spain, winning countless league titles on the way. The other was a legendary striker of Ajax and AC MIlan, while making 58 appearances for the Netherlands. His European Cup and European Championship triumphs were not ones to mock.
Schäfer felt nervous. He had held conversation with legendary football players before, but these two individuals were among the most powerful in football. Politically speaking, they had the ability to make or break a manager's reputation with no more than a few words. As Schäfer stood in front of them, he nervously smiled at the legendary Emilio Butragueño, chairman of Real Madrid, and Marco van Basten, Real Madrid's assistant manager, and interim manager at the time.
The pair stood and greeted Der Professor with a European politeness, exchanging words of gratitude for the German's long and tedious travel from home. The trio sat down around the table, and Schäfer looked around him and took in his surroundings. The balcony of the café overlooked the Marina Beach in Dubai, which was filled with tourists taking in the sun and playing volleyball on the sand.
Emilio Butragueño:"Christian, would you like a drink?"
Christian Schäfer:"Agua sin gas, por favor."
Emilio Butragueño:"Ah, so you do have some Spanish in you after all!"
Christian Schäfer:"I'm afraid that phrase does take up most of my vocabulary."
Emilio beckoned towards a waiter who rushed over to the table. The Real Madrid chairman whispered to him before sending him away. Within seconds, the waiter returned with a cool bottle of mineral water and a class filled to the brim with ice, which had already begun melting in the sun. He placed the beverage in front of Schäfer, who acknowledged and thanked him, before returning to his other duties in the café.
Emilio Butragueño:"Okay, let's get down to business. You are among our primary targets to fill the vacant managerial position at the club. We see you as a long-term successor to Rafa Benítez, who had a successful eight-year spell at the club before retiring from football. While we are delighted to be the reigning champions of the Champions League at the minute, we want to see the club take another step forward and become dominant in all areas. For this to happen, we need to be able to supply ourselves with some home-grown talent. We have a number of players in the senior squad who have come from our academy, including current goalkeeper Juan Carlos Triviño, but we want to see some more youth in the squad."
Marco van Basten:"Another issue which must be considered is Cristiano Ronaldo's impending retirement. He plans to retire after the coming season and will certainly leave an enormous gap to fill. We will need to look towards finding a suitable successor for his place in the team, and a successor to take up the mantle of being captain of Real Madrid. Currently, James Rodríguez is the vice-captain and would probably be the ideal successor for Ronaldo as captain, but he is thirty-two years old himself and we do not know how long he will stay on at the club as a first-team regular."
Emilio Butragueño:"I suppose what we want to see is a manager who is capable of fazing out players from the squad and bringing in new faces without too much disturbance to the performances of the squad. Your track record at Dynamo Dresden and at Brazil, Christian, suggests that you can accomplish this, and this is a contributing factor to our decision to offer you this interview."
Christian Schäfer:"Yes, this is something I have had to do in the past and I can certainly tell you that it is not easy to get right. At Dynamo, we were constantly facing new challenges every single season and so new players were coming in to the squad to improve the side constantly. At Brazil, new players emerged who I felt would strengthen the squad ahead of the Copa América, and they certainly made an impact when they came in. I feel that these experiences have given me the skills required to develop the squad at Real Madrid.
As for Cristiano, nobody could possibly replace what he has done for the club. He has been one of the best football players in history and will certainly go down as one of the greats. I don't think any other player in the world could outshine his work and so filling the gap left by him would certainly prove to be difficult. However, we can fill the void. Not every replacement has to be as good as, or better than, the original. All that needs to be done is for us to ensure that a top-class player will be playing in his position after this season. Whether that player comes from the club's academy, or from elsewhere, it does not matter to me."
Marco van Basten:"While we do want to see instant success this season, what would your long-term vision for the club be, should you take charge?
Christian Schäfer:"A long time ago, real Madrid formed a side known as the 'Yé-yé', made up entirely of Spanish players. This team won nine La Liga titles and a European Cup in a spell of domination. Some forty years later, the 'Galácticos' were the face of Real Madrid. These were big-name players, global superstars. They were far from being an all-Spanish outfit, but they combined a mixture of cultural balance and ability to make Real Madrid a truly fearsome side. What I envision for Real Madrid is something in between. The club needs young, homegrown talent and a few foreign stars in the middle. To conquer football, the club needs a balance in approach. That is my vision."
Emilio Butragueño:"To be totally honest, Christian, I love your managerial style. I believe that you have the ability to lead any team to glory. But my only issue is that you do not speak Spanish, which could prove to be very difficult when it comes to media-interaction."
Christian Schäfer:"I understand why my lack of Spanish may be of concern, but I can assure you that it would not hinder my ability to manage the team. I did not speak a single word of Portuguese when I arrived in Brazil a year ago. Leaving there, with a Copa América title under my belt, I would not consider myself to be fluent in the language. Give me time here, and I will pick up Spanish very quickly, I promise you that much. Give me the opportunity to manage this wonderful football club, and I will not let you down."
Emilio Butragueño:"Marco, you were right. This man has great passion. Passion is important when working in football, Christian. Sometimes a manager loses his way, but passion always guides him in the right direction. If you would join us on our quest for glory, I would like to welcome you on board as the new manager of Real Madrid. The potential contract which we faxed to you last week will be available to sign in one week from now. You have one week to make your way to the Santiago Bernabéu to sign the papers and meet the press, should you agree to take the job."
Christian Schäfer:"It would be my pleasure."
Emilio Butragueño:"Well then that is that! A new chapter begins at Real Madrid. I wish you all the best in your endeavours at the club and I hope you can bring much success during your time with us. Hala Madrid!"
German-Born Christian Schäfer Has Been Confirmed As The New Real Madrid Manager
Real Madrid today confirmed that German-born manager Christian Schäfer has signed a four-year deal with the club. Der Professor, as he is commonly known as, will receive a wage of €40,000 per week during his time with the current holders of the UEFA Champions League.
Schäfer spent seven years at German club Dynamo Dresden, guiding them from the third division to three back-to-back Bundesliga titles, as well as a UEFA Champions League victory in his final game in charge. Last summer, Schäfer left his role at Dynamo to become the manager of the Brazil national team. In his one year in South America, Schäfer lead his side to fourteen wins in fourteen games. His 100% win record culminated with a Copa América victory, the country's first major trophy in sixteen years.
Christian, congratulations on signing for Real Madrid. How excited are you by this role?
Christian Schäfer:"To become manager of Real Madrid is one of the greatest honours a person in my occupation can achieve. They are, by far, the most successful football club in Europe, and certainly one of the most successful clubs in the world, alongside Corinthians and Santos of Brazil. This is certainly the pinnacle of my career, in terms of the reputation of my job, and one I will be sure to enjoy over my time here in Madrid."
You have some great title-winning experience at Dynamo Dresden and Brazil. Do you feel this will serve you well in your new job?
Christian Schäfer:"Yeah, I certainly do. I've been fortunate enough to win quite a few trophies in the eight years which I have been a manager for, and they have given me a good experience of the pressure involved in major competitions. Managing Real Madrid will provide new and exciting experiences for me, but I can take what I have learned during my time in Germany, and in Brazil, and use these skills to my advantage. After all, football is still a game of eleven versus eleven on the pitch, nothing changes in that regard."
From Dynamo to Brazil, we have seen some variation in your tactical approach. What can we expect to see from your Real Madrid team in the coming months?
Christian Schäfer:"First and foremost, our priority will be to win games. Real Madrid is a magnificent club with great history and world-class players, and we will certainly be expected to win every single game we play. So, tactically, we will approach each game in the way we feel will give us the best chance of succeeding. It does not matter too much how we play as long as we get results. If we can play attractive, attacking football on the way, that would be a bonus, but it is not a priority."
As you said, Real Madrid is a club with world-class players. What do you make of the current side?
Christian Schäfer:"It is a team with great experience and with great ability. It has a brilliant mixture of young players, ready to make the breakthrough, and veteran title-winners, who can lead the club. Players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodríguez, Alessandro Florenzi, Toni Kroos, Anthony Martial, these are players of tremendous quality, and a pedigree to match. I cannot speak much more about the squad until I get a first-hand look at their abilities in training. Once that has happened, I can speak about their capabilities fully."
What are your ambitions for this season?
Christian Schäfer:"The ambitions of Real Madrid are always to win, mine are no different. Rafael Benítez, a true legend of Real Madrid, guided the team to Champions League success last term. As a result, we will be competing in the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup this season. We hope to be victorious in both competitions, bringing back some silverware early on in the season. As well as that, it is important that we battle to regain the Liga BBVA title. Barcelona will obviously be our main opposition in the league, and I look forward to competing against Joachim Löw's team. As for Europe, we will look to win Champions League number thirteen. Hopefully we can make this a reality."
Final question, Christian. What are your long-term objectives for Real Madrid?
Christian Schäfer:"The chairman brought me in to form a squad of players of tremendous quality, with a high proportion of this squad being home-grown. I will be looking to oversee the new generation of Real Madrid players come through the academy and break in to the first team. In recent years, players such as Juan Carlos Triviño (GK), Felipe Escolar (ST), José Ramón Cabezas (AML), Carlos Jiménez (ST) and Felipe (AMC) have come in to the senior squad from the academy, and we will be looking to add more numbers.
It is important that, in the mean time, we are winning trophies and maintaining our status as Europe's top club. For this to happen, we must find a balance of playing new, younger players and using the more experienced ones. The current stock of players at the club will be important for the future stock of players to come in and succeed. My duty at this club is to find the perfect balance so that both the present and the future of Real Madrid can be as successful as possible."
Name: Real Madrid Club de Fútbol Location: Madrid, Spain Nicknames: Los Blancos, Los Meringues, Los Vikingos Founded: 1902 Estimated Value: €1.58B (Loan Debt: €88M)
Chairman: Emilio Butragueño Managing Directors: Pedro Gil, Álvaro Silva, Manolo González, Carlos López Manager: Christian Schäfer Assistant Manager: Marco van Basten Captain: Cristiano Ronaldo Vice Captain: James Rodríguez
Stadium: Santiago Bernabéu Location: Madrid, Spain Capacity: 80,354 All-Seater Under Soil Heating: Yes Roof: No Surface: Grass (Perfect Condition)
Corporate Facilities: Top Training Facilities: Excellent Youth Facilities: Excellent Junior Coaching: Excellent Youth Recruitment: Extensive
UEFA Champions Leaguex12 UEFA Europa Leaguex2 Liga BBVAx36 Copa del Rayx21 FIFA Club World Cupx2 UEFA Super Cupx2 Supercopa de Españax13 Intercontinental Cupx3 (Defunct Competition) Spanish League Cupx1 (Defunct Competition) Total Trophies: 92
Raúl - Player (1994-2010) Zinedine Zidane - Player (2001-2006), Staff Member (2011-2016) Cristiano Ronaldo - Player (2009-) Alfredo Di Stéfano - Player (1953-1964), Manager (1982-1984, 1990-1991) Ferenc Puskás - Player (1958-1966) Juanito - Player (1977-1987) Miguel Muñoz - Player (1948-1958), Manager (1959, 1960-1974) Raphaël Varane - Player (2011-) Sergio Ramos - Player (2005-2023) Karim Benzema - Player (2009-2021) Marcelo - Player (2006-2021) James Rodríguez - Player (2014-) Mateo Kovacic - Player (2015-) Rafa Benítez - Player (1975-1981), Manager (2015-2023)
Last Five Seasons
2022/2023: Liga BBVA: 4th UEFA Champions League: Winners Copa del Ray: Runners-Up Supercopa de España: Winners
2021/2022: Liga BBVA: 1st UEFA Champions League: 1st Knockout Round Copa del Ray: Semi-Finals
2020/2021: Liga BBVA: 2nd UEFA Champions League: Quarter-Finals Copa del Ray: Runners-Up Supercopa de España: Winners
2019/2020: Liga BBVA: 2nd UEFA Champions League: Semi-Finals Copa del Ray: Winners Supercopa de España: Winners
2018/2019: Liga BBVA: 1st UEFA Champions League: Semi-Finals Copa del Ray: Runners-Up Supercopa de España: Winners
Christian Schäfer Met With Assistant Manager Marco van Basten For The First Time
The view was spectacular. Following the press-conference announcing my signing with Real Madrid, a tour of Santiago Bernabéu ensued. I was left in the directors' box, overlooking the marvelous playing field. The stands were empty but I could hear the roar of the Madridistas. There was not match to be played but I could feel the atmosphere of many famous victories of the past for Los Blancos coming from the very soil itself. The memories of Real Madrid's greatest moments had seeped into the hallowed turf.
I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly, filling my lungs with the air of the Santiago Bernabéu. A warmth grew inside my chest and spread across my body, as if a flame had ignited inside my heart. It was the passion of the grounds. Even during the summer months, when no competitive football was to be played, the air of the stadium was full of this same passion.
I exhaled slowly and opened my eyes. I turned to my left, where Marco van Basten was standing in the entrance to the box. An ear-to-ear smile split his face. He entered the box, gazing out at the lush green grass below us.
"Christian, I sit in the dug-outs down there maybe thirty times a season, and the spell of the Bernabéu never loses its grasp on me. There is something magical about this place, an immortality ingrained in the very foundation of the stadium. Your first match here as manager will be special. Not many managers are blessed with the opportunity to compete in El Clásico, especially in their first home game as manager of a club, but you can count yourself very lucky. When the Madridistas come out in force, you will have an entire army behind you. It certainly will be the clash of the titans."
I couldn't help but smile at the Dutchman. He was like a kid, excited about going to see his favourite team playing. Marco's eyes glistened with wonder, and I couldn't help but feel that my eyes were doing the same while witnessing his amazement.
"Marco, I feel a special connection with this place. I feel a calming serenity here, this is my paradise. Many great moments have taken place here, and now I have the opportunity to witness them first hand. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to manage this magnificent football club, and I will not let the people down."
Marco turned his back to the pitch and placed his arms behind his back, giving me his full attention. He stood like a soldier in front of his commander; feet together, back in fine posture, and facing to the front.
"I am looking forward to working with you during your time at Real Madrid. My first order of business is to present to you a report on the squad available to you, as well as the coaching staff. You will be able to find this report on your desk in your new office tomorrow morning. There are a few players who are currently transfer listed and are expecting to leave this summer. Tomorrow you can decide whether to organise transfers for these players yourself, or pass this duty on to somebody else."
"That is excellent, Marco. You've been of great assistance already and I look forward to working alongside you here. I envisage a bright future for us and I believe that we can bring a number of trophies home."
An essence of empathy crept across Marco's face, as he prepared to deliver ill tidings.He stiffened up and sighed loudly before speaking once more.
"You should also know that the board have made a request regarding transfer dealings. They have presented us a shortlist of five players who they would like to see join the club this summer, and you must sign two of these players. This shortlist will also be at your desk tomorrow morning. I'm afraid you do not have a choice in this matter, but that is the only desire of the board."
I nodded understandingly. Marco had no control over the matter. Emilio Butragueño and his board of directors were responsible for this decision. I was not too disappointed, however. For the board to set a task of signing at least two players from a list of five, presumably world-class players at that, a large transfer budget must have been available. A large budget was exactly what I needed to reshape the squad in my design.
"I had suspected as much. While I would obviously rather to have full control over transfers, I respect the board's decision and I will co-operate with them to bring two of their five designated targets to the club this summer."
Relief replaced empathy and Marco relaxed once more. The ill tidings were over, for now.
"We head away for a brief tour of the US on the 7th August, in one week from now. We will play friendlies against Chicago Fire and FC Dallas before returning to compete in the UEFA Super Cup against Europa League winners Leicester. I suggest you have a team sheet and tactical set-up prepared for this Super Cup game before we depart for the US so as we can prepare the players for our opening game of the season."
My face lit up with excitement. A tour abroad was the perfect opportunity to get to know my new players and to begin bonding with them ahead of the new season. As well as that, Real Madrid had a huge fan-base in the US and the prospect of playing in front of them excited me.
"I have something in mind, but we will have to wait and see if the players take to my intended philosophies. If all goes to plan during our mini-tour of the US, we should be set to win the Super Cup against Leicester, as we are certainly expected to."
Marco began pacing the room. Having already shown a huge range of emotions on his face in the previous minutes, another one appeared. This time, Marco looked stern and serious.
"Christian, the season ahead will be difficult. The board demand instant success in the league and if we fail to show a true title challenge, they may look to move you on in an instant. However, European success would certainly soften the mood should we concede the league to Barcelona."
I nodded once more. The pressures of the job were something I had expected, and Marco confirmed by suspicions.
"I understand the expectations associated with my new role. It would have been foolish to ignore them when considering the job offer. Irrespective of the board's expectations, I believe that we can push for success in all competitions and that is certainly my objective for this season."
"Excellent. Christian, one last thing. Now that you are manager of Real Madrid, you will constantly be under the spotlight of the media. Every little aspect of your life will be eaten up by the press. They will look for every opportunity to present the latest 'scandal' to the public. Heed my warning, Christian, the press are vultures."
"I will remain professional and endeavour to not concede defeat to the media, Marco, you have my word."
At that, we said our goodbyes and departed the box. Marco went in search of the club's head physio, Vítor Pamenta, who was involved in a lecture at the stadium, and I made my way to the staff exit.
My car was parked outside and I sat in the driver's seat and stared out in to the sun for a while. My first day as Real Madrid manager was complete and the prospect of my future at the club well and truly excited me.
I drove away in to the sun, towards my new residence in Salamanca, a district in the north-east of Madrid. New hope had descended on me, as I whistled to a Spanish a pop song which played on the radio.
Prior to my arrival at the club, a whole month of the transfer window had passed. This meant that a number of transfers had already been made. A number of players were released on free transfers, most notably Keylor Navas and Raúl De Tomás. French right back Adrien Lambert departed for United for a fee of €34.5M. One signing was made, with youngster Gadiel Honoré joining from Olympique Lyonnais for a fee of €1.4M.
7. Cristiano Ronaldo (C) - 38 - M(L), AM(RLC), ST(C) - - /
21. Alan Manrique - 22 - M/AM(L) - - /
12. Sofiane Boufal - 29 - M/AM(RL) - - /
-. José Ramón Cabezas - 21 - M/AM(L) - - / (On loan at Celta de Vigo)
9. Anthony Martial - 27 - AM(L), ST(C) - - /
-. Carlos Jiménez - 22 - ST(C) - - /
-. Alexandre Garnier - 21 - ST(C) - - / - (On Loan At ACF Fiorentina)
19. Diego Rolan - 30 - AM(R), ST(C) - - /
-. Felipe Escolar - 20 - ST(C) - - /
-. Bilal Nouri - 20 - ST(C) - - /
-. Gadiel Honoré - 16 - ST(C) - - /
Senior Coaching Staff
Real Madrid Castilla Star Players
No. Name - Age - Position - Nationality - CA/PA
-. Damien Robert - 22 - AMR/AML - - /
-. Alejandro Guana - 21 - MC - - / (On Loan At Independiente)
-. Greivin Herrera - 21 - DM/MC - - /
Real Madrid Castilla U19s Star Players
No. Name - Age - Position - Nationality - CA/PA
-. Juan Torres - 18 - DC - - /
-. Paulinho - 18 - ST - - /
34. Gianluca Scalzo - 18 - DM - - /
30. Emmanuel Abdul Razak - 18 - ST - - /
35. Albert Jacobs - 18 - ST - - /
We have 34 players in the senior squad, which is far too many for any team to have. I will be looking to sell at least five or six of these players, while a few players may be moved to Castilla, and Honoré to the U19s.
We only have one senior goalkeeper. Even though he could already be considered a top goalkeeper at 20 yrs of age, another goalkeeper is needed and we will need to look at bringing in either a goalkeeper to deputise for him, or to contest the starting spot with him.
I fail to see why Rafa had four right-backs in his senior squad. One or two will need to move on this season.
The squad lacks a natural defensive midfielder. Kroos and Pasalic can fill in there, but a natural ball-winner is required. Gianluca Scalzo from the U19s could potentially fill in here.
Our weakest area is our wide players. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gérson are the only players of real quality here, and Ronaldo is 38 yrs old and retiring after this season. It may be worth investing in top wide-playing talent.
We have 7 strikers. We don't need 7 strikers. A number of these players will either be sold, or moved to Castilla/U19s.
There are quite a few talented players in Castilla/U19s. Once a number of players have been sold from the senior squad, I will look to see if I can bring some of these talents in to the senior squad.