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Di Stefano criticises lack of planning at Real Madrid

By Staff
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MADRID, May 3 (Reuters) Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano has criticised the club for its lack of long-term planning and an obsession with buying new players.

The 79-year-old Argentine, who steered Real Madrid to five consecutive European Cups between 1956 and 1960, said the club's policies had undermined team spirit and affected performance.

"It's amazing how many players they have been buying and selling," he told reporters yesterday after being presented with a gold medal by the regional government of Madrid in recognition of his achievements.

"You can't run a football club as if it was a supermarket." Real spent around 113.9 million dollars on new players prior to the start of last season, but it has not prevented the club from ending a third campaign in succession without a major trophy, its worst run of form in over 50 years.

Spanish media have been reporting that the club is planning another spending spree in an attempt to revive its fortunes, but Di Stefano said it would be a mistake to try and buy their way out of trouble.

"We have to try and improve next year," said Di Stefano. "We have to work with the youth team players first... we have to persevere and try to get better." "There are some great players at Real but they have to work as a team... in football what counts is team spirit. It isn't an individual sport like boxing or tennis." Di Stefano added that he was saddened by Zinedine Zidane's recent announcement that he would be retiring at the end of the season.

"It's a shame (that Zidane will be retiring). He's the best player to have graced the pitch in a very long time. He is a footballing genius." But he said that if reports that the club was trying to buy Arsenal striker Thierry Henry were true then it was another example of poor planning.

"We had the chance to buy him (Henry) eight years ago and they didn't want him. And now he's going to come here when he's eight years older while at the same time they are getting rid of Zidane at the age of 33? I don't understand any of it." Florentino Perez, the architect of Real's policy of buying big-name players in order to boost the club's profile, quit as president at the en+d of February and his successor Fernando Martin was forced to resign last month.

Real now have a provisional president in Luis Gomez-Montejano who will oversee the club until a presidential election is called at the end of the season.

Real are in third place in the Primera Liga, two points behind Valencia with three games left to play.

REUTERS PG PM1550

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