Unfinished business for Real as they set off on tour
Real Madrid embark on an exhausting
two-week promotional tour of the U.S. and Asia on Thursday with a stack
of unfinished business to conclude before the Spanish season begins next
Leading players Luis Figo, Guti and Michael Owen will all be on board
the plane bound for the first stop in Chicago, but all three remain
unclear about their prospects of staying at the Bernabeu.
Portugal midfielder Figo was expected to drop out of the tour in order
to sign for either Inter Milan or Liverpool but Real are reported to be
holding out for an improved offer for the 32-year-old who still has a
year to run on his contract.
The former World and European Player of the Year could find himself
jetting back to Europe midway through the tour if the talks are finally
Guti, who has grown increasingly weary of being passed over in favour of
new recruits from abroad, finally looks to be serious about his threat
to leave the club he joined as a boy.
He is still waiting for a concrete offer from suitors Tottenham Hotspur,
Everton, Atletico Madrid or Sevilla.
Owen, on the other hand, has made it clear on numerous occasions that he
wants to stay at Real.
Real, however, appear to be spending more energy on trying to prise
Brazilian youngster Robinho from Santos than reassuring the England
striker he still features in their long-term plans.
If Robinho does make the move to Spain it could trigger Owen's return to
the Premier League as the former Liverpool player is anxious to get
regular games with the World Cup looming at the end of the season.
Three members of the first-team squad will, however, remain in Madrid
while their colleagues travel.
Defenders Walter Samuel and Jonathan Woodgate are receiving treatment on
their respective injuries, while reserve striker Javier Portillo is
expected to join Malaga.
Samuel, who joined Real from AS Roma at the start of last season, was
thought to be on his way out but the club appears to have had second
thoughts given the doubts over Woodgate's fitness after spending 15
months on the sidelines.
Club president Florentino Perez moved to try and quash rumours of
confusion and lack of motivation amongst players whose future is in the
balance by holding a meeting with the whole squad prior to their
Captain Raul threw his weight behind Perez on Wednesday.
"We have suffered a lot during the last two seasons," he said. "We know
that we have to be up there fighting for every trophy and we will only
be successful if we combine hard work and sacrifice and remain united as
The success of Real's "World Tour" is guaranteed with the club expected
to bank 21 million euros ($25.6 million) for a trip taking in the U.S.,
China, Japan and Thailand.
But Perez faces a tougher job trying to equal that success on the pitch
as he looks to placate fans exasperated at the club's failure to win a
major trophy in the last two seasons.