Real Madrid interim coach Santi Solari said his players deserved all the praise after Wednesday’s 5-0 Champions League Group A win at Viktoria Plzen, with several on the squad saying Solari should be have the job until at least the end of the season.
The result keeps the Champions League winners in each of the last three seasons on course to make the last-16 of this year’s competition, while Solari is now the first Madrid manager since the 1950s to win each of his first three games in charge, while keeping three clean sheets.
The Argentine was asked at the postgame news conference in Plzen how he had made such a difference to a team which had taken just one point from the last five games under previous coach Julen Lopetegui.
“The players are those who have achieved this, those who go onto the pitch and play the game so seriously,” Solari responded. “We played a very serious game from start to finish, you cannot win 5-0 in the Champions League without that.
“Today the players showed their quality — we saw some really beautiful goals today. There are great players in this team. They are capable of going as far as they want. They have shown that in the past. They have no limit.
Once they play with this seriousness, commitment and wanting to score… We must keep going forward with humility, hard work and aggression in attack.”
Pressed as to whether he now saw himself likely to get the job permanently, Solari said he could only think about Saturday’s La Liga game at Celta Vigo. After that match, he must either be confirmed as Lopetegui’s replacement until the end of the season at least or return to coaching Madrid’s Castilla youth team.
“I can just think about the next game,” he said. “And it is not bad to have that philosophy. In football the most important is always the next game. Today we did very well, the players were fantastic. Now we must move on and prepare for the weekend. That is a cliche, but it is true.”
Casemiro suggested on Movistar Plus after the game that the players would be happy for Solari to now be given the job full-time.
“We are facing up with Solari as coach of Madrid,” Casemiro said. “People can talk about whether someone else is coming or not, but we are showing him respect as Madrid’s first team coach. If things are going well, why not give him a chance?”
Man of the match Karim Benzema told reporters in the stadium mixed zone that Solari had returned confidence to the team and should stay in the role until the end of the current season at least.
“Julen is a great coach but we are with Solari now, and playing with more confidence,” Benzema said. “For me he should stay until the end [of the season].”
One of the big calls Solari has made since taking over was to end a policy of rotating goalkeepers between La Liga and the Champions League, with Thibaut Courtois now starting both competitions and last year’s first choice Keylor Navas now thought to be unhappy at being benched.
“It is a decision I have taken,” Solari said. “But I want to say Keylor is a gentleman and has all my admiration as a player and all my respect as a man. He is still an important player in this squad, and much loved within the squad too.”
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