You would be forgiven for thinking that press conferences should be easy for Bernd Schuster these days. Not a bit of it. "I'm not getting involved in answering those kind of ridiculous questions," he scowled at reporters after
seeing his Real Madrid side miraculously avoid a thrashing at the hands of Getafe. When the journalist insisted, Schuster interrupted "I know what you are doing. I saw it last year. Don't think I'm falling into your trap."
The pressure on the latest coach to take the reigns at the Bernabeu is already showing. "Things are not the same here as when I was a player," he grumbled to German TV two weeks ago. And it wasn't Schuster complaining that he is the only one who still has a moustache. "There is not enough information, everyone just has an opinion."
Schuster may try to deflect attention onto others, but his Real Madrid side have underperformed in four of the six league games to date, and the knives are already out.
The German coach should have realised he was on a hiding to nothing when he accepted the job. In a move that would have made Florentino Perez puff out his chest with pride, Ramon Calderon decided that winning the league last season wasn't enough. It needed to be done in style. Last season's adrenaline-charged title run-in may have been compulsive viewing, and yes, those comebacks were fantastic. But Real Madrid were awful for six months,
and attacking football simply isn't in Fabio Capello's vocabulary. A change was needed, according to the club's president.
And so it was that Bernd Schuster was deemed the man to exorcise the memory of two holding midfielders, Beckham and other fallen stars, Capello's cardigans, frowns and glasses, and bring attractive football back to the club. It was a tall order, but it's not as if the German lacks the ego to take on the challenge.
"He reminds me of a certain blond midfielder who used to hit it like that," Schuster smirked as he commented on Wesley Sneijder's prodigious freekick against Villarreal a few weeks back, in glowing reference to himself.
After a disastrous preseason and even more catastrophic defeat in the Supercup to Sevilla, Real Madrid confounded the critics with a sensational start to the new campaign. A derby win over Atletico on day one was followed by a 5-0 demolition of Villarreal. Since that evening at the Madrigal, however, the quality of the performances has been in sharp decline. Ruud Van Nistelrooy complained last week that "everybody expects us to win each game 5-0 after
Villarreal," but it is not just the lack of goals that have piled on the pressure in Madrid.
"Getafe lost count of how many chances they had to score," wrote Mundo Deportivo after Michael Laudrup's team somehow failed to score on Sunday. Needless to say, the journalists didn't lose count. Getafe, this only their fourth season ever in the first division, had 26 shots on goal. They could probably be still playing and they wouldn't have scored, so poor is their finishing, but the sheer number of chances they created speaks volumes about Real Madrid's problems. "We mustn't allow teams to think they can beat us easily," repeated Schuster as his mantra early on in the season. Yet the German is looking for the recipe to make that happen. Six games in to the league, two
recently-promoted teams have made life embarrassingly hard for Schuster's men, while two sides in the relegation zone have only failed to take all three points because of the woodwork and bad luck.
"You can argue about how we are playing right now," said a morose Schuster after the Getafe match, "but the bottom line is that we are winning games."
Worryingly for Schuster, Capello used to say much the same thing.
"This team is nothing like Capello's" scoffed Casillas, who furthered his reputation in Spain as 'Saint Iker' with his heroics in goal. "We have brought in a lot of new players and it will take time for us to gel."
The problem is, how long does Bernd have? Capello was brought in to win, which he did. Schuster has to win, and play well. He is winning, but not playing well. The freak result against Villarreal is now a distant memory, and Madrid need to start playing like champions pronto if Christmas sees Bernd at the Bernabeu.