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Conte v Ramos: Why Real Madrid captain won't scare off Florentino's favourite

COMMENT: So that's it? It's over? Antonio Conte and Real Madrid? One nasty warning from the captain and Conte bottles it...?

...give us a break. You're telling us the man who stared down Diego Costa. Who told him face-to-face - and on text - to go forth and multiply. The same who banished David Luiz, the Brazil captain, to the stands. You're really trying to sell the idea that he's been scared off the job by Sergio Ramos? As we said, give us a break.

"We won everything with coaches you already know, you do not have to name them," snapped Ramos this week when asked about the Conte speculation. "The management of the dressing room is much more important than technical knowledge in a coach."

You have give it to Ramos. It takes stones to come out with something like that. To mark Conte's card. Even after the humiliation at Barcelona. Even after the sacking of Julen Lopetegui. To think he can still influence the next appointment - and so publicly - really does take something...

But there was also the private message. The direct one. Straight to the president, Florentino Perez. If the captain was so willing to go public, amid all the chaos of Sunday's El Clasico, about his Conte misgivings, you can just imagine what's since been said behind closed doors.

But for all the bravado, the Conte candidacy is still very much alive. Some ringing around this week confirmed as much. Yes, in today's football, we want it all done yesterday. And in Real Madrid's case. Especially when in crisis. Things go into hyperdrive.

But this column has learned, if Conte wants the job. And he does. It won't be he who bottles it. But more on that later...

As the Italian's brother conceded last week, he remains 'linked' to Chelsea. That payoff he is demanding is still being negotiated.

"...it is clear that my brother no longer has any ties with Chelsea after the firing of July," so said Daniele Conti 48 hours before Lopetegui's dismissal. "Now we await the outcome of the case: lawyers are at work."

So it was never going to be the case of Conte walking straight into the Real dugout. There's still anger over the manner of his dismissal by Chelsea - and a determination to get what he believes is his.

But they have spoken. Conte and Florentino. With talks reaching as far as staffing and January transfer plans. We can confirm Conte has identified a new centre-half signing as a priority. Are you watching Sergio...?

Florentino has other candidates. But it is Conte he has so far gone furthest down the road with. However, he could yet change his mind - which is what Ramos is counting on.

Lopetegui was a players' appointment. A Ramos 'approved' appointment. The approach from Florentino being the former Spain coach would be a smooth transition from the Zinedine Zidane era.

Like the Frenchman, Lopetegui was liked - appreciated - by the dressing room. Indeed, even in his final days, Lopetegui actually enjoyed more support amongst the players than Zizou towards the end of last season.

And this is why Florentino went with him. The president was counting on Ramos and his teammates to help Lopetegui bed in his ideas with a minimum of push back. He was especially close to the Spanish contingent, for obvious reasons, and it was hoped they'd go beyond the call for their new boss.

Instead, they fell way, way short. Failing miserably. That clique. The ones constantly moaning amongst themselves last season about Zidane and the favouring of Cristiano Ronaldo in his team selection. They had their chance. And blew it. We even had word this week that one of the instigators, Isco, has drawn internal criticism over his current weight. The same accusation also leveled at Marcelo. It's significant among the first decisions made by caretaker coach Santiago Solari was to promote Zidane's former fitness chief Antonio Pintus after he'd been sidelined by Lopetegui.

To say the players let down Lopetegui is beyond an understatement. As his old Porto president, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, raised just yesterday, how does he recover from this? Sacked by Spain. Sacked by Real Madrid. And inside four months. Where to from here? Well, for the moment, it's not in Europe. Mexican clubs are in touch. But it's difficult to see how Lopetegui will ever get back to the level he was enjoying just last week.

But this isn't about attitude. The players at Real didn't deliberately seek to get Lopetegui fired. As we warned previously, they were simply shown up. Offered the opportunity to step out from under Ronaldo's shadow, they withered. A poor Real performance would always draw attention to Ronaldo's form. But not anymore. And with the spotlight, that they claimed they could handle, now on them, the players are fast realising the value of Juventus' new hero off the pitch as well as on it.

Will Conte transform Karim Benzema into Kylian Mbappe? No. Will he get Isco to Eden Hazard's level? Unlikely. But he will get Real organised. Disciplined. It won't be fun. Many won't like it. But they will start winning.

Zidane and Ronaldo was lightening in a bottle. Trying to replicate that with Lopetegui and Ramos was never likely to work. The players had their chance - and have left Lopetegui's career in near ruin.

Florentino needs to ignore the locker room and do what's right by the club. He needs a winner. And he's talking to the right man. From Italy to England - and now imminently to Spain. Conte has proved himself a collector of silverware.

At this point in their history, no matter the players' opinion, Real Madrid need Antonio Conte.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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