High stakes as Argentina look to consolidate position
BUENOS AIRES Winning three precious points with a 1-0 victory over Chile was only half the battle for Argentine this month to get their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.
MADRID Real Madrid hired Jose Mourinho because he gets results and gets them quickly but the Portuguese has been forced to explain in recent weeks why he doesn't give more opportunities to graduates from the club's academy.
Mourinho, whose expensively assembled side play at Levante in La Liga on Sunday, has responded to the criticism by pointing out that it is useless to promote academy graduates if buying in players is more effective over the short term.
He has little sympathy with romantics who would like to see more homegrown players on the pitch alongside captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas and fullback Alvaro Arbeloa, currently the only regular starters from the club's academy, even though Arbeloa's skills were honed by a spell at Liverpool.
The controversy highlights a major difference between Real and arch rivals Barcelona, whose own youth school continues to feed the first team squad after producing the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique in recent years.
Real have seen some of their brightest prospects, including Juan Mata, Roberto Soldado and Alvaro Negredo, move on to seek more playing time elsewhere.
"For me, the most important thing is to win and it seems to me that goes for the Madrid fans as well," Mourinho told a news conference last week.
The Portuguese went on to note that the teams for Real's three most-recent Champions League triumphs contained two academy graduates in 1998, two in 2000 and only one in 2002.
Real's big-spending president Florentino Perez has repeatedly insisted the club's academy is a priority and says he wants to see a mixture of homegrown players and outside talent in the squad.
Presiding over the opening of a new residence for youth recruits at the Valdebebas training ground on Monday, the construction magnate did not address the debate over Mourinho's policies but his obsession with winning a 10th European crown means he is likely to back the Portuguese whatever tactics he decides to deploy.
The former Chelsea manager has indicated he would like to coach in England again when his work at Real is done and quickly delivering another European title and burnishing his own CV in the process will take precedence over nurturing players from the B team.
Arbeloa, who has become a fixture in the team after returning from England, backed his coach after Tuesday's 2-2 Champions League draw with Borussia Dortmund.
"At Real Madrid the most important thing is to win," the Spain international told reporters.
"The fans want to see academy graduates but they have to be good enough," he added.
"The Real Madrid players are the best in the world and that means the youth players have to be as good as a Mesut Ozil, a Pepe or a Cristiano Ronaldo.
"Madrid fans want their team to be up there fighting and it's not enough to use 10 academy players and finish third."
La Liga leaders Barca will have a team full of home talent when they travel to play Real Mallorca on Sunday after suffering only their second defeat in all competitions this season on Wednesday.
Tito Vilanova's side, who are three points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid with Real five further back in third, fell 2-1 at Celtic in Champions League Group G, a result which sparked wild celebrations in Glasgow.
Despite the surprise reverse, there was some good news for Vilanova, who has been hit recently with a series of injuries to defenders, when centre back Gerard Pique came on as a substitute after recovering from a foot injury.
Atletico, who continue the defence of their Europa League title at Academica later on Thursday, are at home to city rivals Getafe on Sunday.
(Editing by Mike Collett)
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