Spanish coach José Antonio Camacho turned his back on Real Madrid for the second time in his managerial career when he tendered his resignation to club president Florentino Pérez on Sunday. The decision by the club's directors the following day to formally accept the offer has raised the inevitable question: has the hottest job in football management become just too hot to handle?

Sunday was not the first time that Camacho had walked out on Real Madrid. The first bitter separation came in the summer of 1998, when the straight-talking Spaniard parted company just 23 days into his tenure after falling out with then president Lorenzo Sanz over back-room staff. Sunday's decision again confirmed Camacho's reputation as a forceful, opinionated individual with a restless streak.

After the frustrations of his initial sojourn at the Bernabéu, Camacho was offered the job of replacing Javier Clemente as Spain's national team coach. With Camacho at the helm, Spain enjoyed a successful run in the qualifiers for Euro 2000 only to flatter to deceive once again on the biggest stage. It fell to France to eliminate them from European Championship and two years later they suffered an even bigger disappointment by losing out to Korea on penalties in the quarter-finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™.

Despite the disappointment of their elimination, the coach was spared much of the criticism and continued in the job until he decided it was the end of an era and time to move on. Camacho's sudden decision to leave the national side was as surprising to Spanish supporters as his departures from the Bernabéu have been for Real fans.

Frustrated ambitions

"Real Madrid are an unstoppable side," Camacho said when he arrived at the club last May. Here was a man with great dreams for the club he loyally served as a defender for 16 years. Now though, it seems those dreams will forever be unfulfilled as Camacho, one of the best wing backs of his time, could find no way of harnessing the formidable array of talent in Madrid's dressing room.


British Real Madrid's David Beckham (C) kicks the ball watched by his coach Jose Antonio Camacho (background) during a training practice session held at the Sports city in Las Rozas, near Madrid. 04 August 2004.
"This team's productivity is just not good enough, and I can't see it improving with me on the bench. I have my own way of doing things, of working, of training, but I don't see the extension of that on the field, nor do I see how things will improve," the Spaniard said during the press conference where he officially announced his departure. In a very frank exchange with journalists, Camacho also admitted that he did not feel capable of putting things right at Madrid in the near future, and, being a man of principle, preferred to leave the club now rather than watch the crisis deepen.

"Sometimes, despite all your efforts, you are just unable to form a team. The fans trusted me to get the very best out of the side, but I knew that was not going to happen. This (resigning) is better than staying on here getting paid and just hoping and waiting for things to happen," said a forlorn Camacho, who had guided Portuguese side Benfica to runners-up spot in the league and victory in the Portuguese Cup last season before taking over at Madrid.

Stars in search of direction

Camacho's appointment by Florentino Pérez was seen by many as an attempt to bring a hard man in to manage a dressing room plagued with megastars. The decision was widely applauded by the Madrid faithful who saw Camacho as 'one of their own' and the perfect candidate to get their club back to the summit of European football.

Could it be that just two bad results - the humiliating 3-0 reverse at Bayer Leverkusen in their opening Group B game in the Champions League and a 1-0 defeat by Espanyol in Montjuic in la Liga - was behind Camacho's decision to quit? Or was there something more? 

The media that closely follow Real Madrid were quick to air their own theory: a failure to see eye-to-eye with the team's heavyweights. Reports suggest that many of the galacticos did not see Camacho as the man to put the Real house in order.

The Spaniard's departure after just two league fixtures seems to suggest that the problems at the club run deeper than simple exhaustion - the excuse offered last season to explain the dismal end to the team's campaign. "There is a lack of motivation. The players don't have the right mentality. They need to be more humble, and learn how to take their beating and get on with it." These were just some of the complaints that the former Real coach aired during his time in charge. The overwhelming sensation that many people felt watching the players on the pitch was one of indolence. 

The assumption that somehow the best players in the world would automatically become the best team in the world has been shown to be another flawed assumption. Having four Balon D'or winners in your side (Zidane, Figo, Owen and Ronaldo - twice) was supposed to make the side untouchable, yet often times the team's football and subsequent results have left a lot to be desired. Few people doubt that all the ingredients are there for the side to succeed, what Madrid desperately need now is someone with that elusive recipe for success.