Will Jose Mourinho leave Real Madrid as a success?
As La Liga takes its annual winter break and with Christmas only a day away, it would be understandable for Jose Mourinho to be a tad distracted given the recent tumultuous events at the Santiago Bernabeu that could end up with him becoming unemployed.
On Saturday, Mourinho’s Real Madrid finished a massive 16 points behind rivals Barcelona after they suffered a 3-2 defeat away to Malaga. But the major talking point wasn’t the defeat itself, but the Portuguese coach’s decision to leave out captain Iker Casillas amid rumours of discontent and bust ups with members of his squad.
This latest drama only adds to a season where Madrid’s league position symbolises a deeper problem within Mourinho’s current management. He seems to have been eager to engage in confrontation rather than harmonisation, such as confronting his own supporters ahead of a Copa Del Rey game (to be noted that there was only roughly around 5,000 in the stadium), a private meeting with a Marca journalist which then subsequently became public and to top it all off, Mourinho’s decision to drop Casillas in a match they ended up losing- A decision that seemed embedded with personal vindictiveness rather than any decline in the long-established goalkeeper’s performance.
Mourinho was keen to stress it was not personal feelings that prompted his decision to drop a club legend like Casillas but more so his confidence in his deputy, Antonio Adan, who was possibly culpable for Malaga’s second goal that crept in at the near post.
These actions greatly contradict the key ingredients to Mourinho’s success over the years, team unity and harmony. Look back at his teams of Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan and you will see that there was a united, determined and motivated side who would not return back to the changing rooms having not given almost everything for a manager who they respected and loved.
It’s very difficult to imagine that these Real Madrid players, in light of the fractious relationship that has emerged with Mourinho, are pushing themselves as much as they can as evident by their current league position.
All is not lost though, with a last 16 Champions League knock-out draw against Manchester United in the offing, a club with whom Mourinho made his first impact in European football in 2004. The fighting spirit of Mourinho could be invoked and the end result could be giving his owners their tenth European Cup.
Mourinho cannot leave the Bernabeu in ignominy. To continue his reputation as the world’s best coach, he has to have delivered success to the world’s greatest club. His trophy cabinet at Madrid sees a La Liga and a Copa Del Rey but leaving with only those trophies during his time at Madrid will be considered a failure. His success has become his curse as fans’ standards and expectations have been elevated due to his recent past, where winning important trophies became a regular feature.
But he can walk out with his head held high if he leaves the Bernabeu with a European Cup medal; his ego soaring and the satisfaction that he overcame a difficult relationship with his squad to win a European Cup may just make all the trials and tribulations worth it.
Luckily for Mourinho, his side are now on winter break that doesn’t finish until the start of January. That is enough time to let heated emotions cool down and and logical thinking to come into play.
It may take some compromise on both sides – from Mourinho and his players – to try and paper over the cracks and create a temporary united coalition, at least until the end of the season where the Champions League is the alluring prize on offer.
Like any top manager, Mourinho has always shown his strength in dealing with ill-discipline or squad members rebelling against his rule. So it remains to be seen whether he will temporarily mellow to allow wounds to heal and so that his team can move forward together.
From the players’ perspective, ultimately poor results are down to them no matter how great their manager might be. The world’s most expensive player, Cristiano Ronaldo, as usual has delivered with goals but others may need to assess their own performances. How they respond to a prospective Mourinho peace offering remains to be seen, although it’s in their benefit to realise winning is the only thing that will keep disgruntled fans, and their President, off their backs.
Mourinho should be advised that antagonising the media won’t help him either. He endured a relaxed, humourous relationship with the British press that wasn’t replicated with the Italian and Spanish press with whom he has clashed with regularly. No-one would expect him to engage in expressive love towards them but, as coach, he should instil some calm and diplomacy in his dealings with them. It still might not stop the overt criticism coming his way, but at least he can point to making a more civilised effort if they continue to publish unnecessarily critical articles towards him personally.
His president, Florentino Perez, is a man who demands great things from the club he has loved all his life. Hence, his managerial changes have been a constant subject of discussion in his two spells at the club. Unlike Mourinho’s relationship with Inter president Massimo Moratti which was based on trust, respect and an admiration for one other, Perez’s dialogue with his coach is unlikely to be too intimate. It will be more like a business relationship where the employer expects his employee to behave in a professional manner that is befitting of the club and not starting fires that the club ultimately finds difficult to put out. It would be an embarrassment for Mourinho to be sacked by Perez – that’s why it’s important for him to discuss with Perez what he intends to do to resolve the situation without hankering for any advice from his president. This may help calm Perez down and avoid him doing anything that might involve Mourinho emptying his desk and sauntering back to Portugal. Being pro-active in his determination to be a success and keep his job will help him, not being passive and waiting for the club to act.
Real Madrid was always going to be the biggest challenge of Mourinho’s career and at the moment, the recent escapades against players and the media may be a sign that he is buckling under the constant pressure of being in the Madrid job.
Mourinho may have had to endure negativity in his time at Madrid, but he has the chance to finish off his spell in Spain with positivity if he can re-unite his squad and guide his team to their measurement of success – The Champions League.