By Sam Lee
Only a handful of players will be knocking around the Santiago Bernabeu this week as
most of their more esteemed team mates represent their countries. Joining the likes
of Marcelo and Esteban Granero, Jose Mourinho will be running around Madrid looking
for things to do to fill his spare time.
Of course, he didn’t want this. He wanted to be with the Portugal squad overseeing
their two Euro 2012 Qualification matches against Denmark and Iceland.
He stated his wish to coach his native land halfway through last month, arguing that
he would only be holidaying in the Spanish capital if he didn’t, and that he could
run the rule over Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe, who are all in the
As we know, his wishes were not echoed by the upper echelons of the Madrid board and
it served only to sour relations between the boss and Florentino Pérez in a period
when the team was not performing as well as was hoped. As well as was hoped in the
Madrid press, at least.
The coach later stated in a backtracking 2am statement at Madrid airport that he
would not do anything to hinder the performance of the club that held his contract.
First blood to the boardroom. But that is not the only issue the FIFA calendar has
International breaks are always a difficult time for club managers. Concerns over
injuries are one thing, but the time players spend away from their employers can
disrupt the flow of results on the pitch.
It had proved to be a long opening six weeks to the season, a six weeks that
included whistles, jeers, misfiring strikers and media showdowns. Indeed, from the
opening-day 0-0 draw in Mallorca until kick-off at the Bernabeu last Sunday, Madrid
had scored just six league goals and had recorded the most shots off-target in the
whole league. Cristiano Ronaldo, ‘untouchable’ in the words of his manager, was
responsible for 16 of those and was in the line of fire as the team struggled for
Of course, Sunday night came and went, and by Monday morning Madrid had doubled
their goal tally with six goals against Deportivo, Ronaldo had netted twice, Mesut
Özil bagged his maiden goal and the team went above arch-rivals Barcelona in the
table after the Champions had dropped points yet again.
Just as things were starting to look rosy, the players were taken away by their
countries. Mourinho, who had his name sang by the home crowd against Depor in a
stark contrast to the whistles and boos of previous weeks, knows more than anybody
that his team are by no means the finished article, but for a reactionary fan-base,
not to mention the likes of Marca and, we suspect, the President, it was a huge step
in the right direction.
“We are under construction and neither the result nor the applause of the fans makes
me think our work is done,” Mourinho said after the game.”We are not the best team
in the world yet for having beaten Depor 6-1.” He added. Note the use of the word
Mourinho has plans as big as his head for the famous club, and he is not shy in
telling the world that he needs the full four years of his contract, complete
control of the squad and, most importantly of all, the backing of the board to make
the club the best in the world once again.
The Madrid heirarchy, though, are of course no strangers to shipping out talented
and/or big-name managers for ‘only’ winning a league title here or a Champions
League trophy there.The likes of Vicente del Bosque, Spain’s World Cup-winning coach
who won two La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues in his four years in charge at
the Bernabeu, was inexplicably shown the door while Fabio Capello, who has ‘enjoyed’
two spells in charge of the club, was booted out both times despite winning the
title in each of his seasons in charge.
Capello brought the title back to the Spanish capital for the first time in four
years in 2007, something five managers failed to do since the departure of del
Bosque, but was sacked because of his pragmatic approach that was about as popular
with Madridistas as, well, Jose Mourinho before Inter knocked Barcelona out of the
Champions League at the Quarter Finals stage last season.On the 26th of May this year,
Manuel Pellegrini was unceremoniously given the heave-ho ten days after guiding the
club to a record points total; a ridiculous tally of 96 points.
The Mourinho era, however, marks truly uncharted territory for Pérez, and, I would
argue, world football. For the first time, there is a superstar manager who has
earned his reputation not off the back of a glittering playing career, but through
an unrivalled track record in the business of winning trophies.
And while Pérez has hired and fired big name managers in the past, none will, and
have, commanded as much respect as Mourinho. The world and his wife know what to
expect from his sides; hard work, an emphasis on defensive duties (just ask Samuel
Eto’o) and narrow scorelines but, above all, success.
The people in charge of the appointment, an appointment that 0% of Madrid fans
wanted according to a Marca poll earlier this year, know what to expect more than
anybody, but did they really think the whole thing through? More importantly, should
Mourinho not win a trophy, or if the football doesn’t dazzle enough, would they dare
force him as they have done with many notable others in the past?
It is often said that success comes at a price, but is the cost of Mourinho football
something the Madrid public are willing to pay?