– Srijan Sumeet Choudhary
Real Madrid were voted by FIFA as the most successful club in the 20th century, with thirty one La Liga Titles and nine UEFA champions league titles – the most by any club. However, no one can rest on their laurels forever, and the present state of the world’s most illustrious club highlights three simple facts – no silverware since 2007-08 season, failure to proceed past the Champions League Round of 16 in the last six seasons, and most importantly, having eleven coaches in the past seven seasons.
Coming to the present season, Madrid, like the seasons before, still have the best players in the world in their team roster. You have the Portuguese trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carvalho and Pepe, the Samba stars Kaka and Marcelo, the German internationals Ozil and Sami Khedira, the high flying Argentineans Higuain and Angel Di Maria and World Cup-winning Spaniards Casillas, Ramos and Alonso, not to forget the youngsters like Benzema, Adan, Mateos and Gago. Florentino Perez is still the club’s president. Real Madrid is the world’s richest football club (€438m) in terms of revenue and the second most valuable worth over €1323m in 2010. Santiago Bernabeu still erupts every weekend, when the men in white step the hallowed turf and enthrall the masses.
The question is, what is it that makes this season different from the prior ones? What is the difference that ensures the Real faithful wont witness another downfall of their team? It’s the arrival of ‘The Special One’ in Spain’s capital, which is the spark that would reignite the winning mentality which has been missing for a long time. After ending last season in second place behind Barcelona and seeing another empty trophy cabinet, the club fired Chilean tactician Manuel Pellegrini; just two days later, the club welcomed Jose Mourinho, who had come off a treble-winning season with Internazionale.
Why is he special? How is he different? Why is there so much hope pinned on Mourinho? How can he revive this club and bring it back to winning ways? These were the most discussed questions among the fans and media when Mourinho was unveiled as the El entrenador of Real Madrid on 31st May 2010. There are a few reasons to back claims that Mourinho’s appointment would be a catalyst of change at Madrid.
Football is a team game
For the Portuguese, winning is not about how many stars you have in the team, but about playing the beautiful game in a beautiful way. Take the case of Liverpool FC; in recent times, even with the likes of Torres, Carragher, Gerrard, Johnson and Reina, they couldn’t get themselves out of the slump, because their manager, be it Benitez or Hodgson, couldn’t make these stars play as a team. On the other hand, Mourinho single-handedly took FC Porto, a team with no known stars, to their first ever treble; in the next year, he made them the kings of Europe by winning UEFA Champions League. In England, he took the Chelsea side, which comprised of stars like Drogba, Lampard, Terry and Cole, to great heights. So one can say that Mourinho knows his team and can pull the right strings to strike a chord between his players, which is the need of the hour for Real.
He is one of those coaches whose achievements precedes him wherever he goes, as such coaches understand that their achievements are possible only with the progress of their team. Mourinho has coached five clubs in over 496 matches, winning 339 matches, securing 100 draws, and losing only 57 games, summarizing to a win % of 68.35. Therefore, one can conclude that he has a knack of winning, something Madrid has been missing since the time of Del Bosque.It’s high time the players believe in themselves and the club they play for, and for that they need to know their coach believes in them. Fortunately for them, Mourinho is always loud and clear in what he believes.
Most of the coaches have experience in playing against clubs from England, Spain, Italy, Portugal or Ajax. But Mourinho has not only faced clubs from around the world, but also possesses the experience of coaching clubs in Spain; in the early part of his life, he was the interpreter for Sir Bobby Robson at FC Barcelona. At Portugal, he coached Benfica, Leiria and FC Porto, then going to England to manage Chelsea FC during the outset of Roman Abramovich’s reign, and having a stint at Internazionale in Italy before returning to Spain as the head coach for the Blancos. He will be able to imbibe his vast international exposure into his tactics.
Eye for the right player
Mourinho has an eye for a great player, and his history in moulding the right player and in transferring a great player at the different clubs he has coached is testimony to his skills. In his first big job at Porto, he moulded Carvalho into a defensive wall, and the defender has been his first choice at both Chelsea and Madrid; he even gave the responsibility of leading an ambitious Porto squad to Deco. In London, he brought in a few unknown players and converted them into international stars; Petr Čech, Arjen Robben and Didier Drogba owe him a lot. Also, how can anyone forget the Champions league winning squad at Inter, said to be the creation of Mourinho himself? It was him who helped Milito, Thiago Motta, Sneijder and other players hog the limelight. It’s a known fact that Madrid doesn’t lack funds, so why not spend it on the right person?
A mastermind in himself
Mourinho is known to be a perfectionist, as he knows what he wants and when he wants.He was at his tactical best in the second leg against Barcelona, where his strategy suffocated the Barcelona players by stopping their movement; it was as if wherever the Catalans wanted to move, there was an Inter player waiting for them. In the recent match against Espanyol, when Casillas was red carded after just two minutes on the clock, he took the situation in his hands and made the right decisions at the right time to take Madrid to victory.
Mourinho vs other tacticians
This section illustrates the difference in the coaching styles of the best managers in the world. Starting with Fabio Capello, he prefers himself to be called a mixture of a manager and a coach. He prefers to be involved in the administrative side of the club in the same manners as being a tactician. The Italian runs on the three pillars of coaching – hard work, discipline and team spirit. Otherwise he says, and I quote him
“the success might still come but it would be for short term”.
As for the great Scott Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been at the helm of Manchester United for more than 20 years now, his coaching style is not only about coaching but about seeing also. It’s his belief that coaching would never attain 100% quality, if you miss out on seeing the result you get from your teaching. Coaching can never be complete without seeing whats best in your players. There have been only a few instances when Ferguson has put the same lineup on the field for consecutive matches; this shows his ability to imagine the best team for different oppositions.
According to Andy Roxburgh: “The road to coaching stardom takes years of dedication, experience and learning. Some talented coaches, such as José and Pep, simply sparkle earlier than others.” For Pep, it has always been about hard work and practicing the same thing again and again, till you become perfect. This strategy works all the time, as the Catalan players starts passing the ball till they break the defensive wall. Setting up a global game plan and implementing it in a beautiful way is one of the many tactics available in Pep’s arsenal.
The Blancos super boss always moulds himself with the game. He has two faces – one being calm and composed, and the other being very emotional – which he chooses in the need of the hour. His kitty is full of game plans, which are a perfect blend of emotional and tactical contributions. Mourinho might be arrogant, but his knowledge in football, his game plans and his decision making is second to none. It’s high time Madrid realizes that a player is never complete without a coach and vice versa. It’s vital that the players believe in each other, and that’s precisely what Mourinho brings to a team. It’s not a process which shows results in a single season, but it surely would be fruitful in the days to come.
To conclude this article, here’s a quote from the super coach of the super power Barcelona, Pep Guardiola. In 2010, before their semi-final second-leg clash, Pep Guardiola said of Mourinho:
“In terms of the world’s best managers, when you compare Jose to Sir Alex, Arsene and Fabio, he is still very young. But even at his age, there is a very strong case for him being the best manager in the world. That’s the truth.”