In England, they told you that Mourinho loves to fight and build a siege mentality. In Italy, he was hated by everyone except the Nerazzurri faithful, as he mocked rival coaches and players. In Spain also, Jose Mourinho is picking up fights; but here he is facing a slightly different beast as compared to the previous ones. This time the intense fight is not just from the outside but also from the inside.
Real Madrid have truckloads of cash, have got non-stop media coverage, have a cosmopolitan culture and are a club that everyone loves to hate; All the elements that Mourinho loves nay the elements that Mourinho thrives upon. Yet make no mistake; Mourinho’s is currently not the most enviable job in the world. Even ‘the special Juan’ is feeling the heat and it is intensifying with every passing day.
Jose Mourinho: BEFORE and AFTER?
Starting with Mourinho’s traditional favourite, the first issue is the ‘Villarato’. This is a one of the many delightfully creative nicknames coined by the pro-Madrid press for a perceived injustice to Real Madrid. This term refers to Angel Maria Villar Llona, the current Spanish football chief and his allegiance to Barca and his bias against Real and his appointing referees to perpetuate the same.
Madrid’s dailies “AS” and “Marca” have been shouting themselves hoarse about how Barcelona will be behind them, if only Villarato was not practiced.
Mourinho’s rants against the referees are rivalled only by perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson and are often dubious in nature. However, at least this season, Mourinho is a classic example of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. He has been shouting for so long that sometimes even true statements are lost in his usual nonsense. Here are figures regarding the fouls suffered by the La Liga contenders in two of the premier competitions in Europe.
|Fouls Suffered||Fouls Committed|
|Real Madrid (UEFA)||87||72|
|Real Madrid (La Liga)||252||290|
|Barca (La Liga)||255||217|
Real Madrid and Barcelona are teams which like to attack, and not play defensively. Given that both of them are arguably the strongest sides in Europe, it is natural for such teams to suffer more fouls than they commit. This statistic is amply reflected in UCL where both have suffered more fouls than they have committed. However, in La Liga, the stats are starkly different. According to them, Real Madrid have committed more fouls than they have suffered and that too by a huge margin. This is hard to believe that Real would commit more fouls than their opponents, as they are ones who are usually initiating play.
Real Madrid have an unwritten policy of not criticizing referees as these things can go either way. However, this season several questionable fouls, denied penalties, cards dished out left and right, have forced the top brass to come out in defence of the coach and team. Already 59 cards have been shown to Real compared to 34 for Barca.
Barca’s lesser cards may be attributed to their possession play; but that still does not explain how Real end up getting so many cards.
Another minor point about Villarato being circulated, is the presence of Valencia, Villarreal, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid all in Real’s half of draw in Copa Del Rey, giving these notorious rumour mongers some more gunpowder for their ammunition.
The second issue concerns the other teams in La Liga. Undeniably, the current Barca crop maybe the finest in the footballing history, let alone the other ones currently in business. So mesmerizing has been their play and so dominating has been their ball manipulation that it has lead to other teams just rolling over and dying, so as to speak. When the fans of Deportivo at Riazor applauded their team for losing 4-0 to Barca, a sad truth emerged: that other teams have stopped looking to beat Barca’s first 11. Others don’t believe it is possible and their fielding of weak teams, lackluster efforts and pre and post match comments are a testament to that. Barca usually win their matches before kickoff itself. They just go on the pitch to complete the formality.
Mourinho already had a very testy fight with Gijon’s coach Preciado on this matter and it certainly reflected in the feisty encounter at Gijon’s home.
At the same time, Real Madrid are not quite the finished product yet. They don’t inspire the fear that Barca do. This prompts the other teams to try and get a result against them. It is a totally applaudable sentiment and would be even more so, if it was extended to Barca also.
The third and the fourth grievances are somewhat inter-related and have to be taken into conjunction with the issue of the ‘cantera’.
It is well known that Cruyff and Valdano are not exactly Mourinho’s biggest fans. Also, the former is anti-Madrid and never misses an opportunity to take pot-shots at Madrid.
Before proceeding any further, here are a couple of statements from Johan Cruyff.
“One only have to look at the number of players who have gone through los Blancos youth system that are now part of Primera and Segunda teams. To the surprise of many, superior [in numbers] even to Barca canteranos.“
“No football base is that good or bad, in Barcelona or Madrid, but just first team coaches who believe in it or not. Method used by them, is totally dissimilar, starting with the treatment and use of their respective youth players. Those of Barca, a week ago, are on top of the world.“
“Holier than thou” attitude and condescending tones.
The tone of condescension is unmistakable and one might even feel sorry for a Madrista, with Barca preening around with their ‘holier than thou’ attitude and ‘superior’ footballing philosophy. It is like Barcelona have discovered the holy grail of playing style and anyone who does not follow it is inferior and unworthy.
With him is Valdano. Valdano is rightfully a Madrid legend and he was the one who had introduced Raul as a gawky 17-year old when he was the coach, and the rest they say is history. Valdano is a diehard Madrista and knows the club inside out. With Barcelona having a huge number of ‘cantaneros’, the issue of Morata and a replacement striker has become the bone of contention between the coach and Valdano.
Valdano clearly feels that Morata is the real deal and deserves a few minutes in the first team. He would rather see a ‘cantanero’ being promoted than an outsider come in to take his place.
Mourinho, however clearly prefers veterans as shown by his preference of Carvalho and Alonso as the mainstays of the team. He has no faith in Benzema and even lesser in Morata. He would rather see a striker like Drogba or Van Nistelrooy, than give Morata a few minutes.
With the comment ‘s*** on a stick’ still not forgotten, the internal power struggles seem to be spilling over with both people trading innuendoes in public. Mourinho has not helped matters by benching Benzema. Last night’s Copa Del Rey match against Atletico Madrid was another calculated snub in Valdano’s direction by Mourinho when he benched Benz and excluded Morata altogether. Already the voices for smoking a peace pipe have started to ring as the issue threatens to destroy the team unity.
Mourinho knew what he was getting into when he agreed to occupy the ‘hotseat’. Right now Madrid are just 4 points behind barca, have a decent shot of qualifying for the next round of UCL and are in semi-final of Spanish Cup. Yet, the praise even from the club, let alone outsiders has been scant to the point of being non-existent. Even a strong man like Mourinho needs some help and some praise for the work he is doing.
Confronted by the most gifted footballers in history, unappreciated by his bosses, hated by the rivals, modestly supported by the fans and persecuted by the referees, Mourinho perhaps faces the biggest challenge that he will ever face in his professional career: that of resurrecting a fallen giant. He has got only his players to count upon. Will that be enough for Mourinho to last 4 years in this simmering cauldron? Only time will tell, but as a Madrista, one sure hopes that he does.