Special One Needs Special Enemy
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What has been the source of Jose Mourinho's success? And what has led to his current difficulties and drama at Real Madrid? Today on the blog, David dissects the Special One's managerial approach and his need for a nemesis.
Espanyol. A team stuck deep in relegation trouble which has already resorted to a managerial change. A side whose deep financial troubles have been lingering and will most likely drag them down in Segunda. They have won two games from sixteen this season and just once away from home in all of 2012.
Yet despite all of this, Espanyol were leading at the Santiago Bernabeu at one point last Sunday and eventually pressed mighty Real into a corner to survive the ordeal and share the points.
What has happened to Mourinho’s Real Madrid? They went from taking the crown with a full 100 points on the board, losing just two games, to struggling against the most modest of teams the Primera has to offer. We are not yet half way through the season and already they have lost three, one more than in the whole of last season. They needed to ride their luck a few times already to get three points, masking what have been deep-seated problems at the club.
Very recently some media reports, apparently quoting confessions made to a close friend, suggested that Pep Guardiola had decided not to renew his contract with Barcelona, opting instead for a sabbatical year away from the beautiful game, because he discovered himself unable to keep up with the litigious personality of the Special One.
Whether he would have defeated Guardiola on the pitch or been himself humbled, the attacks would become relentless. Mourinho knew no boundaries on this front and eventually Guardiola learned that he could never get an honest handshake and a well done from this chap. It was never going to be a straightforward affair. He was to be an adversary strictly abiding to the dictionary definition. An enemy in fact. No exceptions. No break.
Guardiola has been in football for a very long time. Wouldn’t he know that this is part and parcel of the game? Anywhere he has been in his career, even in his short stint at Brescia, he has left fond memories of a man with a professional attitude that is typical of the silent yet charismatic leader respected by all. Here is a man who dedicated his first Champions league triumph as a manager back in 2009, in the name of all his players and the club, to Milan legend Paolo Maldini, who had just retired in a less than idyllic atmosphere befitting his past.
With the advent of Mourinho in la Liga he went from being praised as a guru who had given life to the perfect team destined to live long in the memories of football fans for years to come, to someone expected by the crowds to grow into a thug and reply to Mourinho’s many provocations, levelling with him and matching his emphatic words.
That change was never going to happen. It was not in Guardiola’s nature to be inclined for battle. The hostility that Mourinho imposed on the Barcelona camp eventually engulfed Pep and brought along the demise of a team which surrendered to Real Madrid’s dominance in the league.
Guardiola knew he could not take that any more and left his post, away from a man who had consumed him and almost broken his spirit.
The Special One is of a completely different mould. He is built for battle and will look out for it with thirsty trepidation. He breathes the fire and the tension generated, living in anticipation of that exchange of words, the build up, the possibility to deprive those waiting for his next utterance …a desire to be matched, challenged until the very end of the adrenaline-heavy race so that he can savour the sweet taste of victory even more.
The sound of the battle horns is what keeps him in shape. Aware of the enemy and sharp in his preparation. The fight aliments his hunger and just like a hungry beast his belligerent nature seeks out the strongest of them all to set up the challenge that grips the whole domestic league. An ever present in newspaper headlines and fans’ arguments.
Making It Special
Few would have taken to heart a virtually anonymous Mourinho proclaiming himself a special one when presenting himself to the Premier League and, for the first time, a top European league. He did little to win over the sympathies of his managerial counterparts during his time there and united journalists in one disapproving voice more often than not in Italy with his frequent attacks on their category.
He took many swipes at what was the main exponent of the anti-Mourinho sentiment in the two years spent on the peninsula. At times being plain insolent and referring to him as an old man to whom he showed how a club like Chelsea should have been run, having succeeded him in London. Ranieri was never a self-proclaimed prophet of this movement but he was crowned as such by Mourinho himself simply by virtue of having been in charge of the teams that would eventually finish second in the race for the title, Juventus and Roma, while he was at Inter.
As long as he had his players follow him, Mourinho knew he did not need anybody else to win trophies and keep his myth alive. Ibrahimovic, the fearless and cold striker who has often shown he does not put loyalty in high regard with his frequent club switching and increasingly unconvincing kisses to what shirt he happens to be wearing, once declared that would have killed for Mourinho had he asked him to. Legend has it that the powerful goal scoring machine that was Drogba broke into tears at the news that Mourinho had been sacked by Abramovich.
Spain – the failed experiment
Having settled in at the Casa Blanca, occupying a post many managers would label the ultimate in the industry, Mourinho was not intentioned to give up a winning strategy. He sought to unite his group of players against everyone else out of his circle of trust, ignoring Kaka and the €65 million price tag he came along with, Valdano’s history with the club and his role as director general, the journalists’ demands to get him to speak at press conferences and president Florentino Perez’s pleas to get him to attenuate his argumentative stance with the whole World.
For a while it worked out fine. Not in the first year, but that was an argument hurriedly waved away and justified as Mourinho’s settling in period, just like it had happened before. Last year the unabated pressure broke down the Barca camp as it intoxicated Guardiola and, eventually, as a logical consequence of that, the whole Blaugrana team.
The Real Madrid players gathered strength from Mourinho’s teachings, preaching the adoption of their rivals as sworn enemies they had to annihilate. The group grew more cohesive and confident as they fed upon Barcelona’s rare mishaps, culminating in a league title virtually sealed at the Nou Camp with a 1-2 victory towards the end of April.
Yet a month or so later the Spanish national side was reuniting in preparation of another Euro campaign that was once more successful for La Furia Roja. After some initial sparks between exponents of both rival camps all the tension that had fuelled the dynamics of the previous domestic campaign was discharged.
It dissipated and left behind willing players ready to collaborate and embark on another fruitful voyage for cup glory. Xabi Alonso, Arbeloa, Albiol and, most of all, the much maligned duo of Casillas and Sergio Ramos, would find it ever harder to see enemies in companions with whom they had once again climbed on top of the World and made history for their nation.
Little Birds Whispering Secrets
Right after the press conference, the pre-match for Espanyol, Mourinho retired behind the scenes and sent for a journalist so that he could talk to him in private. The journalist, employed by a Madrid-based newspaper close to the interests of Florentino Perez and Real Madrid, was surprised to receive the invite and even more so when a furious Mourinho insulted him repeatedly and exhorting him to spill the beans on who his informant within the team was.
The Portuguese understood from the questions posed by the journalist that he had been informed about incidents by someone within the intimate folds of the first team. The journalist would not budge and explained how his source had revealed that a number of players consider Silvino Louro, the goalkeeper coach in Mourinho’s staff, as the manager’s spy.
Mourinho has been presented, for the first time in his successful career, with players not mesmerised by his exuberant and vivacious words full of charisma. His promises of success have gone ignored by a number of his first team players, who conspire against him and pass on information to the media in exchange for journalistic favours.
The Madrid palace has always been plagued by such under-handed tactics and betrayals. There will always be outsiders seducing players with their devilish promises of propaganda and a turn of the head the other way when things go wrong, requesting the scoop, the signature on a story that may hopefully be boasted about as the one that brought down the castle and the king along with it.
Mourinho cannot tolerate being betrayed by his supposedly closest allies, his players, and has from his early days sought to purge from the dugout the snickering snitch that keeps sabotaging a sacred and benevolent code of silence that has been at the basis of all teams he united under his flag of success.
Like a conspiracy theorist he has been looking around him in suspicion, every time feeling more convinced than ever before that he has pointed his accusing finger in the right direction. Yet he keeps failing to individuate the enemy wearing Blanco. Perhaps because there is more than one. His maddening search, epitomised by the recent incident with the Spanish journalist, insisting that he reveal the blabber mouth that tipped him off, has surely only helped increase the number of weird gazes from his players.
Only a few faithful remain. Mourinho, in fact, is said to have had arguments with Kaka (not new in fact), Di Maria and Benzema ahead of the Espanyol match. These add to the long list already featuring the Spanish duo of Sergio Ramos and Casillas, the German duo of Ozil and Khedira, the Portuguese duo of Carvalho and Coentrao and who knows who else.
Without an external physical person he can regard as his immediate nemesis and whom he can channel upon all his physiological desire to impose himself as conqueror – in a typical hero’s scenario, challenged but victorious despite the unfavourable circumstances – the Mourinho method will implode upon itself as it desperately creates new enemies. This time uncultivated and unworthy, and as such ineffective.
Mourinho’s enemy-seeking nature, deprived of a central figure commanding the opponents’ troops, has turned within its immediate circle searching for an emergency replacement, upon his own players. The kind of unhealthy process due to which the band wagon is bound to end up derailed and off the cliff, crashing into a pile of rubble that was once a possible answer to the dominion of Barcelona in Spain and Europe.
The Odds: Real Madrid are best priced at odds of 1.57 with Bet365 to claim victory over Malaga this weekend, while best priced at 17.00 with Sportingbet to stage a miraculous fightback and win the Primera crown.
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I believe his immediate target is to add another league title to his portfolio, proving he can win with another team other than Barcelona - which has been the main criticism leveled at him over these years. Then build towards a realistic Champions League challenge, which may not be next year but the one following that. Afterwards we'll see if he is up for the United task.
Think it could be a sign that he wants to replace Sir Alex in a few years, Germany could well be a 2 year challenge
Well Guardiola just signed for bayern. Good for the Bundesliga. It means we should be witnessing the battle between two great managers like Klopp and Guardiola next season.
Guardiola at City next season. All as expected so far.
The Sun quoted a Spanish source this morning as saying that he is "100% sure" that Guardiola will be replacing Mancini next season.
Will Mourinho follow suit and join the Premier League again?
Casillas is being left out for the match at Malaga. Maybe he has been suspected as the snitch. His girlfriend is reporter Sara Carbonero after all. The connections are there. On the other hand he has not been in top shape lately either.
I'm very glad you liked reading it guys. Thanks for your kind words.
Well said Andrew. Like him or not, Mourinho is definitely entertaining.
Really enjoyed reading this David. I am not sure if I like or dislike Mourinho, but I know that I find him entertaining.
Great stuff David, as always. Thank you
Yes bla, I remember him declaring that he would want to manage where he can speak the language well. He always seems to be well prepared on that front from day one on the job. German is not a language he knows. Besides the Bundesliga already has its Mourinho figure in media darling Jurgen Klopp. Very charismatic yet far from litigious in hisapproach. I also remember how emotional he was on winning that Champions League final with Inter. He is the only manager in Italian football history to have won the European cup, the domestic cup and the league in one season – el triplete. He knows he can never go beyond that. Returns of that kind can turn sad so I would exclude it. Besides, Inter are currently trying to offload a key figure like Sneijder from their team because of his wages. Not the typical working environment for Mourinho. As for Manchester United I believe he is aware that anyone who is going to replace Ferguson will have big shoes to fill and automatically will have to endure comparisons of enormous proportions every single day he leads the team out. That could tarnish his successful managerial career, placing him in the shadows of Ferguson in the managers’ hall of fame. In the past he always went where the money was. He brought the passion along with him and infected the players with it, shielding them from outside influences that could distract from the real objectives of his football. At Real Madrid this proved effective only to a certain extent given the difficult working environment, but it worked wonderfully at Chelsea and Inter. In England it is perfectly possible to emulate those success stories so whether it is City or Chelsea he should be back to the old splendor there. I tend to tilt the balance towards Chelsea because of the new faces coming into the City setup, with many having worked with Guardiola in the past. After all, at Chelsea his regret is not having won the Champions League. Di Matteo’s achievement might eclipse what he has done for the club in those three years so here would be another chance to have a go at it.
Thanks for your comment David. The French and German leagues are out of the question for sure unless he learns out to speak German since he said he only goes to coach in a country if he speaks the countries' language. I know Ferguson still has some years in him but I still think Mou is gonna coach Man U. Isn't Man City pretty much the same as Chelsea? I cant see Mou going back to a place where millions were injected and all it matters is everything except football. In my opinion Chelsea is the last place he will return to if ever. Inter would have way better chances. He stated to portuguese tv during a 60min interview, that he did not go back to Italy to celebrate the CL win cos if he did his "heart" would not let him go back to Madrid even though he already signed for RM. One thing is for sure the only time I saw Materazi cry like a 5 year old was while he hugging Mou asking him not to leave. Search it on youtube...pretty fun too! :P
An exceptional post and great reading.
In fact, I signed up just to comment on this so I will have a good luck around whilst I'm here
Yeah lautahools, the 'Mourinho don't go, stay with us' chants by Barcelona fans were hilarious. Still yet another sign that it is very much in the air that he may not finish the season with Real. I am not sure about them being enough to motivate him though. Last Sunday the speaker did not mention Mourinho's name at the start. Some have reported that he had refused. Others said that Mourinho himself did not want his name to be read out in order to avoid being booed by some sections of the Bernabeu. It might have been just a mistake. In any case, the current humiliation, -13, is unprecedented for him and with no signs of the situation getting any better, it can easily be the start of rapid descent into horrible failure.
I would tend to agree with what you add bla. I follow Spanish sports media to some extent and at times it is clear that is is a classical case of making cousins / neighbours one's biggest rivals. Being Portuguese does influence how some Spanish sections of the media treat both Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo unfortunately. Very often it is Madrid-based media like Marca which work against such important figures in the club. The journalist with whom Mourinho had the altercation was from that paper in fact.
Thanks guys. I really appreciate your comments and am glad you liked reading the article. It seems very unlikely that Mourinho will continue with Real. Looking at the numbers after his successful Porto era, that is from Chelsea to Inter and then the Merengues, he was always first or second in the final standings with the following point difference ('+' when he was first and '-' when he was second): [Chelsea]+12, +8, -6, [Inter]+10, +2, [Real Madrid]-4 and +9. At the moment, although of course it is not the final picture for the season, he is already at -13 from high-flying Barcelona and even a -4 from city rivals Atletico. And they are far from playing any form of convincing football. I can very easily imagine reviving the duel between Mourinho and Guardiola in the Premier League next season. PSG is not a fascinating enough destination. Mourinho needs the spotlight shining on him and his deeds. Ferguson will most likely have to hit at least 80 before he starts considering leaving his post at Man U. The most likely destinations are Chelsea and Man City. The latter have already worked on getting on board old collaborators of Guardiola at Barcelona in the club's administration. A return to Chelsea would be my bet on Mourinho's future.
Great Read. You forgot to take into consideration something that even the spanish media does not hide anymore: How much they hate having a Portuguese coach which is the best in the world and a Portuguese player which is the best in the world controlling "La Liga". Those two did something that is not acceptable in a country which has people whose mentality says that there is no one else better in the world then themselves. Last season you had a portuguese flag celebrating in Spain's capital the defeat of the pride of Catalunya! They cant wait to get rid of the portuguese! You might thing Im taking the comment too far but you need to live in Iberia to understand what I say...or just check the link below! ;)
I cant wait to have the pleasure to see "our" Mourinho shine again in Britannia. Man U awaits. The french championship is even less relevant than the Portuguese League and he already won it all in a "minor" league with FC Porto.
pleasure to read David, as always. I support the topic and I expect Mou to give his best in CL and copa del rey this season. Also the last jokes from Barcelona fans, that they love him, will give him additional motivation for sure :))
Very good read David, think Mourinho's next destination will either be United, City or PSG.
Very nice piece, David. I was wondering from afar what's wrong with Real, so this made for good reading. What do you think is next for Mourinho?