Special One Needs Special Enemy
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.