Mourinho’s Madrid, a success or a failure?Posted: May 24, 2013
José Mourinho is deep into the winter of his stay at Real Madrid and is putting some concentration into working on his legacy for after he leaves. Back in February he announced that he’ll be going to the Premier League, but “will not be taking over from Alex Ferguson.” He’s also told the world that he wants “to go somewhere [he's] loved.” Chelsea? Probably. Either way, as Mourinho is and the trophyless-for-2013 Real Madrid part ways, has his tenure at the Bernabéu been a successful one or a failure?
To answer this question, one must consider the context of it. Has he been a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ in comparison/with regards to what? His own personal managerial career? Real Madrid’s glorious history? Finances? The task of bringing down the one-thought invincible Barcelona? All of this combined?
In a press conference earlier this month, Mourinho lashed out at reporters who suggested he maybe should have done better considering the amount of money he’s spent. The Portugese had anticipated this sort of question with some clear research of his own done, and he informed the journalists present at the Real Madrid training facility that the club had only reached five Champions League semi finals in the previous 21 years prior to him becoming Real manager, but he reached this stage of the competition three times consecutively.
There’s no doubt that Mourinho has improved Real Madrid in European competition. The 21st century without Mourinho has been difficult for Madrid in the Champions League, the trophy that the Spanish team boasts 9 previous victories in, more than any other team in the continent. It wasn’t very long ago that Liverpool were disposing of Madrid 5-0 on aggregate in the most-sought competition for Real. Mourinho did bring them closer than they’ve been in a long time, and kept that fight going as much as he could. But nobody wins a medal for getting into the semi-finals, and Mourinho lost every one of those semi finals, interestingly to all the other semi-finalists of this year’s edition, throughout the three years. Ultimately, with the most expensive squad ever assembled, which includes a substitute that cost more than the entire Dortmund team, Mourinho’s primary goal at Real Madrid wasn’t achieved, and must be considered a failure in this regard.
After city rivals Atlético Madrid beat Real and Mourinho after extra time in the Copa del Rey final, Mourinho was left with a total haul of one league title and one cup to his name as Real Madrid manager. Many in Spain, and aficionados elsewhere of La Liga football, would barely even consider the Copa del Rey as a major title, as it’s essentially set for the biggest teams to meet at latter stages of it. Of course, there are the occasional romantic tales and interesting quirks of this competition, like most cup competitions, such as giantkilling Mirandés making it so far in last year’s edition, and Real Madrid playing the final against their own reserve team in 1979/1980.
But in recent times the Spanish federation have taken to preparing the draws from when the Primera División teams enter all the way to the final in one foul, boring swoop. To add to that, the draw is a seeded one, with Champions League teams always drawn against Segunda B (third tier) counterparts. One can’t help but feel this type of format devalues the competition as a whole, as the biggest teams essentially have it made easier for them. Viewership, thus sponsorship, will go up if Real Madrid and Barcelona play each other in a thrilling two-legged semi final, or if a Madrid derby is made the showpiece finale of the competition, and unfortunately money talks a great deal in Spanish football.
So in three years time at Real Madrid, with the most expensive squad ever to grace a football pitch in history, Mourinho won one major title and one cup, however major you want to describe that. I won’t even mention the supercup, although if you ask him himself, Mourinho will always be quick to point out his 2012 victory.
Something that I do think needs to be argued in Mourinho’s favour, however, is the league championship winning 2011/2012 season. Why was this title such a special one? Barcelona.
Many people spoke of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona as one of the best teams of all time, and its talismen of Iniesta, Xavi, and of course Messi, as some of the best, and even the outright best in Messi’s case, as the best player of all time. Pep and the Catalans were the unstoppable force, easily regarded as the best in the world for a long time. Are they still? Some would say yes, but most would probably argue that they’re beginning to let their crown slip from their grasp. (Pep’s future Bayern, anybody?)
Mourinho was given a very tough task in taking this mightiest of all Barcelona’s, and that he managed to do to some extent. The former Chelsea and Inter boss will admit that in his first season in Spain he was a little naive when it came to dealing with Barcelona, but it was all a learning experience, and not many people learn better from their own mistakes as José Mourinho.
To me, Mourinho learned how to out-think and ultimately overcome the beautiful tiki-taka that Barcelona had to offer. This, combined with a brand of fantastically swiftly moving attacking football when wanted/needed, is what led to José’s only league triumph in Spain, and subsequently the downfall of Barcelona, although Mourinho failed this year to be the one to replace Barcelona as the kings of European football.
I see Mourinho’s tenure as Real Madrid manager as an overall failure. When Sergio Ramos ballooned the ball over the Bernabéu goalpost against Bayern Munich in the 2011/2012 Champions League semifinal, with it flew Mourinho’s Real’s best chance at European glory. It was certainly the closest they came, at least. Considering that a semifinal was the closest Mourinho could bring a club with those resources to the title, I can’t help but feel Mourinho came up shorter than what would be expected of him. This year’s domestic campaign has been nothing to brag about either, with an abysmal start to the league resulting in Barcelona very quickly opening up an unsurmountable gap at the top making it no competition for the entire season, truthfully. Mourinho’s 2012/13 season was concluded with a derby loss in the cup final to cap off a trophy-less year for Los Blancos (again I’m not even acknowledging the Supercup as a competition), something they always hate up in north Madrid.
The Special One recently admitted that his biggest regret from this season is not dropping club and national team captain Iker Casillas – a hugely controversial move that the majority of fans were not pleased about. Former Sevilla net-minder Diego Lopez, who had impressed in the first half of the season in Andalucía, was brought in to replace Casillas when he broke his thumb, but after recovering from the injury the manager elected to stick with Lopez for the remainder of the season. Will the next Real Madrid manager reinstate Casillas to his normal position, or stick with the Mourinho-approven Lopez?
Mourinho is a controversial man everywhere he goes, with enemies as well as friends left behind in Portugal, England, Italy, and now Spain. Pepe was for so long one of Mourinho’s main men in the squad. A fellow Portugese, Pepe would be on Mourinho’s side for every issue that would arise in the Real Madrid camp. However it seems lately that even his most loyal of subjects have now abandoned the quickly-burning ship that is Mourinho at Real Madrid. The ex-Porto defender said to the press, and even extended on his comments after his team’s recent 4-3 victory over Valladolid, “There needs to be a little more respect to Iker.” Pepe continued, saying that the Spain captain is “well loved” at Real Madrid and even described him as an “institution” for the country.
Obviously, Mourinho wasn’t best pleased to hear his decisions criticised in the press by one of his own players. What next for Pepe after these comments? He was dropped from the Copa del Rey final squad, being forced to sit next to his pal Iker on the sidelines hoping for a team victory, and probably counting down the ticking days until this season is over. To me, Pepe’s words show that he wants to stay in Madrid, and before Mourinho leaves wants to get back in the good books and make more allies in the Real Madrid camp, safe in the knowledge that his manager won’t be in his job come kick off to the 2013/2014 La Liga season.
Perhaps – now this is where we can all reach for our tin foil hats – Mourinho wants to leave Real Madrid, as a future potential Champions League opponent, in a state of turmoil and chaos as much as he can before he leaves. This point is admittedly too ridiculous to make a full paragraph on though, isn’t it?