Saturday, 26 January 2013

No Way Jose at Madrid

When Jose Mourinho arrived at Real Madrid in 2010 he finished off some overdue spring cleaning with the playing squad, and amidst the outcasts was the clubs most loyal servant and club captain since 2003, Raul. For many the fans Raul Gonzalez was the heartbeat of the club. Yet for a number of managers he was a powerful gunslinger, with powers beyond just the dressing room that could shorten any career in the dugout. The arrival of the Special One ended that access and the Real Madrid striker moved to Schalke, before his current stay in the Qatar Stars League playing with Al Sadd. 

Having earned his keep at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan Jose could spot trouble at fifty paces, so it was no surprise that after one season in the job, Jorge Valdano Director General Real Madrid was also sacked after a breakdown in the relationship with the head coach. So it was that Club President, Florentino Perez handed the Argentine his papers and gave Mourinho unfettered control of the club - in return, one supposes, for the promise of multiple La Liga titles and Champions Leagues. In short, just a repeat of what the Portuguese manager had left Massimo Moratti at Inter in his second season – a treble of trophies for starters. 

In the 2011/12 season Mourinho duly complied and Real Madrid won the La Liga convincingly from Barcelona, making it their 32nd title and establishing a number of new records along the way - reaching 100 points, scoring 121 goals, winning 32 games, and +89 goal difference. 

Never before had a champion side from any of the top six league championships in Europe reached 100 points which shattered John Toshack’s well-guarded record from the 1989/90 season. All making the manager virtually untouchable, despite his many antics, even after a tame defeat to Bayern Munich in the return Champions League semi-final at the Bernabeu. A match which saw one Jupp Heynckes return to a ground where he had been fired by Real despite winning the 1998 Champions League. 

It could be that Mourinho is that same territory as this La Liga is well and truly returned to arch rivals Barcelona, with just the Copa del Rey and Champions left to chase. And if domestic form is an indicator those two titles look beyond Real Madrid on current evidence. 

Added complications arose too from Madrid sports daily Marca this week reporting some criticism from key Real players. All sufficiently news worthy to necessitate Perez to address them publicly – despite a commitment to remain out of the footballing side of things. However allaegded dissent from two times EURO winning captain and 2010 World Cup winning captain of Spain, Iker Casillas, maybe enough to signal The Special One's imminent demise. 

It has been clear there was a new gunslinger at the Santiago Bernabeu when the most capped goalkeeper in Champions League was dropped some weeks ago. An action Mourinho found hard to explain when the unfortunate replacement, Antonio Adan, had a series of nightmares. With the voice of Sergio Ramos adding to the disharmony a sense of unrest and player power is emerging at the wrong time of the season for Florentino Perez. And lest we forget, Jose Mourinho, is Madrid’s tenth manager in just over a decade. 

But Marca held fast to their story despite the denials with a banner headline "MARCA does not lie," 

"The information published in this paper on Thursday regarding the dinner held last Tuesday at ACS headquarters between Florentino Perez, Jose Angel Sanchez and the Real Madrid captains Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos is absolutely true, point for point." 

To add to matters Casillas fractured his hand at the weekend and is now out for those key up and coming games. 

Ironically the last time United met Real Madrid in the Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson studied videos of Roberto Carlos in order to detain the team’s biggest threat in those days. Not only from dead ball situations, but restrict those mazing runs which added fourth attacker to Madrid’s already potent force. This time around it might be prudent for Jose Mourinho to do his homework and study the form of a revived Robin van Persie who has struck the net 18 times in twenty league games – rediscovering a from that in his last season at Arsenal seemed to have deserted him. In addition Van Persie is part of a team chasing three trophies and a United that currently top the Premier League. 

Next month the Dutch striker is likely to have added to his goal tally when he arrives to face Real Madrid in the Champions League first leg quarter-final, with home advantage maybe counting for little following news that Mourinho may have lost the dressing room. A much denied story but leaving defender Raul Albiol having to deny the added rumour of a Portuguese rift - between Cristiano Ronaldo and the gaffer. 

Apparently the two clashed after Real's 2-0 victory over Valencia in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final. 

"Ronaldo and Mourinho are both winners. They only exchanged their opinions. What happened does in no way affect the rest of the team," the defender said at a press conference. 

With rumours suggested Ronaldo may return to old Trafford, his gaffer’s problem is that there seem few clubs publicly calling on his services around Europe. Or indeed the premier League, where he has stated he would love to return some day. 

Perhaps he brings too much baggage, even if he can win major titles. But should he lose out this season to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final on January 30th, and struggle against United on February 13th, then Casillas, Ramos and could have their way. 

Meanwhile Sir Alex is chuckling loudly to himself in Wilmslow.

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