When Jose Mourinho was first announced as the coach of Real Madrid, there was a divide. This divide, we all knew would never cease to exist. In some form or the other there would always be a few people who would oppose him and his way of going about things, and there would always be many who would stand by is methods come what may. But even with these seemingly polar views on him, everybody accepts that Jose Mourinho has turned things around at Real Madrid, and for the most part in a good way. Making a club of its stature deservedly a contender for Europe’s biggest prize, as opposed to a knockout round punching bag; Bringing the Copa del Rey home after many years; among other things are the achievements and in such a short time, in what is believed to be one of the biggest pressure cooker environments in football. Sounds good? Not all is rosy though. Constant failure to match up to Barcelona, who are undoubtedly going through the best period in their history, trying to change an institution way too dramatically in a place where such changes are not taken very well are few of the criticisms he has received. To add to this, there is pressure from the media. Rumours of a divide, rumours of his exit, and many other things keep trying to add instability to the situation. Ultimately this leads to an atmosphere, very typical in Spain, especially so in Real Madrid, which makes a manager age by 5 years every season. And such an atmosphere, contrary to what people might want to believe, is well out of Mourinho’s comfort zone.
If we look at his previous jobs carefully, one thing you will notice at all clubs is that none of them are historically the most successful club in the region. Porto comes behind Sporting and Benfica. Chelsea was a nobody before the money came in. Inter has always been playing catch up to their stadium mates Milan and historic rival Juventus. That’s not the case with Real Madrid. Agreed, the circumstances in which he was brought in, and in the recent-est of recent histories we were/are playing catch up to Barcelona but being the historically bigger club in the region changes the equation a bit. What I am getting at is that Mourinho never had the expectations before, in any of his previous jobs, at least none of this magnitude. The weight of expectations to deliver titles at Real Madrid is immense. To add to that supporters demand attractive football, something that isn’t exactly Mou’s forte. Mourinho comes from the UCLA Bruins school of thought where it was famously told “Winning is not important, it is the only thing that matters”. Mourinho has a history of setting up teams defensively, and luckily for him the clubs that he has worked in, would be okay with this win at any cost method. Not Real Madrid. For a demanding crowd such as ours, Mourinho was faced with the difficult task of instilling his values in the team and play beautiful football.
Jose Mourinho was brought in for his reputation of winning. He was also brought in with a reputation, perhaps unfairly, of being the person that has figured out how to beat Barcelona. Earning this praise thanks to the victory he achieved with Inter, most thought he would be able to repeat the same feat with Madrid as well. Little did they know that not only would Barcelona go on to perform better than everybody thought they could, but also that Real Madrid as a club and with regard to the personnel could never be set up the same way as Inter, or even Chelsea and Porto. Needless to say that was a failure. This current Barcelona team, the best in their history, and with a legitimate shout for being one of the bests ever, would prove a constant barrier. The occasional victory like the Copa del Rey last year, and well that’s it, but compared to the losses, the Supercopa matches and the recently concluded Copa match are the only positive signs. Mourinho has always had barriers to his success, but none sterner than this Barcelona team he faces time and time again, in this stint with Real Madrid.
Even with all these things typically set up against him, and as you may have noticed that in some ways, he was set up well out of his comfort zone, we are still sitting pretty on top of La Liga, seven points ahead of what is considered the best team in the world. Statistics will tell you we are scoring 3 to 4 goals per game. You don’t need stats to tell you we play some of the most scintillating football. Yes, he has his problems like setting up overtly defensive against Barca, but as far as I can see it, there were learnings which we saw in the immediate next leg. More than the football itself, Jose has contributed a lot in what he is known best for, to instill fire in the team. He keeps the team motivated, on their toes. There’s almost always someone seemingly in the form of their lives, covering up for some other stars should they be in a bad run. Yes, having a galactico squad helps, but a lot of it boils down to the manager. His influence on making players like Benzema, Marcelo realise their true potential deserves several rounds of applause from us madridistas. Reports of an internal divide have surfaced, but one cannot see any signs of that in the way the team plays, unless of course you want to see it. But then again, if you want to see anything, you will see it anyway. Enough philosophy, but the point is, Mourinho has done far more good than harm, and this is coming from someone who isn’t even his biggest fan.
Mourinho has never made friends with the press. In England, Italy and now in Spain as well, a manager of his persona is bound to have problems. But for a large part of his tenure here, a big section of the press has in fact been on his side. The Spanish media only swings towards anything that makes them sell. Pro Mourinho sold for a long time, until Mourinho’s influence in the club started to get more and more clear within the club. Mourinho cut off several links between the press and the club which has been around for a long time, for good or for bad. As you may have noticed the press is starting to turn around on him recently. First they ran stories of an internal divide, as mentioned earlier. And soon there were rumours that he will leave at the end of the year for a multitude of reasons. People have discussed options even, as to where he will end up. To expect him to stay at Madrid forever is naive. First of all Madrid, and Spain even is not an environment that lets managers thrive long term like say, in England. And secondly, Mourinho’s history seems to suggest that once he has achieved enough, he will not hesitate to pack his bags for another challenge. The key here is exactly that, once he achieves enough.
What is achieving enough here in Madrid? If we do win La Decima and the league, then yes, I would say he is in a position to leave us. But the chance of that happening is difficult. Not being pessimistic, just pragmatic. Anything lesser and it would appear the man is walking out. And for someone like Mourinho who values achievements, titles, and prides on the fact that he did better than expected, in my personal view, he will not accept the said walking out. It is all about targets he sets for himself and ends up achieving more than that. Were Porto expected to win a Champions League? Were Chelsea expect to do anything other than become competitive? Were Inter expected to win a treble? Nope, yet he achieved them, and thus speaks so highly of his achievements. His task at Real Madrid? End the title drought (and by that Liga or CL, the Copa isn’t really significant enough to end a drought). And knowing what kind of a person Mourinho is, he will not stop until he brings about the end of the cycle. It is all about the impact created. Maybe it is just me looking at the dreamy scenario, but I think he will stay here for another year. No more, no less, one way or another.
Madrid needs Mourinho to stay. The club has gone out of its way to restructure to fit Mourinho’s agenda, and to sort of wake up the realities of modern day football, and Mourinho recognizes that. The players enjoy his work, the fans (mostly) love him. The press tries to get to all managers, but if there’s one person who can give it back its him. You can almost sense that he understands the situation he is in, and wants to make the most of it. Walking out, would be more detrimental to his image than superficially thought of. Madridismo understands Mourinho’s contributions, and Mourinho understands the potential for achievements to stamp ‘Bloody-fucking-awesome’ on his image. The chapter of Mourinho and Real Madrid is not over, not yet.