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Inside FutbolInside Futbol

06 October 2018

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Spain

Mourinho Heads To Chelsea Embrace as Real Madrid Reign Runs Natural Course




Just as happened with Josep Guardiola over a year ago, football’s worst kept secret came out again this time around: Jose Mourinho will no longer be Real Madrid coach after the last league game of the season. With no way back after his clashes with practically every man in his dressing room, ex-Real Madrid director Jorge Valdano, Castilla coach Alberto Toril, colleagues, referees, the press and virtually anybody who questioned his methods or mentality, there was only one way for Mourinho to go, and that is out of the club.

In a long, yet meticulously assembled speech on Monday night, club president Florentino Perez announced that both sides had agreed to part ways after three years of a somewhat cautious relationship. Perez has acknowledged that the pressure that has been piled up on Mourinho in recent months has created a hostile environment for his coach, who according to the president, asked to be released.

In terms of numbers, Mourinho managed to revive a team that had been living in Barcelona’s shadow. Recruited after a treble-winning season with Italian side Inter, this was the man whose semi-final performances against the Blaugrana pushed Perez into hiring him at the expense of Manuel Pellegrini.

Mourinho took a while before getting his new side rolling. A 5-0 defeat in his first Clasico match against Barcelona as Real Madrid coach was a heavy blow for the man. Yet the Portuguese persisted and his side’s Copa del Rey final win over Guardiola’s team indicated that there were good moments to come.

The following season, Mourinho finally earned Los Blancos their first league trophy since the 2007/08 season, finishing the year with a staggering 100 points – a feat that Barcelona may match this term.

The start of this campaign was less pleasant for Los Merengues, who by Christmas had already conceded the league title to their Catalan foes, who have been breaking records themselves under new man in charge Tito Vilanova. A meeting during the festive season between Mourinho and the hierarchy set up a Copa del Rey and Champions League double as new objectives for the current term. Neither trophy found its way to the Santiago Bernabeu silverware cabinet.

A La Liga, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup have been Mourinho’s achievements during his three seasons in Spain, which as Perez declared, hardly met the ambitions of club and coach alike. But the side are certainly better than they were three years ago, and are amidst Europe’s top four teams, owing much of this to Mourinho.

Yet the Spanish media were soon calling for his sacking as soon as he dropped Iker Casillas to the bench on 22nd December. The decorated custodian is nothing short of a cult figure at the Santiago Bernabeu and his relegation to bench-warmer was the ultimate signal of war to the Real Madrid crowd.

The former FC Porto boss assured the faithful that his decision was a technical one, but his frosty relationship with the team’s captain has been highly documented. Even in mediocre form, Casillas remained above Antonio Adan in the pecking order, and his relegation to the bench was a clear act of animosity.

When Diego Lopez was bought following Casillas’ injury, Mourinho had the perfect alibi to justify himself. Truth be told, Lopez has been performing superbly, but the fans would not allow anyone to cast aside their adored figure.

The tension kept climbing. Real Madrid were dumped out of the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund, and in the post-match press conference Mourinho dropped his most obvious hint yet of a departure and a return to Chelsea: “I know in England I am loved. I know I am loved by some clubs, especially one”, he proclaimed.

And then came the Copa del Rey final defeat to Atletico Madrid. His dismissal during the game allowed the team’s dressing room antics to surface: With Pepe about to trade punches with Diego Costa, Iker Casillas sitting silently in the technical area and Cristiano Ronaldo sent off after a kick towards Atletico Madrid player Gabi; the team were in disarray. To add controversy in a way only he could, Mourinho chose to boycott the medal ceremony conducted by Spain’s King Juan Carlos himself, and was allegedly in the car park to have another exchange of views with referee Carlos Clos Gomez.

On a night where everything was in order for the side to celebrate at the Cibeles fountain, everything went wrong. The coach and club knew that it was only a matter of time before both parties travelled their separate ways. Monday’s press conference ended months of speculation and unease, for all parties.

"If you don’t coach Real Madrid then you always have a gap in your career", declared a tearful Mourinho minutes after Inter lifted the Champions League trophy in 2010. Almost three years later, the coach leaves a proud man. He was never going to change his style or mannerisms for anyone, and so finds himself departing the Santiago Bernabeu.

But managing Real Madrid was always going to be his toughest job yet. Having lost the support of his players – even countrymen such as Pepe and Ronaldo – the two sides involved would have found it very, very hard to work together heading into a fourth term.

Real Madrid are surely a much better side than they were before the Setubal-born tactician took over though. But many will welcome the departure of Mourinho, none more so than Casillas, who happened to turn 32 on the day the club declared the end of the coach’s reign. The captain could not have hoped for a better present.

Mourinho’s Spanish stay was by no means a failure, but the Portuguese has come up short in terms of silverware. He did stand against one of the best club sides in history in the shape of Barcelona, and made his side regularly the equals of the Blaugrana in individual games. Yet his way of running things always meant that the situation at Real Madrid was prone to escalate. He needed a new challenge and the team needed a new leader, not a boss.

The two-time Champions League winning coach will now return to the Premier League with Chelsea, while Real Madrid look likely to snatch Carlo Ancelotti from Paris Saint-Germain. Forget the debates, the problems, and all the controversy surrounding this story. This is one episode that ended well for all parties involved, and one they will be hoping to forget.


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