Jose Mourinho on his way out of Real Madrid whether he wants to or not
José Mourinho’s threat to quit Real Madrid surprised few in Spain, as the feeling in the country is the decision is no longer his to make.
Seasoned Mourinho watchers were not surprised by the past week’s veiled hints at resignation and then yesterday’s carefully placed Sunday Times story in the UK.
Twelve months ago he made a similar threat amid an internal power struggle with the club’s director general Jorge Valdano. Madrid president Florentino Peréz backed the Portuguese then and Valdano was fired.
Despite some recent public shows of support, things are different now. Madrid’s results have been exceptional this season, with 24 wins in their past 27 games. Mourinho feels his achievement in getting Madrid seven points ahead of possibly the best team in the history of football is not appreciated. And he is right, but only to a point.
The problem for Madrid fans – and the most influential players in the Bernabéu dressing room - is that these impressive wins against everyone else are overshadowed by his failings against Barcelona.
Making things worse, Mourinho appears to view the Catalans as the better team and bigger club, ignoring Madrid’s self-image as the biggest sporting institution around. Many at Madrid may have an overly-inflated sense of their own importance, but it is hard to blame them for losing patience.
Mourinho’s off-the-pitch behaviour in Spain has been outrageous, from blaming a global conspiracy encompassing UEFA and UNESCO for his own team’s failings, to poking a finger into the eye of Barca assistant coach Tito Vilanova, to lurking in underground car parks to shout at a referee.
The only reason he has got away with it all so far is that he was seen as the only coach capable of beating the mighty Barca. When he continually loses to them, all the repressed shame and frustration gushes out.
When Mourinho reacts to criticism like a spoilt child by giving sarcastic answers to fair questions from the press and refusing to accept he ever makes mistakes, he just makes things worse. Mourinho has now backed himself into a corner. At Chelsea he took on a powerful owner and strong dressing room and was sacked despite all the trophies won.
The recent change in editorial line at sports dailies Marca and AS in Spain reflects the shifting opinions of Peréz and Madrid’s other power-brokers. The weekend’s leaks show Mourinho knows this and is preparing the ground for his exit.
He may resign this summer, or he may be sacked, but there will be a new coach at the Bernabéu next season with Rafael Benitez, Joachim Low and Arsene Wenger linked. And even if the club wins this year’s La Liga, Mourinho’s spell in Madrid will be viewed here as a failure. Persona no grata? Jose Mourinho