The Portuguese’s position had become untenable in recent weeks, especially after Friday’s debacle in the Copa del Rey. Now he’s leaving, but the club can grow stronger without him
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
He had to go. Jose Mourinho’s position at Real Madrid had become untenable in the last few weeks and months and, following the debacle which was the club’s derby defeat against Atletico in the final of the Copa del Rey on Friday, when the Portuguese was sent off, admitted he had been a failure this term, snubbed the King of Spain and abused the referee in the car park, his exit was merely a matter of time. Without him, Madrid will be better off – there can be little doubt about that.
It has not been all bad in these last three seasons: Madrid claimed the Copa del Rey by beating Barcelona in his first campaign, won La Liga with a record points total (100) last term and also added the Spanish Supercopa in the current season. But much more was expected from the 50-year-old in terms of trophies and, in any case, it is the damage done off the pitch which will have forced Florentino Perez to cut ties with the man in which he placed almost unconditional faith three years ago in an attempt to dethrone Barca and bring La Decima to the capital club.
Mourinho failed to bring a 10th trophy in Europe’s premier club competition, losing out in three successive semi-finals, and he leaves a long line of controversies which made Monday’s announcement the only option for Perez as he attempts to save face in a summer when elections will be held at the Santiago Bernabeu (even though there are unlikely to be any other candidates).
The Portuguese has caused controversy almost from the outset. In his three years, he has publicly attacked players, fans, journalists, Madrid’s youth-team coach, the board, referees, rivals and almost everyone else imaginable. And this term, his decision to drop club captain Iker Casillas has led to deep divisions within the playing squad. There was no way back after that.
Friday only served to exacerbate the bad feeling. Mourinho’s fantastic final record was blemished by defeat to Atletico at the Bernabeu, of all places, as the Portuguese became the first coach in 14 years to lose a match against the team’s cross-city rivals.
A punished Pepe was left out, while a sad Casillas watched on from the bench. Chaos ensued as Madrid lost their heads and even Ronaldo was sent off for kicking out at Gabi. And Mourinho was unable to find dignity in defeat as he bemoaned bad luck, claimed Atletico had been fortunate, refused to pick up his loser’s medal from the King of Spain and abused the referee before leaving under a cloud.
It was a cloud that could never be lifted and Florentino, himself jeered by a section of Madrid fans in the aftermath of the damaging defeat, knew he had to act.
The timing was shrouded in significance because Monday was also Casillas’ birthday. And for the Madrid captain, Mourinho’s exit represents the best possible present.
For Florentino, a man who has made his millions in construction, it is time to build again. And although Mourinho’s sides traditionally struggle when he moves on (as seen at Porto, Chelsea and Inter), Madrid’s solid base means the club can have reason to believe in a successful season under their new coach (likely to be Carlo Ancelotti) next term.
Some players will move on, but Mourinho’s move will allow old wounds to heal, while Casillas can be quickly restored to his rightful place in the Madrid goal. In defence, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane can be the foundation for a strong side, while promising right-back Dani Carvajal is set to return to the club after a year in the Bundesliga to solve what has been a problem position under the Portuguese. In midfield, Luka Modric looks the part, while Cristiano Ronaldo will be the flagship of the next sporting project and funds are likely to be made available for a new star striker, too.
So the new coach inherits a top team with some of the world’s finest footballers and the chance to make them even better. Proper man-management should solve many of the current problems and with a more elaborate tactical plan to boot (and not just a counter-attacking system), the sky is the limit for this Madrid team. Mourinho had to go and now the club can move onwards and upwards, with much more dignity too. And if they do so, he is unlikely to be missed.
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