Monday, May 31, 2010


Real Madrid unveil Jose Mourinho as their new coach

Spanish Inquisition: How Long Will Jose Mourinho Last At Real Madrid?’s Cyrus C. Malek wonders if Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Real Madrid will follow the rule or become the standout exception…
By Cyrus C. Malek
May 31, 2010 1:09:00 PM

This time, the newcomer goes by the pseudonym 'The Special One' and given his impressive resume of title after title after title, it must be acknowledged that he is in many ways special.

But one thing that is not special in any way is his arrival as Real Madrid’s coach this summer - such an occurrence would instead be better qualified as routine. In what has become a position with about as much turnover as a Roman gladiator during the height of Caesar’s rule, Real Madrid coaches have come and gone, some emerging triumphant and others woefully disappointing.

But one thing that has remained consistent over the past seven years is that the result has always been the same: a swift swing of the axe from above, a widely publicised rolling of heads, and a new figurehead rising to try his hand in the throes of battle.

Some would argue that if given enough time and freedom of reign, every one of the coaches Madrid have hired and fired in the past seven years could have been successful (except, perhaps, with the exception of caretakers such as Mariano Garcia Remon and Juan Ramon Lopez Caro).

But one of the greatest challenges that comes with managing a club like Real Madrid is the need to work under a mountain of pressure coming from the club hierarchy, the Spanish media, and the fans themselves. And even more important is the need to do that work quickly and successfully.

The multi-million euros of wealth at the Bernabeu serve as a double-edged sword: they ensure that the team will be able to employ some of the greatest superstar talents on the planet; but they also considerably shorten the fuse of patience on the part of the boardroom, media, and fans.

The model at the club under the Florentino Perez dynasty is simple: the club shells out the resources to employ the best players in the world, and the coach’s job is to make those players play the beautiful game beautifully... and win, too, ofcourse.

Conversely, Barcelona’s model over the past few seasons has been to make the best players in the world (through their youth academy) and supplements that core group with other exceptional transfers. Even Barca coach Pep Guardiola exemplifies this ideal of creating one’s wealth through development rather than consumption.

At the moment and in the way that counts (victories rather than marketing, shirt sales, ticket revenues, etc.), Barca’s model has proven to be well and truly superior. Madrid’s reply to this model in signing Mourinho seems to demonstrate a will to prove that their model can ultimately succeed - an insistence upon the view that the greatest players led by the greatest coach will make the greatest team. Such is the theory.

In practice, however, things could turn out drastically different and for a number of Madrid’s previous coaches, it already has. Despite marked success with the Brazilian national team, Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s Blancos side, which consisted of four Brazilians (Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Julio Baptista and Robinho), was impressively unmotivated and inept.

But even when a coach manages to experience success at Real Madrid, the demands are such that titles do not necessarily serve as enough. In his first season as coach, Bernd Schuster won a Liga title easily with Los Blancos, forcing Barcelona to form a humiliatingly historic guard of honour for their archrivals before being picked apart in El Clasico. Schuster was fired the next season as the club hierarchy estranged one of the team’s greatest talents in Robinho and left the German coach to take the rap for it.

The most famous case of coaching successes being dismissed is, of course, Vicente Del Bosque who won two Liga titles, two Champions League trophies, two Spanish Supercups, one UEFA Supercup, and one Intercontinental Cup (the old Club World Cup) all in the span of four years.

In his last year in charge (2003), he brought the Liga title to the Bernabeu, but a day after securing the trophy and a week after David Beckham was signed, was shockingly not offered a contract extension with the club. The reason was suspected to be a rift with the hierarchy as the coach was reported to have complained of his lack of power in making transfer and tactical decisions.

The same was the case for Del Bosque’s successor, Carlos Queiroz, who objected to the departure of defensive midfielder Claude Makelele, but was overruled and saw his midfield suffer significantly in distribution out of the back. Queiroz also famously clashed with the club hierarchy over Pepe, who the Portuguese coach thought was going develop to be one of the world’s strongest players at centre-back.

At the time, Pepe’s transfer would have cost €2 million. However, Queiroz’s recommendation was famously rejected because, according to the club’s higher-ups, centre-backs didn't sell shirts. Just three years later, Real Madrid purchased Pepe for an astronomical €30 million.

And then there are those coaches who seemed doomed before they even took the helm. Juande Ramos and Manuel Pellegrini enjoyed great overall success during their spells as coach. But the truth is that neither was actually given a legitimate chance. Instead, both were viewed and painted by the media as stopgaps - proficient coaches that could win matches, but ultimately unfit to coach one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Upon exiting the Santiago Bernabeu for the last time, Pellegrini revealed that since the beginning, he never felt supported by the Madrid bigwigs, who turned a deaf ear to his requests to keep Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder at the club.

But perhaps it is the example of Fabio Capello that is most analogous to Jose Mourinho’s arrival. Under Ramon Calderon’s regime at Real Madrid, Capello was allowed to bring his own personnel, signing players like Fabio Cannavaro, Emerson, and Mahamadou Diarra, and was even allowed tactical freedom, employing the infamously criticised, defensive-minded double-pivot in midfield.

Capello, like Mourinho, is a winner. One way or another, his bottom line is to win and if a team becomes less entertaining to watch as a result, assuming more defensive tactics, so be it. Such disregard for the tradition of entertaining Blanco football got Capello Real Madrid’s first major trophy in four years. But in the end, what is demanded at the Bernabeu in addition to success and the balancing act of the club hierarchy and media maelstrom, is mouth-watering, entertaining football.

Mourinho has the chance to, like Capello did, bring a new era to Real Madrid and he certainly is a winner capable of leading Los Blancos into an age of much-needed confidence and stability. But a beautiful winner? He certainly doesn’t have a reputation for it. At Inter, he was able to turn what would otherwise have been a mediocre Nerazzurri team into European champions by employing disciplined park-the-bus defensive tactics and efficiently threatening counterattacks. At Chelsea and Porto he did employ a more open, physical style, but nothing that can qualify as beautiful, attacking football.

At Real Madrid, Mourinho will have some of the world’s most entertaining players at his disposal and it is hard to believe that he would promote such conservative tactics with such an arsenal at his command.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home