Even for the Special One, 2012 has been a special year. When you’re in charge of the biggest and most successful club of all time, winning is a requirement. But the way Real Madrid won La Liga in 2011-12 will go down in the annuls of history as perhaps the greatest ever.
On the field, some will argue that it was all about Lionel Messi – off it though, no-one can quibble that Mourinho ruled the touchline. His Blancos side claimed their 32nd League title with the largest points total in the history of Spanish top-flight football. Not only did they claim a century of points, but they also broke the record for the number of goals scored with 121, largest goal difference of plus 89, number of away wins with 16 from 19 played and the overall wins managed with 32.
In short, it was the single best season by any side in Spain, maybe even the best in Europe. Some can say it was a two-horse League – Scotland before the tax inspector got his house in order, but that second team can genuinely be considered the single greatest team the game has ever seen. Real Madrid didn’t just beat them to the trophy, they took Barcelona on round-for-round, and knocked them out with just a few rounds to go.
It was April 21 that the League was truly won. At Camp Nou, the capital club went to Catalunya and took on Barcelona with a masterful tactical approach from their Portuguese boss. No-one can beat the Blaugrana in possession, so Mourinho conceded the ball in favour of the counter-attack. It worked like perhaps not even he expected, and with 15 minutes remaining, Cristiano Ronaldo raced on to a Mesut Ozil through-ball and tapped it into the net.
The Catalan Cathedral was silenced, as Jose had pulled off one the great game-plans. It was that meticulous preparation and confidence in his side that marked the man out as the outstanding Coach in world football this year.
Tricky trips away to Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid were swept aside as Los Merengues steam-rollered some of the best teams in Spain. Games against minnows, which some would write off as guaranteed victories, were given the same intensity as the Clasicos. And that showed in the results – 5-1 and 7-1 against Osasuna. Rayo Vallecano, Sevilla and Real Zaragoza were hit for six. Sometimes it didn’t even resemble sport.
On paper, it looked like a different story in Europe. But in reality, Madrid were just a few penalty kicks away from beating Bayern Munich in the semi-final. And we all know Jose Mourinho doesn’t lose finals when he gets there. Ronaldo, Kaka and Sergio Ramos missed that night, but the campaign as a whole once again showed the ruthless brilliance of the team.
They went to Moscow in the knockout stages and scored an early away goal. They went to APOEL Nicosia, who had beaten Porto and Zenit St Petersburg, and made them look like a school team. 8-2 it finished on aggregate and it was only the lucky bounce off of Mario Gomez’ shin that saw them lose 2-1 in Munich in the semi-finals.
Everything Mourinho did in 2012, he did right. No other Coach in Europe last year won in the way he won. It may not be idealistic and it may not be popular, but the Real Madrid boss was the best.