Jose Mourinho arrived at Real Madrid with two objectives – to end Barcelona’s domestic dominance and to win Los Blancos’ 10th European Cup, La Decima. But who would’ve thought that nearly three years on, the Portuguese would be moving towards Santiago Bernabeu’s exit door without having left his mark?
Hailed by many as one of greatest Coaches ever to have graced the bench, he reign at Madrid has been, comparatively speaking, dismal to say the least. The club, wounded by consecutive Clasico defeats and unsuccessful League and Champions League bids sought in 2010 after a Coach with a CV that could match the prestige of the club itself. And who better that Mourinho at the time?
The fact that he had won the Champions League at the Bernabeu in the season before taking over Los Merengues somewhat reassured President Florentino Perez that their bid to win a 10th European Crown would be a job made possible. However, he has proven not to be the go–to man.
It can be argued that his capture of the Copa Del Rey, Spanish Super Cup and La Liga itself, which made him the first manager in history to win every domestic title in four European Leagues, undoubtedly has kept his reputation as one of the greatest in the game alive.
However his stint in Spain will be deemed a failure not just for the trophies that could also have been won but were not, but also for his poor handling of matters, poor relationships with the fans and most worrying of all, his poor relationship with his own players. Also, his tactical inflexibility and stubbornness was highlighted in consecutive Champions League semi-final eliminations to Bayern Munich in 2012 and Borussia Dortmund in 2013.
Mourinho’s fraught relationships with his players has proven a catalyst of much disharmony in the dressing room and out across into the media. In particular a weak rapport with club legends Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas has proven disruptive. Neither has his well documented training ground bust-up with Ramos nor his decision to not recall club legend Casillas to the starting XI gone down well with the fans. His moves regarding both have been controversial and it has shown a lack of understanding towards his own club’s fans.
They are supporters who are much more demanding than those of previous clubs the 50-year-old has worked at. The side was expected to win, emphatically, and in a style that is attractive to watch. Struggles in doing so this season have merely drawn attention back to the off-field situations.
Against Dortmund two weeks ago, they were seemingly outclassed. His team lacked confidence and intensity. They had no width in their play and were sterile. Mourinho deployed a 4-1-4-1 formation, which he had rarely used before. Tactically, he got it all wrong and his players looked uncomfortable.
Going into the second leg three goals behind proved to be one step too far for the Spaniards. As usual they came out attacking in the second leg to earn a 2-0 win, but it highlighted for a third year in a row that a conservative approach in the first leg had cost them too much.
All these factors come hand-in-hand. His failure to find the harmony on and off the pitch can ultimately now see his project deemed a failure.
Should he leave Real Madrid as expected this summer, he will depart a club in need of a worthy replacement, with an optimistic mentality both in the dressing room and in playing philosophy. And as it stands, Real Madrid will have to wait another season to have another crack at La Decima, and for Mourinho, he’ll have to start from scratch and find a way to get La Tercera at another club.