3 years ago the worst kept secret in football was made official: Jose Mourinho, the fierce and extremely controversial managing genius was set to take over as manager of the world’s greatest club. This would undoubtedly be the great Mourinho’s greatest challenge. How would he, unlike the 9 managers that preceded him, finally deliver the ultimate prize: La Decima? How would he be able to topple a Barca squad that was certainly one of the greatest in football history? How would do all of this, whilst managing diverse egos and the thwarting Spanish media? Let’s take a look back the ‘Special One’s’ 3 year reign in the Spanish Capital.
When Mourinho arrived, he made sure that Real Madrid fans understood that he would simply not be associated with a team that was fearful. He immediately took control of much of the transfer policy, something no Madrid manager has had comparable control over, and bought two of the current cornerstones of the Real Madrid XI: Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira. The culture of the team that once featured the flair and attitude’s of Guti and Raul were gone. They were replaced with young, industrious, quintessentially German stars. The genius of the Mourinho transfer policy immediately paid dividends, as within months the two were almost guaranteed starters and will be for many years to come. His first season, however, was predictably not without controversy. The embarrassing 5-0 defeat at the Camp Nou was the beginning of a disheartening trend in Mourinho’s attempt to beat Barca. His plan, in which ticking red-card recipient Pepe in central midfield, initially paid dividends when Madrid won its first piece of silverware in over 3 years in amazing Copa Del Rey final victory. Then, it what was one of the most controversial moments in recent Champions League memory, Pepe lived up to his billing and received an awful red card. Without their disruptor, Madrid were lost and quickly were out of the semi-final tie. In typical Mourinho fashion, the blame was pointed to the match official, who while horrible, would not compensate for the "fearful" football that Madrid were playing. His first season was promising, and he vowed that his second year would produce better results.
Mourinho kept his word, and his second season did in fact produce much better results. Again, his transfer window signing were exceptional. While he may have overspent on his compatriot Fabio Coentrao, he made a phenomenal swoop in signing a 17 year old Frenchman, Raphael Varane. The season opened with a Supercopa that saw Real play Barcelona without fear, and nearly come out victorious. The La Liga campaign that followed was nothing short of brilliant. Real fired on all cylinders and produced one of the most spectacular league campaigns ever seen. A changing point in his tenure occurred in the Copa Del Rey quarterfinal tie against Barcelona. After disappointingly losing in the first leg at home, Real responded with an impressive draw that saw them dominate the game in Barcelona. Although they did not retain their Copa crown, Mourinho inspired a total change in the Clasico landscape. Madrid were no longer going to be fearful of their Catalan rivals, but were instead going to use their excellent counterattacking abilities to topple their hated rivals. This was best exemplified when Madrid sealed their Liga crown after Mesut Ozil laid an inch perfect ball to Cristiano Ronaldo who then proceeded to place a "Calma" over the Camp Nou. And although Madrid again fell short of the Decima, they were at least slightly consoled by the fact that they were a couple ill-placed penalties away. The 2011-2012 season saw Mourinho bring two changes that will greatly improve Madrid’s future. The first improvement was the shifting of Sergio Ramos to his much more natural center-back position where he is assuredly one of the best in the world. The next was inspiring Cristiano Ronaldo, a man who was not for the big moment, to fully exploit his abilities on the biggest stage. Even under the great Sir Alex, Ronaldo typically was absent in major matches. However, under the guidance of Mourinho, Ronaldo began to truly develop into a Madrid Legend. He scored in nearly every Clasico, scored a breath-taking free kick in the Calderon, Scored a brace in the return leg against Bayern and so much more. The man who was one not for the brightest of stages now was. He also almost guided a severely less talented Portuguese team the Euro Final. What was the difference in Ronaldo? Mourinho. It took the man who made a living off not being fearful to instill in him that he was more than capable of performing on the biggest stage.
His third season has not been pleasant to say the least. Even so, there are bright spots. He has officially toppled the Barca mountain, highlighted by the dominant 3-1 victory in the Camp Nou that saw Madrid completely put away the Barca demons that haunted them from their 5-0 shellacking just a few years before. Mourinho also unleashed one Raphael Varane onto the scene, and there will be no looking back for the young French stud. His team, much like him, apparently lost interest for much of the season. 4 points from their first 4 Liga games nearly sealed their fate, and an absolutely lackadaisical performance in Dortmund made their Champion’s League fight simply impossible. Worse yet, there is much unrest in the locker room where club legend Iker Casillias has been relegated to cheerleader. The lack of interest and passion on his face during games, which used to be evident with frequent tirades in his technical area, has all but disappeared. Jose, who has always set his sights on a return to Chelsea, simply quit. Getting embarrassingly dismissed from the Copa Del Rey Final only furthered the notion that you have disregarded the glorious name of this club. Madrid are a club that deserve much more than that, and Jose will undoubtedly leave a very bitter taste in the mouth of many Madridistas. However, let us not forget that the Special One has been otherwise spectacular in his managerial career in Madrid and has changed the landscape of the club for decades to come.
So here’s to you Jose, thank you for putting this club back where it needs to be. There will never be another manager at this club quite like you, and while most won’t say it publically: You will be missed.