The saga of Mourinho's stewardship of Real Madrid the past few years has been nothing short of astonishing in its highs, lows, laughs, libels, nastiness, nadirs and breathtaking football. That's right....incredible, precise, often beautiful championship caliber football. Let's not let that get buried under the avalanche of oncoming postmortems that'll invariably focus on the all-encompassing boot room soap operas and almost comically antagonistic tone of the Spanish media's coverage of/vendetta against Mourinho.
How hard would it be for Madridistas worldwide to stomach watching Barcelona celebrate their 5th straight La Liga crown yesterday? Think about that for a second. Last year's Madrid squad, coached brilliantly by Jose Mourinho, is the only thing standing between the aforementioned vision becoming a reality. Among other things last year: Mourinho deftly handled the strikeforce rotation of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema, did an excellent job facilitating the development of Raphael Varane, and knew exactly when and how to shift tactics and rotate the squad accordingly. But perhaps most importantly: he kept the team focused and unified. A task that we all know now was far more difficult and herculean than it seemed at the time.
Over the winter Ireland and I often talked about co-authoring a piece that focused, partially, on the egos at play in this year's team. Because that's the only thing that I can logically attribute the breakdown of this heretofore successful and promising relationship to. After last year's league title, the Spanish contingent, holders now of every significant piece of hardware at every level of this game, perhaps felt they didn't need to co-exist any longer with a brash, pugilistic manager well-versed in soundbites and heel psychology.
Perhaps Mou felt that he was the reason Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and co. were no longer getting routinely embarrassed by their National Team counterparts in Barcelona. Egos. Egos and the idea of Respect. I keep using the word 'perhaps' because none of us truly knows what happened and exactly when and why things went south between coach and players, but on the surface and from afar it seems like a silly mob movie trope wherein everyone involved started to feel bitter, paranoid and aggrieved over a perceived lack of proper respect and recognition from the other party. It's truly sad that it couldn't be resolved.
As far as the players go, I won't name names other than that of Casillas--but, speaking strictly for myself and no one else here at MM, I really hope that he and they are able to perform at a high level next year because there will be no more convenient excuses, no sympathetic reporters planted in press conferences to purposely try (and fail miserably) at undermining the manager publicly to advance the agenda of one player, no ready-made scapegoat to blame. To be honest, I'm not confident that he can. Then what? Cristiano Ronaldo's excellence will keep this team afloat and in an reasonable contention into the near future. But will the players so eager to jettison Mourinho be able to rise to his level consistently? Again, I have my doubts.
Obviously Mourinho's bombastic initial approach in Spain did him few favors--but who did the Real Madrid brass think they were hiring? If you believe Graham Hunter's book, Barca passed over Mourinho for those very reasons. This doesn't add up...in many ways.
Farewell, Special One.
You'll be missed.