Interesting to say the least how this time last week the return of Jose Mourinho was reported to be clearly on the cards; and still might be of course although there now seems to be more than a few dissenting voices heard. Perhaps the thought of a return to the old ‘us and them' mentality isn't so appealing after all as the reality of what might happen if Mourinho does return begins to sink in. If Rafa is supposed to have "lost the dressing room" then it could be interesting to see how Mourinho tries to win it back; especially since there's a few influential characters that might not be first in line to shake his hand and say how great it is to see him again.
Strong personalities like Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Karim Benzema won't necessarily be at the head of the queue to welcome him back; especially if that means a return to the days of confrontation, being banned from speaking to the press, and working under a regime that is reported to demand control of every aspect of players' lives in addition to dressing-room splits and divisions among the players. One clear image remains from the Portuguese' previous stint at Madrid and that's one of being either with Mourinho or against him; no in-betweens or sitting on the fence.
Add that to the image he cultivates of the whole world being against him and the teams he manages and it doesn't do much for Madrid's public relations never mind the effect it has on those who may dare to differ in opinion from the "special one", and that's not only going to be confined to the players. At the moment Florentino Perez may be keen on re-appointing Jose Mourinho but he's not going to be too happy in six months down the line if Real Madrid fail to win anything, popular players want to leave, and half the team aren't speaking to the head coach. Additionally, as soon as public discord begins to affect the commercial side of the club, the hierarchy are usually less than impressed.
It's all differing opinions mixed with hearsay though. We read in one part of the media that Rafa Benitez has the full backing of the President and learn from another that he could be gone by this time next week. It's not so long ago that the players were reported to like the way Rafa operated and although most were sorry to see Carlo Ancelotti go were at least content to give the Spanish coach a chance. The same couldn't be said of a press who were seemingly against his appointment from the start. Questions were asked as to how Rafa would "manage the dressing-room" or handle the big hitters in the team. In fact, reports appeared to indicate that he was managing them well. So what happened?
Until recently Real Madrid were league leaders, progressing well in the Champions League, and then it all started to go wrong with defeats by Sevilla and Barca. Losing to Villareal compounded matters and the Cadiz affair didn't do a great deal for public relations either. The fans wanted heads to roll and it didn't seem to take two minutes for everyone to say that Rafa wasn't the right choice after all. Now we have a situation where some players are reportedly refusing to play where asked, laughing on the bench when the opposition score and relations between players and staff appear to have deteriorated. As if that wasn't enough, perceptions of fitness are reported to differ between players and staff and nobody seems happy with the working arrangement as it stands at the moment. Yet if the best solution offered in the current circumstances is to appoint a coach who appears to actually thrive on such confrontation, are we not likely to see even more controversy and conflicting opinion in the future?
Maybe the real problem lies in communication but this works both ways and all sides need to be open to discussion first. Players often think they know better than the coach and sometimes they don't look further ahead than the next game. They're going the wrong way about it though if they're hoping to resolve their issues by speaking to the press as opposed to discussion with the club management; but there doesn't seem to be any doubt that the issues are there. Management on the other hand, won't want to be seen to be conceding too many points to the players in case a certain amount of weakness is perceived; and coaches in the past have fallen into the trap of giving the players too much of a say in team issues. It's a difficult and uncomfortable situation all round; and as Rafa returns to Madrid after the break there's a lot to be addressed.
It's been well reported that Zinedine Zidane wants to stay in charge of Castilla for now and he clearly has his reasons for this. We're not privy to knowing exactly why he's not keen on taking the coaching role at Real Madrid but it may go deeper than simply wanting to see out the season in Castilla first. Perhaps Zidane has been weighing up the odds and feels that this isn't the right moment to be stepping up to the first team for whatever reason. It may well be that there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye; but by all accounts it would appear that changes are on the horizon, despite the President continuing to offer his full support to the current management team.
Bringing back Jose Mourinho as an alternative might seem like a good idea to the President at the time and an attractive proposition to some sections of the support; but be careful what you wish for. Opinions are almost certain to still be divided in the changing room from his previous stint in charge so we're only likely to see even more confrontation in the weeks to come if this goes ahead. Real Madrid needs stability at the moment; not more controversy.