In this three-part series, we argue that the reasons why the real Real will not emerge while Mou is at the helm are simple and three-fold: Mourinho does not know how to coach an offensive minded team, he is too self-absorbed to think in terms of what would work best for the team he does have, and his masters seem to forget that his laurels were well planted before he came along to cultivate them.
In part two of this three-part series we posited that the real Real Madrid will not emerge under coach Jose Mourinho because his idiosyncratic persona will not allow him to do what is best for the club or team. Instead, he will invariably do what he perceives is best even in the face of proof his judgment was wrong. Or put differently, he will insist on getting his way despite the results.
In part one, we discussed his one-game/defensive coaching approach and dealt with how his idiosyncratic personality plays out at the club. Now we will address how coach Mou’s laurels play out against the backdrop of his current situation.
Mou’s specialty is to take the helm of a top team in a media saturated league and to get them to where they were already headed, if haltingly. His timing, from as far back as his time at Porto, has been ideal. His chosen teams in Italy, England, and Spain, were proven winners who were just temporarily off their marks. What he added to the mix was an iron grip on the proceedings so that the narrative, the writing of the history, and his legacy, are rendered in his terms. And, no one challenges a winner.
Mou has only coached the best teams in every league he has been in and yet seems to leave them with an enhanced personal reputation because he won titles with the likes of –say– star-starved Chelsea instead of star-studded Fulham FC, or an undermanned Inter Milan instead of perennial Serie A champions Palermo FC, or perhaps underfunded Real instead of wealthy Getafe? Really?
So here comes 2013, and Mou’s chance to show, albeit with another overly-star-studded rich team, that the past prelude was not a fluke and that he does add value to the treasures he is gifted with time and again. He can do so by winning the Champions League and the Copa del Rey this year, doubling his haul from either of the last two seasons and doing so in direct opposition to his nemesis Barca. No doubt, behind closed doors at the Bernabeu, Mou is making this precise case to Real’s President Florentino Perez.
This year the La Liga trophy will be changing hands and Real’s team has but a single domestic rendezvous with history left to keep, the semifinals of the Copa del Rey 2012-13. If they make it that far, they will most likely meet the Catalans, and the winner will most probably beat any team coming out of the other semifinal. Mark your calendars Madridistas, that will be make or break time on the domestic front. Mind you, I don’t mean just winning the finals, but beating Barca above all else. For Madrid, and a good part of the football world, the measure of Real’s stature is how they do against their archrivals. This is something Mou knows for sure, but to him the measure will be of his stature.
Then comes the Champions League, Mourinho’s one remaining face-saving excuse for continuing at the Bernabeu. Only this will be a different kind of test for the Special One, since the field this year is stronger than most of the past several. To add degrees of difficulty to his quest, it is a bad time to be playing poorly, as Real has been doing lately. So, with their missteps placing them second in their group to Borussia Dortmund, the Madrid squad will have to play Manchester United next, and then, if they win, another two top teams before they can play for the title. Barca could be waiting for them then. This is a nice, self-built hill to climb, a special sort of challenge. He will be pitted against the best in the world, and on a global stage, and if he emerges victorious he will have in fact earned a reputation as a special coach.
This European challenge will be the defining 2012-13 Real Madrid competition, and depending upon who Mou deigns to play, it just might be the best football campaign of the year anywhere on the planet. It will be the one competition the coach will hang his reputation on, so he will stop at nothing, including breaking his own rules and not playing his usual defensive way. But whatever the outcome, it would be hard to imagine all of the same faces will be on the Madrid team’s bench come the 2013-14 season. If the real Real is ever to emerge, before it is no more, this Champions League will be its last, best opportunity.
Which brings us to the questions of what exactly is on Mourinho’s mind and how will he make the narration of this chapter of his odyssey surpass the previous ones while setting himself up for the next.
If Mou is not let go at season’s end, he will be looking to finally remake the Real team, top to bottom, in his own image. The Special One will try to build–in order to prove a point while at the helm, but also to leave a legacy behind– a defensive Real Madrid in place of the offensive one he inherited.
He will endeavor to upend the past 60 years of offensive Madridista culture in one fell swoop and he will not mind the losses this will incur in terms of players leaving, matches lost, or trophies not won. He will have the ideal cover “I am focused on rebuilding this team.” But, he will rebuild by buying and trading for another type of quasi-Galactico: the upper echelon, defensive inventory he is familiar with and has amassed before, with the addition (retention?) of a conspicuous couple of outrider stars to bail him out.
The real Real Madrid is in jeopardy of being buried for good. If Mou obtains his trophies he will have carte blanche to dismantle the team, if he loses but somehow manages to keep Perez’s support, he will do the same. If Mou stays, his mere presence will legitimize him and he will spin the season’s outcome to his sole benefit. When he’s done spinning, he will smell like roses, again.
Regardless of the outcome of the club’s 2012-13 season, and it could end on a high note, the only long-term way for Real Madrid to remain true to its culture, to play to its strengths, and to win, is to get rid of its one dead weight, Mourinho. The club’s supporters and leadership need to act decisively, and at the financially prudent moment, or soon get used to pining for what could have been.