NOV 27 — Love him or loathe him (and you may be aware that I’m firmly in the latter camp), life is never dull when Jose Mourinho’s around.
The Real Madrid boss reacted to his team’s latest title setback — a 1-0 defeat at Real Betis on Saturday night — in typically outspoken style.
After starting off by saying that he wouldn’t make any excuses for his team’s loss, he promptly proceeded to make excuses for his team’s loss.
Specifically, Mourinho lambasted the officials for failing to award Madrid a late penalty and ruling out a goal by Karim Benzema for a questionable offside.
He was also upset that the fixture at Betis had been scheduled for Saturday night, three days after Madrid’s Champions League game at Manchester City, whereas title rivals Barcelona had been allowed an extra day of preparation for Sunday’s game at Levante following their midweek trip to Spartak Moscow.
The post-match outburst at Betis was just the latest in a long line of controversial incidents involving Mourinho this season, and the increasing frequency of his complaints suggests that everything might soon come to a head.
Mourinho seems to be a man who thrives on confrontation — he never seems happy unless he is starting a fire somewhere. Whether he’s conscious of it or not, his relentless habit of entering into personal vendettas is probably an important part of his mental approach to the job, firing his competitive instinct and providing a more personal edge to his motivation.
Normally, Madrid’s perennial rivals Barcelona are the logical recipients of his outrage, as they were again on Saturday night when he ridiculously suggested that the Catalan club control the scheduling of fixtures.
However, Mourinho’s attempts to commence a flame war between himself and Barcelona have largely failed so far this season for the simple reason that new Barca boss Tito Vilanova has stoically refused to play ball.
Recognising that he doesn’t possess the same kind of charisma or media-friendly magnetism of his Madrid contemporary, Vilanova simply dismisses any attempt of Mourinho to get under his skin with a tired shrug of the shoulders, admirably refusing to respond to the goading of journalists by venturing into confrontation or criticism of Mourinho.
It’s a wise choice: any war of words between the two managers would undoubtedly be won by Mourinho because it’s something that he’s brilliant at, and Vilanova is therefore much better off leaving well alone.
This, no doubt, has enraged Mourinho further: the man he’s trying to fight is simply refusing to have anything to do with it, preferring instead to turn his back and calmly walk away.
And so he’s also managed to find other victims for his fury. Notably, around a month ago Mourinho started a verbal tussle within his own club by criticising the selection and tactical policies of Madrid’s B team manager Alberto Toril, who was publicly condemned by Mourinho in a press conference for failing to play his teams in the way that the Portuguese boss wants him to.
That’s right: Mourinho is prepared to start fires within his own club. Nobody is safe from his tongue-lashings — even members of his own coaching staff.
Such an aggressive approach is just about tolerable when the team is winning, as Madrid were last season when they brilliantly set new La Liga records for points, wins and goals in the course of ending Barcelona’s run of four consecutive league trophies.
But this season Madrid have lost that winning habit, with Saturday’s defeat at Betis leaving them 11 points adrift of rampant league leaders Barca, who extended their lead into double figures with a crushing 4-0 victory at Levante on Sunday.
In fact, Madrid have already lost no less than five games so far this season when all competitions are considered, and face the prospect of a tough draw in the last 16 of the Champions League following their failure to overhaul Borussia Dortmund in the group stage.
Despite operating with practically the same squad that was so dominant last season, Mourinho’s team have clearly lost their way in the current campaign, somehow failing to find the bite and penetration that made them such a potent force in the past.
Whether and to what extent Mourinho is directly to blame for the deterioration is questionable — the players should also be held to account for the lethargy of some of their performances — but any manager is always ultimately responsible for the successes or failures of his team, and the mounting pressure on Mourinho will only be exacerbated by his insistence upon continually upsetting everybody.
An unpopular and charmless coach can be tolerated if he wins; if he doesn’t, he quickly turns into a liability. And that’s exactly what Mourinho is rapidly becoming for Real Madrid, a club that is rightly proud of its traditions and history of stylish success, and is unwilling to become tainted by the aggressive vulgarity that comes as par for the course with Mourinho.
The club’s president Florentino Perez faces an interesting few months. Sacking Mourinho — one of the most successful coaches in the history of football — is an enormous decision, but the Portuguese boss is unlikely to resign unless he is guaranteed a full financial pay-off.
For the good of Real Madrid, Perez probably needs to steel himself in preparation of making that big decision. At the moment, Mourinho’s inability to behave with grace or respect is starting to sully his club’s reputation; Real Madrid deserve better.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.