His first game against Barcelona in November 2010 ended up with a result that director Florentino Perez regarded as the worst in the club’s history. It was a 5-0 drubbing, a ‘humiliation’. Mourinho drew criticism for his conservative tactics and inability to change the game. These digs have continued to stick with him as time after time Barcelona have got the better of Madrid. Last season they pipped Madrid to the title as well as running off with their third Champions League in four years.
The only comfort was that Madrid won the Copa Del Rey but even that came via an extra-time strike against an exhausted Barcelona rather than from a dominating performance. Now Mourinho has faced Pep Guardiola’s men nine times with Madrid and won just that one game in extra-time. The aggregate score stands at Barcelona 19 Madrid 9. In five Bernabéu games against Mourinho, Barcelona remain unbeaten, a run that even Guardiola has said, ‘To come and win here so often is not normal.’ It is the first time in Mourinho’s career where he has faced an obstacle he seemingly cannot overcome, a tactical battle that he keeps losing and with every loss comes a sign Madrid are running out of patience.
And the hounds in Madrid are turning on him. Despite La Liga stats that are simply stunning with a record 70 goals in 20 matches Mourinho knows it’s not enough. Even if Madrid get beaten again at the Nou Camp in their second league game against Barca such has been their league form the seven point lead they now enjoy at the league summit looks unsurpassable even for a side as good as Barcelona. But the Barcelona ‘problem’ returned with a vengeance this month.
The footballing gods once again drew the rivals together in the Copa Del Rey, this time in the quarter-finals. Once more Madrid expected and once more Mourinho failed to deliver. The score this time just 2-1 but the ease in which Barcelona won was extraordinary. A puzzling starting line-up brought accusations of negative tactics. Once more Pepe was the villain, this time for a stamp on Messi that brought his eighth booking in eleven El Clasicos. It should have been red.
Then it happened. Marca the Spanish sporting paper which acts like an unofficial mouthpiece for the club turned on Mourinho. No-one could remember a similar incident in which the next day’s writing had been so critical of Madrid and the tactics employed. They wrote ‘Mou still hasn’t found the right key and he is left without excuses.’ Journal AS, so notoriously pro-Madrid they were once caught photoshopping a Bilbao defender out of a picture to ‘prove’ how offside Dan Alves had been when he scored a crucial Barcelona goal, had a simple message for its readers, ‘Madrid offered dirtiness; Barcelona offered football.’
The dirty and underhand tactics that have become a feature of Madrid’s battles against Barcelona over the last year were lambasted. AS’s editor Alfredo Relaño asked: If you’re just going to keep losing what’s the need to lose your decorum too?’. Mourinho was widely blamed for this descent into thuggery. He did himself no favours when he claimed not to have seen Pepe’s disgusting stamp on Messi. Madrid’s power men had allowed Mourinho free reign; if you’re winning matches and winning trophies then a bit of controversy doesn’t matter. But then they seemed to suddenly realise they weren’t winning matches, certainly not against their old foes, and the stream of trophies was more like a tiny drip.
The tides were changing. Mourinho had been under pressure before but he had always commanded the respect and loyalty from his players, the fans and those who fell over themselves to write about what a talented manager he was. Before the second leg something else happened altogether more sinister for Mourinho. A conversation he had had at the training ground with Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas was leaked to the media. It detailed Ramos’s frustrations with the tactics employed against Barcelona and Iker Casillas took issue when he heard Mourinho talking about him. Remarkably neither the club nor Mourinho sought to deny the allegations amid rumours that he was losing the support of his players.
It was the second leak in a week to hit the Madrid camp, after news that Di Maria would miss the second-leg was also released. The media went into overdrive about a mole in the team, an actual player who unhappy with the way things were run was seeking to undermine and damage his manager.
A disastrous few days got worse for the suddenly ‘not-so-Special One’. He was booed by the fans during Madrid’s 4-1 win over Bilbao and noticeably never left his seat, as if he were looking for refuge out of the spotlight. On the eve of the second-leg cup game at the Nou Camp AS ran a story likening Mourinho to Schettino, the captain of the doomed cruise ship Costa Concordia. The tension was becoming unbearable.
Mourinho threw caution to the wind against Barcelona just a little over two weeks ago, playing Kaka and Ozil together in the middle for the first time ever. They smashed Barcelona but incredibly still found themselves 2-0 down. A stirring comeback restored some pride but it wasn’t enough to keep them in the competition.
Now reports are claiming Mourinho has made up his mind to leave Madrid at the end of the season while others say he will be sacked if he doesn’t deliver La Liga and the Champions League. Mourinho is the name in the frame at Spurs, whilst he has also been linked to former club Chelsea. The mind games, the conspiracy theories, the wild gestures and mysterious musings that Mourinho excelled at have become boring and predictable.
It’s not just Madrid who are tiring of Mourinho, football is tiring of Mourinho…so ask yourself do you really want him back?
Read part two later and find out why Spain may want ‘the Special One’ to get out of La Liga.