On the 31st of May 2010, Jose Mourinho was unveiled as the new manager of Real Madrid, replacing Manuel Pellegrini. His 2 main aims were to end the total dominance of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and bring the European Cup back to the Santiago Bernabeu for the tenth time. Despite appearing to fulfil his first aim, I am pretty sure it was not done in a way Madrid had planned. By the end of Mourinho’s reign, he was hated by half of the Madridistas as well as the rest of Spain.
For me, the Mourinho I saw at Real Madrid was one I had never seen before. In his initial Chelsea days it appeared his main tactic was to deflect all attention from the players and let them get on with the job, which worked extremely well and made the club a force and Mourinho and worldwide star. The players, fans and the British media loved him. His time at Inter was similar, the footage of his embrace with Marco Materazzi after their European Cup win over Bayern showed how much he loved the players there and how the feeling was mutual. Not at Madrid. Despite breaking Barca’s domestic dominance by winning the 2011-12 La Liga title in record-breaking fashion, he managed to fall out with almost every one of his players by 2013. More players hated him than loved him, but the fans were apparently split down the middle.
The Madrid derby at the Bernabeu in Mourinho’s final season really highlighted what he had become. He stood on the pitch 15 minutes before kick-off, alone. Why? His reason was to allow the Madrid fans to show him how they really felt and to air their grievances before the game to avoid any negativity during the match, which by the way was as important as any La Liga derby for some time. The result was one half of the Bernabeu cheering, and the other half jeering. There was a clear divide between the fans over Mourinho and, unlike in his Chelsea days, the ‘attention-seeking’ tactic did not work here.
Did Mourinho even allow the Madrid fans and the Spanish media to love him? He didn’t give them a chance in my view. Poking Tito Vilanova in the eye, accusing referees of favouring Barca in el clasico’s due to their relationship with UNICEF, refusing to ever attend press conferences… the list goes on. He could not build a relationship with the media because he never spent any time with them, they simply could not get to know him. Dropping a Spanish hero Iker Casillas to the bench because he was anti-Mourinho and felt things were not being done the right way angered many across Spain and throughout the dressing room, not least Sergio Ramos, another Spanish hero.
Real Madrid is like no other club, hence why Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, Luis Figo and most recently Luis Suarez have such a desire to play there. The Bernabeu is like an opera theatre, the fans expect a good performance i.e. a win, every week. If they do not get this, then they are not happy. Disharmony in the dressing room meant those performances were increasingly rare.
Cristiano Ronaldo is for me the best player on the planet right now. Why? In comparison to his only rival, Lionel Messi, he is bigger, stronger, fitter, taller, quicker, better with both feet, and better in the air; he has everything. T his season was his best in the white of Madrid while all around him seemed to be falling apart. He became more of a team player but at the same time stood out on his own as a leader, the shining light in a Mourinho’s sinking ship. He was described by his manager as a ‘know-it-all’ who thought he was too good for criticism, perhaps for the best, the team needed someone to stand up and take some responsibility. Ronaldo just kept on scoring and creating goals for Real. Forget about Suarez, Cavani, Bale; the priority for the powers at Real must be to keep Ronaldo. If they are resigned to losing him then they should make plans to replace him, but before that they should do everything in their power to make him stay.
The appointment of Carlo Ancelotti looks like a stroke of genius to me. He is a respected coach all over Europe, ironically also at Chelsea. The difference between Ancelotti and Mourinho is the respect gained all over Europe in England, Italy and most recently France. Wherever he goes, the players love him. The players at Madrid are extremely strong characters, the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo must be managed correctly and with the array of talent available to Ancelotti his man management skills must be used to their maximum. My prediction is that Ancelotti will be a success at Madrid and they will be in the hunt for gold this year in all competitions. When it comes to Cristiano Ronaldo’s future, I would love to see him back in the Premier League but with the skills possessed by Ancelotti, he might just stay in La Liga. I am sure we will find out soon enough!