Since his tenure at Real Madrid began, it is hard to digest that José Mourinho ever uttered the phrase “Barca, in my heart – today, tomorrow, and forever.” Well, he did. Mind you, it was all the way back in 1997, and to be fair, a lot has changed since then. Over the last decade José Mourinho has developed into what many would consider as one of the greatest football coaches of the modern era. In fact, he has done so well, that back in 2004 he earned himself the rather self-appointed title of “The Special One.” Nobody needs reminding of his many achievements so far even at the tender age of 48, and if evidence is required then you only need to take one quick glance at his trophy cabinet, which unquestionably puts Mark “Sparky” Hughes to shame. Despite his big personality and ego, Mourinho is widely respected and popular within the footballing World, and most would rank him incredibly highly. So why after all of this has José been scowling so much over the last two years? It boils down to one thing, and one thing only: the unquenchable dominance of Barcelona.
Barcelona, although I’m not their biggest fan personally, are currently the best team in the World. Some go as far to say that they are collectively one of the greatest teams to have ever graced a football pitch; and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that. Even the infamously unyielding Sir Alex Ferguson recently admitted that Barca are “by far the best team.” If we ever needed any more proof! Anyway, I’m not here to blow Barcelona’s trumpet, and I’m pretty certain that José isn’t either. My theory is, if we bare in mind the credibility and talent of José Mourinho, that the more he defames and criticises the Catalan outfit, the longer than he cannot recognise Barcelona’s superiority, the more this signals how good they actually are. The more that he lives with this anti-Barcelona bitterness, the clearer it becomes that Barcelona are currently invincible, and there’s nothing, simply nothing, that he can do about it.
Personally I love José Mourinho, I think he’s a great coach, and a very clever character. I believe however, that the sooner that he admits Barca’s footballing hegemony, the better for himself personally and his team. The divide between Mourinho and Barcelona has widened to the extent, that nowadays El Classico matches are best remembered for something that Mourinho either said or did before/ after the match out of pure spite for his rivals. The fact that this grudge is slowly getting the better of José became patently clear to me in a recent interview, where on being asked whether he’d still be content winning La Liga, despite not beating Barcelona, he answered without pause, with a venom in his eyes, “YES.” The sheer mention of the word Barcelona brought a scowl across his pretty face. It seems to me, that his mind will only rest once he has banished the Catalan team from the history books. Unfortunately however, Mourinho’s stubbornness only goes to reiterate Barcelona’s superiority, because it is a battle that the Portuguese is still far from winning.
I’m sure that it is still fresh in the memory of most, the moment in 2010 when Mourinho’s then Inter Milan parked a yard-full of buses in front of the Barcelona attack, thereby earning themselves a narrow but deserved place in the Champions League final. At the time I found it very amusing, and quite satisfying, when Mourinho ran onto the pitch, pointed his finger at the Barca supporters and eventually clashed with Victor Valdes. Looking back on it, this moment of mad joy, if anything, detracts from Inter’s victory that evening, and praises the capabilities of Barcelona. The gesture, although earned, was provocative and probably unnecessary. But the fact that Mourinho’s instinctive reaction was to run onto the pitch simply to mock the Barcelona fans, simply shows how much better a team they are than anything Mourinho has yet managed to assemble himself. In that single moment, he significantly detracted from the victory that Inter had achieved, and immediately brought the issue back to his insecurities regarding his Catelan arch-enemies.
In other El Classicos, José has always had a lot to say. Unfortunately, this has always worked against him. In April 2011 he was sent off during one of the clashes between the two giants, after poking the eye of one of Barcelona’s coaches. Anything to get one over on them. On another occasion Mourinho challenged Pep Guardiola to win a trophy without ‘cheating.’ This denial of Barca’s rightful ascension to the footballing throne, however, has been going on a lot longer than the time he has spent at Madrid. Back in his successful days at Chelsea, after a 2v1 defeat against the Spaniards, Mourinho claimed that manager Frank Rijkaard had spoken to referee Anders Frisk during the half-time interval. Hardly a year later, the fixture repeated, the Portuguese criticised Lionel Messi, asking “how do you say cheating in Catalan?” “Barcelona is a great cultural city with many great theatres and this boy has learned very well. He’s learned play acting.”
One day I would like to see Mourinho back in the Premier League. He’s a better manager than Guardiola, and an inspiring character. What he has achieved at Real Madrid is extremely commendable, and they have a great chance of winning La Liga this year. Yet I fear, even if they do, that nobody will accept that Real Madrid are the better team. Hence, I don’t believe that even on winning La Liga that José will give up the ghost.