José Mourinho has been labelled many things since bursting on the football management scene, but rarely has he been referred to as a ‘cheat’.
Last night, however, his Real Madrid side pushed the boundaries of the rulebook.
The Spanish giants, cruising to victory at Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena in their Group G Champions League clash, took the shine off their stunning performance with what came next.
Mourinho won’t admit it, but Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos – both on yellow cards – were instructed to time waste to a point where they would pick up a second booking, so that they would serve a ban in a dead rubber rather than a knock-out match later in the tournament.
Last night’s four-goal win confirmed Madrid’s progress to the Champions League knock-out stages as Group G Winners, meaning Alonso and Ramos can serve their bans in next week’s meaningless game with Auxerre.
Clever it might be, but the smile may yet be wiped off The Special One’s face.
On Wednesday UEFA confirmed they were aware of the incidents and have instructed disciplinary officials to look into them before deciding whether any charges are to be brought.
Given the blatant manner in which the offences occurred, it’s hard to see how additional punishments won’t be handed out. Under article 5.1 of UEFA’s regulations dealing with loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship both players could be charged and have their suspensions extended.
To be fair to Mourinho and Madrid, this is hardly an isolated case. Managers, players and clubs have always stretched the rules if they can see a benefit from it. Only recently, Blackpool boss Ian Holloway faced questions about the ‘weakened’ side he picked to face Aston Villa, whilst diving has now become part of the football furniture.
However, the usually untouchable Mourinho has made a mistake. Maybe not by instructing his players to get sent off. But by instructing them to do so in such a conspicuous way, he has left himself open to further ramifications.
UEFA may not choose to take action against the former Chelsea manager, but he should be shown that he is not above the law.
He has taken a risk, now UEFA have the chance to put The Special One back in his place.