Jose Mourinho has many gifts. For organisation, for having team buy into a philosophy, for quick quips and irritation. It’s perhaps fitting that a master of hyperbole has been pilloried by the more rampant sensationalists in the British media concerning his antics during and after the Spanish Supercup.
As the four Clasicos in seventeen days last season proved, these teams have no love for each other – on or off the pitch. After their loss in the Champions’ League Semi-Final in (April/May), Mourinho made statements which, if he had his time again, would probably re-consider. Barcelona thought about legal action, but opted against it.
After a horrendous tackle by Marcelo on Barcelona new boy Cesc Fabregas, benches cleared. Mourinho is now under scrutiny for an incident involving Barcelona assistant Tito Villanova (bear in mind this analysis does come from the Daily Mail, well known for sensationalism). The Sun – also known for siutational amplification – also suggested Mourinho is approaching Real’s tolerance threshold. Even the more moderate Daily Telegraph and The Independent questioned The Special One’s tenure at the Bernabeu.
Comments branding Barcelona “a small team” didn’t help and, alongside his paranoiac mania following their Champions’ League exit, contribute to an image of a man either on the edge or who plays mind games at a black belt level. His comments more and more mimic those of dictators – strong, usually charismatic leaders with a firm grasp on a tiny part of the world – but from the outside viewed as small-time.
In today’s Guardian, a spokesman for Los Merengues’ manager says his role in the stoush was “defending Real Madrid’s interests”. The Independent – and Paul Hayward – have asked if Jose is still worth his antics. When each match between the two best teams in football descends into a melee, it is a fair question.
Even Real Madrid, a club not known for patience and lenience with their managers, would be rash to fire the man who has transformed them from also-rans into an outfit who will challenge Barcelona. The side has apparently improved markedly over the offseason, fuelled by more spending (Fabio Coentrao and Nuri Sahin) and another year’s acclimation to Mourinho’s tactics. In the match in question, most observers had them slightly edging the match until defeated by a typically classy Messi goal.
Jose may feel pressure to succeed and consequently just be acting out more. This is unlikely given his past posts and the high expectations he must have shouldered there. He may feel the mindset of his squad is so fragile it can’t bear a defeat to Barcelona without attendant, media-diverting controversy. Maybe his ego has become so large that he’s lost some perspective. Any increase in his antics is due to a combination of all three factors.
It would be folly to ignore the lack of discipline and leadership Jose Mourinho has received from the Real Madrid front office. Perhaps more than anything else, this has empowered Mourinho to say and do what he likes. Given his results so far, it would be wrong if he were made to fear for his job. But he should be made to respect discipline – UEFA’s, La Liga’s or from Perez himself.
Since his Chelsea days at least, Mourinho’s modus operandi has been to instill a siege mentality about his players, defending them from media scrutiny and removing any pressure from his boys by deflecting or absorbing it himself. By doing so, he’s produced remarkably successful units at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and now Real. At the Bernabeu, however, once former General Manager and blatant Jose-antagonist Jorge Valdano was removed, he’s received only minimal leadership from the front office. He has not been censured for his actions, some of which should have desperately deserved it.
Indeed by removing Valdano, Mourinho’s only internal source of dissent, Real President Florentino Perez has actually served as an enabler. Corporate, family or political leadership – real leadership – comes not from money, but from making tough decisions. In this, Florentino Perez has failed as Real Madrid President. While Jose Mourinho is mandated to bring success to Real Madrid on the pitch, it is Perez’s responsibility to make sure he does so in a manner worthy of his institution.
To draw parallels from politics, were Perez the head of a government and failed to adequately discipline a general he would risk his own career. In a non-entertainment business role – well, just look at what happened at the News of the World. When people whose job it is to get results don’t get guidance from above their practices can slip into the unorthodox, unpleasant and sometimes the illegal.
Jose Mourinho hasn’t done anything illegal during his status at Real. What he has done, though, is get (some) results and inflame an already-heated rivalry by being boorish. If Florentino Perez is happy to make that tradeoff, theirs shall be a match made in heaven. The only alternative is for Perez to man up and act like the leader his position says he should be.