Early Doors

Love over money – why Mourinho had to leave Real Madrid

Early Doors

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Real Madrid is a complicated club at the best of times.

Much like Bayern Munich, a long-standing culture exists where the players - particularly those from the local area - are little princes and even kings, a culture that can be seen to develop beyond their careers on the pitch and into the fabric of the club.

Sporting directors, special advisors, members of the technical staff... ex-players form the structure of the club, its history.

As a result coaches, no matter how impressive their CVs and reputations, come and go, rarely lasting more than two or three seasons and often barely completing a full campaign.

When he took the presidency of Real in 2000, Florentino Perez said he wanted to build a team of "Zidanes and Pavones", a mish-mash of the world's greatest players on the world's biggest wages, complemented by local lads with the club in their veins, willing to graft and carry the water for their illustrious team-mates.

This was an over-simplification of a simple acquisition strategy designed to sell as much merchandise as possible, and to promote the club overseas in a (successful) attempt to claw back some of the market lost to Manchester United, particularly in Asia, Africa and the United States.

It soon became apparent that the Pavons of the world were largely irrelevant - they simply would not be good enough to mix it at such a level, particularly at a time when La Liga was intensely competitive on account of strong Valencia and Deportivo sides.

But what did transpire was the 'Galactico' culture, in which these global stars created such a peripheral buzz that any local players who were good enough to command first-team places became intoxicated by the heady stench of celebrity.

So, with the support of local media, Ultras and other Madrid-based fans, the likes of Raul and Guti - and latterly Iker Casillas - saw themselves in the same vein as Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, as all-powerful symbols of Real Madrid, untouchable.

But the likes of Zidane and Figo - and even David Beckham - were not overly interested in dressing room politics. They live on a different planet, surrounded by image consultants, marketing execs and special advisors, with little investment in exerting locker-room dominance from their ivory towers. They train, they play, they perform their media commercial duties, but they have bigger fish to fry than those salted morsels of Bacalao offered up by stands near the Bernabeu.

The importance this president placed on a local-led dressing room cabal ultimately did for the hugely-successful Vicente Del Bosque, disgracefully sacked in 2003 because Perez felt that the likes of Guti did not deem him a worthy motivator of such lofty superstars. And so followed a barren spell that ultimately saw Real fail to progress past the last 16 of the Champions League for six years in a row, a record worse than Arsenal's.

Perez realised he had blown it from a supremely strong position, and resigned the post in 2006. But three years later he returned, apparently having learned from his mistake - one year later he hired Jose Mourinho, whose brief was to isolate and extract the likes of Raul and Guti, to mould a team of grafters and team players who all boasted the talent required to reel back Barcelona, but who would fight and die for a charismatic coach - and for one, sole Hollywood draw in Cristiano Ronaldo, who would be loyal to his compatriot.

And it was a job well done, initially. Mourinho put Raul and Guti in their places, restored a winning mentality to a squad who had coasted for too long, and brought back the Liga title in record-breaking fashion. European performances improved, although without full conquest, and it seemed the club were on track to usurp or at least match Barca.

But Perez was not counting on the unprecedented success of the Spanish national team, and the impact it would have on Casillas.

Despite having been a first-team player since his teenage years, Spain and Real skipper Casillas was always a grounded, humble kid. He used to travel by bus to the Bernabeu, chat to fans outside the training ground and appear in commercials for local businesses. Without the ego of Raul or the party-boy tendencies of Guti, he seemed the ideal symbol to promote and foster as the beating heart of the club.

Fast-forward some years and Casillas is the epitome of the modern celebrity footballer, with a TV presenter partner, regular appearances on 'sexiest athletes' lists and a line in shampoo commercials that would make David Ginola blush.

But was he worth it? Not according to Mourinho, who grew tired of Casillas's posturing and distracted performances and cut the Spain and Madrid captain from the team.

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Madrid's performances improved, in part because Diego Lopez - after a shaky start - settled well between the sticks, but also because the rest of the team knew they could not slip into those old habits.

There is no suggestion that Casillas has ceased to be a decent fellow, but this is his job, his livelihood, and his club. Of course he would grow disgruntled, and the Spanish media - already prickled by an increasingly paranoid Mourinho's unusual (but ultimately unimportant) behaviour around press conferences - were only to happy to sow the seeds of discontent. Seeds that were scattered around Real's dressing room as Sergio Ramos, Pepe and a few others took Casillas's side, attempting to isolate Ronaldo, who they saw as Mourinho's favourite.

But Ronaldo was rightly granted prime billing - after all he is the second-best player in the world and an impeccable professional on all fronts. His sadness earlier in the season was greeted with derision, but it quickly reminded the team of their priorities, and of their duty to perform without the stuff and nonsense of internecine beef.

And herein lies the Real problem - Madrid were a better team after Casillas was ostracised, even with the bone-headed Pepe and Ramos taking their friend's side. But the Spanish press - for whom Casillas is a national hero - were none too pleased, with the notorious and unnaturally powerful Ultras also suspicious of a mouthy Portuguese who alienated one of their own.

Mourinho did not feel loved, neither by Spain's footballing hierarchy (admittedly through his own doing), nor by its press (bear in mind he is idolised in England and Portugal), and certainly not by the local fans who feel a divine right to demand titles in the style they want, with the players they favour.

ED has no doubt that he chose to go, that he jumped of his own volition, and that Perez was not lying when he said he "would have preferred it had Mourinho continued" at the Real. As with most flamboyant, outspoken showmen, Mourinho wants to be the centre of attention, the knight in shining armour, the hero, adored. Perez knows that, with Barca weakened and Casillas, Ramos and Pepe realising they are dispensable, Mourinho would have won the battle. But he would never have won the war for Spanish approval and no amount of money, he found out, can buy his heart.

Del Bosque has since proved himself to be the perfect foil for a strong dressing room - docile but shrewd, distant enough to let the boys have their cliques but with sufficient seniority to take tough decisions when needed. As such, Carlo Ancelotti is the right choice to succeed Mourinho at Real, having shown his ability to manage a similarly tough dressing room at Chelsea.

It thus is ironic that much of Mourinho's best work came at Stamford Bridge, where player power has seen off every permanent manager since he flounced out following a fall-out with Roman Abramovich. But, crucially, those big personalities in the Chelsea dressing room adored and still adore Mourinho, as it was he who brought them the first taste of success that had eluded them - and the club - for a lifetime.

You have to think that was the exception and not the rule, and wonder if Mourinho really thinks he can improve on the memories remaining in West London. The smart move would be Paris Saint-Germain, where limitless funding, a solid dressing room and a hunger for success could see Mourinho - who incidentally speaks decent French - bring the European Cup back to France. Even Manchester City - whose mildly depressed but hugely gifted squad is desperate for the boost Mourinho would bring - could signify a surer win for Jose.

But Mourinho is an emotional fellow, and one with a strong attachment to Chelsea, London and Britain in general. It may not work out, but you have to feel these natural bedfellows could grow old together, for better or for worse.

Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We apologised to Crystal Palace as soon as the vandalism in their dressing room was discovered, and again more formally a few days after the match. As a result of what happened, please rest assured we have reviewed our internal procedures to guard against this ever happening again" - ED will always find this bizarre and hilarious, and wonders what kind of "internal procedures" could be formalised to prevent someone taking a dump in the oppo's dressing room. Mandatory nappies for all players and staff? Sniffer dogs to root out turd-smugglers? The mind boggles.

FOREIGN VIEW

"I met with the coach and directors to tell everyone this situation had to be overturned. I also specified a different tactical set-up, as I have a lot of experience in this area. The results were seen straight away, modesty aside, starting from the comeback to draw 2-2 with Napoli. From the relegation zone we climbed to third place, earned by the skin of our teeth. I have already called for a complete revamp of the coaching staff and, if needed, a more efficient and complete reorganisation of the club structure" - it sounds like a parody of a Silvio Berlusconi statement and, at the time of writing, Milan insist it is not a genuine letter from the club president, as was claimed on an Italian TV show. Given this is a man who once told his own police force that a go-go girl they'd nicked was a relative of Hosni Mubarak and should thus be granted diplomatic immunity, ED would put nothing past him.

COMING UP

Paul Parker will be giving his view on the day's water-cooler topic, while expert blogger James Horncastle will be shifting his attention from Italy to the weekend's Champions League final. There will be plenty more features and stats on Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund to get your teeth stuck into over the coming days, as we join forces with our German website to whet your appetites for the Wembley spectacular.

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