Real Madrid, Mourinho part ways
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez announced the end of Jose Mourinho’s turbulent spell as coach on Monday evening, suggesting that the pressure of managing “the biggest club in the world” had lead to some errors, but refusing to call the Special One's three years at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu a failure.
Mourinho’s days as Madrid boss were numbered after last Friday’s embarrassing 2-1 Copa del Rey final defeat to lowly city neighbors Atletico Madrid. That loss followed the Champions League semifinal exit to Borussia Dortmund last month, and the meek surrendering of this season's La Liga crown to Barcelona.
Speaking to reporters after Friday night’s defeat, Mourinho had suggested that Blancos fans “deserved to know what would happen soon” and Perez – the undisputed power holder at the club – made the announcement at a specially-called press conference at the Bernabeu on Monday evening.
“After conversations with our coach Jose Mourinho, we have decided to end our relationship at the end of this season,” he read from a prepared statement. “Both the club and the coach think this is the right moment to do so. I want to thank Mourinho for his work over these three years, when we have made important sporting progress, and we wish him success in the next stage of his career.”
Perez was careful to say, a number of times, that Mourinho had not been fired, and that the decision to end his contract three years early had been consensual. The construction magnate also stressed repeatedly that Mourinho’s term was not a failure, given the three trophies won, and progress made in Europe.
The fabled ‘decima’ tenth European Cup had not been secured, despite the a €500 million plus outlay on transfer fees and wages, but the club was now closer to winning it than before, Perez claimed.
“We had been six years without passing the last 16 of the Champions League,” he said. “We are now always a top four seed, and reaching the semifinals each year. A year ago we were all delighted after a spectacular season breaking all the records and winning the league title. This season, reaching the semis in Europe, coming second in La Liga, and losing the Copa final, is not sufficient for us. We are very demanding, and proud of that, that is why Madrid is so big, our culture is to win. But the balance, from a sporting perspective, I see as positive.”
Many questions from the reporters present focused on more negative events of Mourinho's time in Spain. Highlights – or better say lowlights – have included blaming a conspiracy reaching as far as UNICEF for a Champions League defeat to Barcelona, poking then Barca assistant coach Tito Vilanova in the eye during a touchline confrontation; four sendings off for arguing with referees, divisive internal feuds with his own reserve team coach, club captain and many other squad players; and the festering of a poisonous relationship with the local Spanish media.
Perez suggested, in words which strangely brought to mind the press conference 12 months ago when Mourinho’s previous nemesis Josep Guardiola announced his departure from Barcelona, that the pressure of managing Real Madrid had caused Mourinho to make mistakes.
“Each coach has their own personality, their level of demands, of competitiveness,” the president said. “Has he made some mistakes? Of course, he has admitted that himself. But there is a lot of pressure at Real Madrid. Everyone can make mistakes, but Mourinho brought a higher level of intensity and competitiveness. Today we are proud of being back where we belong.”
The question now for Madrid fans is whether they are proud of Mourinho’s record of three domestic trophies (2011 Copa del Rey, 2011-12 Primera Division, 2012 Spanish Supercopa), and three Champions League semifinal appearances, and if this is enough to balance out the “mistakes” made during his time in charge.
Perez had his own personal reasons for taking a positive angle on the last three seasons at the Bernabeu, as he also used Monday evening’s event to announce that he was calling presidential elections for June 16, and would be standing as a candidate for re-election himself. With this in mind, reported contact made with Paris Saint-Germain about recruiting its coach Carlo Ancelotti as Mourinho’s replacement was confirmed – but Perez said no pre-contract agreement had been signed with the Italian, and other potential new coaches were also under consideration.
Mourinho will likely now watch his last two games as Madrid boss from the stands having been red carded during Friday’s Copa final. Then he will be off – with a return to Chelsea clearly on the cards. Perez’s future is less certain, and may depend on how many of Madrid’s voting ‘socio’ members buy his line that three trophies in three years outweighs the negative publicity and damaging internal strife which Mourinho brought to the “biggest club in the world.”