After a week of euphoria for Real Madrid, having beaten their greatest rivals F.C. Barcelona in the Cup and League and having progressed at the expense of Manchester United in the Champions League, the whole mood of their season would appear to have changed.
Barcelona recorded their best first half of a la Liga season ever, yet three defeats, by Milan and twice against Madrid, have plunged the club into what many see as a crisis. Without their first team coach Tito Vilanova, currently in New York receiving treatment for a recurrence of the cancer that had seen him have to stand aside for a period as Guardiola’s assistant also, the team appear rudderless and lacking any signs of motivation.
The polar opposite has occurred at Madrid. A side that had looked lost at times and on the verge of being derailed by in-fighting amongst elements of the squad now looks to have found a second wind, are favourites for both the Copa del Rey and Champions League and some sectors of the Madrid media even believe that coupled with Barcelona’s apparent crisis the league is still a possibility for Los Blancos.
Only a couple of months ago, many were calling for Mourinho’s head and questioning President Florentino Pérez judgement in keeping faith with the often controversial Portuguese manager. He had publicly lambasted a number of players for below par performances and had even dropped his two Captains, Sergio Ramos and more controversially in the away loss at Málaga Iker Casillas. The latters exclusion brought about a media backlash, especially as Mourinho claimed at the time that he believed back-up Antonio Adán was his best option as he was the better goalkeeper at that time.
The logic of this decision was further questioned when Casillas was injured shortly after in a cup match at Valencia. Rather than leaving Adán as first choice, 31 year old Diego López was signed from Sevilla and thrown into the starting 11 straight away. The fact López had lost his starting place to Andrés Palop and had actually had to leave Madrid after only two appearances for the 1st team in four years (the first two of which were in the B team) earlier in his career had virtually spelt the end of Adán’s first team career at the Bernabeu.
Mourinho had expressed his displeasure at the way things were panning out for him at Madrid, how his squad were not responding to him, he believed certain elements were leaking stories to the media, the press were hounding him and the board were not supporting him. He stopped appearing at press conferences and stories emerged linking him with moves to PSG and Chelsea. In short, José Mourinho was fed up.
However, recently Mourinho has become calmer, happier with the attitude and reaction from the majority of his squad of players. Relations with his two Club Captains are far from cordial. He believes he can work on his relationship with Ramos, Casillas will be harder to convince. A leaked story to the media suggested both would leave in the summer if Mourinho stayed on.
After recent results, the board would appear to have been swung back to the Mourinho camp and will do whatever they can to convince him to stay. They believe that only a huge money offer could tempt him away and they see PSG as their only real threat.
Another theory is that Mourinho wishes to stay for one more season as he believes that Sir Alex Ferguson will retire at the end of the next campaign and his next dream job would be to manage Manchester United. Certainly from his post match comments at Old Trafford, it did appear to many in the UK media that he was pitching himself for the reds hot seat. Very rarely does Mourinho act so humbly after a victory.
For now, it would appear that the self proclaimed “special/only one” will be staying in Madrid for at least one more season. But, a lot can change in two or three matches in la Liga. Just ask Barça.