Mourinho - the ego has landed, in Madrid

August 24th, 2010 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Aug 24 (DPA) Real Madrid changed the course of their history in June, in their latest attempt to challenge the domination of Barcelona.
At the Estadio Bernabeu, the main men have always been the club president and the sporting director, rarely the coach.

The white tradition has always been that the president gives wide powers to the sporting director, who buys and sells players and hires and fires the coaches.

The coach, usually short-lived, has never had much of a say over buying and selling, and has often left complaining about his lack of power.

In recent years, coaches of the calibre of Jupp Heynckes, Vicente del Bosque, Fabio Capello and Bernd Schuster have all been unceremoniously sacked despite winning trophies,and have all left complaining about their lack of power and autonomy.

Heynckes was sacked in 1998 just a week after winning the Champions League, Real’s first for 32 years, and grumbled that “this club simply does not know how to treat its coaches properly.”

Last May Manuel Pellegrini was axed despite his team having amassed a club record of 96 points and the highest goals total since 1990 — and despite most fans wanting him to continue.

But instead of bringing in another coach with few powers, Real president Florentino Perez decided to change history — and appoint Jose Mourinho.

“It was a historic decision,” commented Radio Marca last week, “because for the first time a coach was appointed on the promise of having real powers and autonomy.”

For just about the first time ever, Real’s “Galactico” star will be on the bench, not on the field.

Perez is known as a “devourer of coaches” because of having sacked six of them in his seven years in charge. However, he finally seems to have realized that Real will never catch up with Barca unless a strong coach is given the same level of powers as Pep Guardiola enjoys at Barca.

That means a large say over signings and sales - and no interference whatsoever from the president and sporting director.

Sports daily AS commented two weeks ago that “Perez knows full well that Mourinho is not a man to be trifled with, that he will react badly to any attempt at interference.”

The relation between Perez and Mourinho is one of the most important factors in Real’s chances this season.

Another key factor is the relationship between Mourinho and Jorge Valdano, the club’s general and sporting director.

Mourinho and Valdano are chalk and cheese: the egotistical, belligerent Portuguese “Man of War”, and the verbose, self-important Argentine pseudo-intellectual are light years apart in terms of footballing style and public image.

It was clear to everyone that Valdano was not in favour of replacing Pellegrini with Mourinho, but Perez insisted on the change. Most fans expected - and, according to online polls, hoped - that Valdano would resign, in order to give Mourinho more autonomy.

But the laconic Argentine has stayed put, and there has been no blowup between him and Mourinho - so far.

When presenting Mourinho as coach in June, Valdano raised eyebrows by apologising to the former for having attacked his football style over the years in various articles.

If Valdano and Perez do resist the temptation to interfere and let Mourinho get on with the job, then Real will certainly give Barca a good run for their money.

As usual, Real have been the highest spenders in Spain this summer, splashing out almost 80 million euros ($101.72 million) on Ricardo Carvalho, Sergio Canales, Sami Khedira, Mesut Oezil, Pedro Leon and Angel Di Maria.

Most of these players were direct requests from Mourinho. Carvalho will bring experience to the defence, the others will bring youth and ambition to the midfield.

On Monday - following Sunday’s friendly 3-1 win away to Hercules in Alicante - Marca commented that “the omens for the new season are quite good.”

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