Monday, 20 May 2013
Why Mourinho had to leave Real Madrid
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 morcels 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.