José Mourinho’s third and final season with Real Madrid has been full of drama, more than anything. The club recently announced that the Portuguese will not continue in Madrid next season and the club is already looking for a replacement. Mourinho’s time in Madrid can’t be fully considered a success, but it can’t be considered a full failure either, and his legacy in the club will make the job of his successor quite difficult.
Mourinho arrived in Madrid with one thing in mind: ending Barcelona’s era. The coach himself wasn’t too hesitant to admit that his goal was to end Barcelona’s dominance and make Real Madrid a winning team again. He did that by winning the Copa Del Rey during his first season, however, that’s hardly what his first season will be remembered for.
After Mourinho’s arrival in Madrid, the Clasicós became very intense. The rivalry seemed to get out of hand; Madrid played ultra-physical and ultra-defensive football against Barcelona. The Clasicós were no longer a battle on the pitch, they were a battle in the press rooms and sidelines too. It seemed like Mourinho had pulled his team to a state where beating Barcelona was the most important thing. Managing to do that in the Copa Del Rey might not have been done in the most beautiful way, but it added to the players’ confidence, results of which were seen in the following season.
Real Madrid’s season of 2011-2012 was impressive domestically. It’s fair to say that’s when the team played its best football under Mourinho, ended up winning the La Liga and even managed to beat Barcelona in the process, this time, by playing better football. But 2011-2012 wasn’t only the most successful season Mourinho had in Madrid, it was also the turning point of his time with the Spanish giants. The objective had been reached, Real Madrid had beaten Barcelona domestically, and despite the disappointment in Europe, Mourinho’s second year was a success. Then what started the downfall that led to the trophiless season in 2012-2013?
Perhaps, in some way, Mourinho ran out of ways to motivate his players. After winning the La Liga ahead of Barcelona, Mourinho could no longer motivate the players with the thought of beating Barcelona, in other words, he could no longer use the tactic that had united the squad and made them a winning force.
When the 2012-2013 season kicked off, the mentality of the squad was nothing like the year before. They impressed in Europe but struggled domestically. And when the Liga title started to slip out of their hands, Mourinho’s relationship to his players started to crack.
It’s hard to say what actually happened between Mourinho and some of his key players such as Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos. But it might not be a coincidence that Mourinho’s relationship with the two experienced Madrid-icons fell apart; Mourinho changed a lot and did a lot of things against the club’s values, and the two players didn’t digest that and the relationship broke down. That’s when the whole team started to crack, as the Spanish players took Casillas and Ramos’ side, the Portuguese stars stood behind Mourinho. The unity that had won them the La Liga was long gone, and eventually lead to a trophiless season.
Mourinho leaves Madrid in a state of disaster. He did what he promised to do - ending Barcelona’s dominance in Spain - but failed to keep Madrid on top and failed to maintain the unity of his squad. By Mourinho’s standards, his time in Madrid is not a success and it’s surely not as much as people in Madrid hoped for. Even more importantly, Mourinho leaves a rather difficult task for his successor.
Real Madrid is reportedly chasing Carlo Ancelotti to replace Mourinho, other names linked to the club are Jupp Heynckes and André Villas-Boas. Ancelotti looks like the most likely, and perhaps the best option. He is no stranger to dealing with big egos and the solid display his side put up against Barcelona will surely encourage Real Madrid’s board.
Heynckes might well be a good option as well if he decides to continue his career. However, Madrid’s rather complicated situation might see him stay away as the Spanish club’s management is nothing like it was in the very well organized and stable Bayern Munich. Or perhaps Heynckes himself would be the one to stabilize things in Madrid, who knows?
André Villas-Boas, another name linked to Madrid, is a great coach, but taking over a club like Real Madrid might be a bit too much to ask for. Villas-Boas never really got along with the big egos in Chelsea, and there surely won’t be any less of those egos in Madrid. With the urgent need to get Madrid back on track, Villas-Boas - who trusts a process instead of quick changes - might not be the right man for the job.
Either way, whoever replaces Mourinho will have to find a way to unite the squad again. Mourinho leaves Madrid in square one, they have to start rebuilding again, just like they did in 2010 when Mourinho arrived. The progress Mourinho made was more or less destroyed by the internal collapse of the team, something Mourinho himself can be partly blamed for. Mourinho started a fire that got out of control, and now it’s time for Madrid find someone capable of taming the flames.
Written by Jen Evelyn