Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Jose Mourinho: Who's More Important for Real Madrid?

Michael CernaCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2012

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19:  Head Coach Jose Mourinho (R) of Real Madrid instructs Cristiano Ronaldo during the UEFA Champions League group G match between Real Madrid and AC Milan at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 19, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images


Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho are considered by many to be the best at what they do.

Ronaldo may be the next Player of the Year and is often called the best player in football. Jose Mourinho matches him and is in any conversation about the best managers in football.

CR7 continues to break records every season and is considered by many to be the best footballer on the planet. His manager has already won two Champions League titles and lifted league trophies in four different countries.

Right now, these two global figures are at the same club in Madrid and that begs the question—who is more important to the team?

This article will provide arguments for both sides, but will center around the idea that neither is quite as vital to Real Madrid's success as it seems.

The argument is that the rest of the Real Madrid squad and the people giving Mourinho power are just as responsible for the teams' success as these two parties are.

Let's first take a look at the former Ballon d'Or winner.

The Case for Ronaldo

Perhaps the best way to decide this debate is to look at what each party has done at the Spanish capital compared to his predecessor.

For Ronaldo, that is difficult to do since no one of his stature or talent preceded him in the years before his arrival—and maybe ever. What we can do is look at how important the Portuguese star has been to his club. In that department, it is easy to argue that Ronaldo is more important than his boss.

Just last season, we saw how vital CR7 is to Real's success. Even beyond his historic numbers and countless records was the timing of his best performances.

When Madrid were close to a stalemate against Rayo Vallecano, it was Ronaldo who scored the winner—albeit with a bit of a lucky back-heel.

When his team allowed Barcelona to draw level at Camp Nou in what could have been the season's defining match, it was again Ronaldo who coolly slotted home the winner that essentially clinched his first La Liga title.

The biggest came against Atletico Madrid. After weeks of disappointing play from the team and going up against one of Spain's best teams, Real needed a victory. Barcelona had almost closed the 12-point gap and looked like the stronger side with the Clasico nearing.

So CR7 played his best game of the season, scoring a decisive hat-trick and silencing any doubters who would argue that he failed to perform in the biggest matches.

That big-game ability carried into Europe as well when he scored a brace for his team in the semifinals of the Champions League. That ability is not due to Mourinho. CR7 can do what he does with or without the Portuguese coach. He has already proven that.

Now looking at this season, it is becoming more clear that Los Blancos only play as well as their No. 7. They are not as reliant on his as Barcelona is on Messi, but their form still usually mirrors that of their record signing.

CR7 has been known to disappear during matches before, but usually he comes alive at just the right time to bail his team out. So far this season, the latter has failed to happen. I expect that to change soon.

Quite simply, without Ronaldo, it is at least fair to say that Madrid would be nowhere near as good as they are right now.

The Case for Mourinho

Just as Ronaldo has proven that he can perform at such high levels elsewhere, Jose Mourinho has proven that he can find success without his current no. 7.

Of course, his previous successes are not relevant here, we have to look at how important he is for Real Madrid.

Unlike Ronaldo, Mourinho does have a comparable predecessor. We can simply ask, how has he done compared to those who came before him?

The answer to that question is clear—the current leader of Los Merengues has outperformed his predecessor and, really, the handful of managers that came before him.

First off, he lasted beyond one season which already makes him more successful than every other Real Madrid manager of the past decade. Beyond that, he is responsible for many key players who are currently on the team, most notably Mesut Ozil and Angel di Maria.

But results are what matters and Mourinho has gotten those. After leading Inter Milan to a Champions League semifinal win over Barcelona in early 2010, he was brought to the Spanish capital to repeat that feat over the course of a season.

He failed initially, but did manage to overcomes Pep Guardiola's Barça in his second season. En route to his first La Liga title, he controlled a record-breaking Real Madrid squad. That team from last season scored more goals and won more points than any team in history.

He now eyes his third Champions League title with as many clubs and has built a squad strong enough to do just that.

So in sum, before Mourinho, Real Madrid were less successful than they currently are.

The Case for... Neither?

The initial question and title of this article is admittedly misleading.

Surely there are reasons to say that each person is more important to the reigning La Liga champions, but now I ask this—are we asking the wrong question here?

Since these are the two biggest names at the club and have the most to show for Real's success, it is only natural to assume that both are essential to the success of Madrid.

But are they really?

The Case Against Ronaldo

I already discussed how vital CR7 was to his team last season. Without him, Barcelona may have closed the gap and taken over the champions in the final weeks of play.

But is he getting too much credit for last season's historic campaign? After all, we are talking about a team that beat their rivals by nine points.

Let's just say Ronaldo failed to score in those three previously mentioned matches and they had ended in draws. That means Real would have dropped six points. For those who are not so good with numbers, that means Madrid would still have won La Liga.

But what about the other matches where he saved points for Madrid—such as his matches against Villarreal and Levante? He bailed them out multiple times that may have cost his team the league. But could someone else have done that? We'll get to that later.

Just look at the talent on the team. Beyond Ronaldo, there were two players who finished with more than 20 goals on the season. He benefited from playing out wide and having those two stars take attention away from him.

Mesut Ozil finished with 17 assists and Angel di Maria could have broken Xavi's record of 20 had he not missed half the year. Goals are a bit easier to come by with those two playing alongside him.

Still Vital

My point here is not that Ronaldo was not exceptional or important. My point is that he was not far more important than these players. He did not, in any way, carry his team to glory.

He simply proved that he can take a team full of world class players to a league title that had only one challenger. He did the same thing at Manchester United before that.

In England, it was not as if CR7 helped  Fulham or Sunderland to the Premier League and Champions League titles. He was part of the Premiership's most successful team, led by the most successful manager.

Another way to look at it is to imagine the team without him. Ask yourself, what if Ronaldo was not at the club last season? What if they had kept the previous occupant?

OK, let's think about that. If last season Real Madrid had Arjen Robben instead of Ronaldo, would the team still have been so successful?

Robben helped lead Bayern Munich to the Champions League final after all—the same team that knocked Real Madrid out of the tournament. The goal tally would have been less, but that does not mean the team would have been weaker.

I will let you decide how to answer that one.

The Case Against Mourinho

When talking about the manager, let's just get straight to the point—is Real Madrid good because of Mourinho or is Mourinho good because of his talented team?

We are talking about Real Madrid. This is a team that—before Mourinho even arrived—broke the world transfer record twice in one summer.

The Portuguese manager took over a team with the world's best keeper, a world class striking duo, and elite midfielders throughout. Yes, he did make some key changes—such as Ozil and Angel di Maria, but how much credit can he really be given when considering how much money he had at his disposal?

This question should be asked about Mourinho even before his time at Real.

Inherited Success?

Without a doubt, the biggest reason Mourinho is considered to be arguably the best manager in football is his success across multiple leagues.

However, just as with Real Madrid, not every success is down to Mourinho himself. At each position he has taken over, the manager has walked into a very favorable position at his clubs.

At Real Madrid, he took over a world class team that suffered not from poor management, but impatient leadership. He headed a club that sacked any manager that did not exceed expectations after just one season. But because he was Jose Mourinho, he was given more time.

In his three years with the club, the current coach has spent roughly €172 million—hardly pocket change. Imagine what someone like Unai Emery could have done with that much money.

Beyond Real Madrid

This pales in comparison to the resources at his disposal in England. He took over a very ambitious Chelsea team that changed the way we look at transfers today.

In just three years, Roman Abramovic pumped more than €371 million into Mourinho's squad.

This is not to say that he just happened to be at the right place at the right time.The results speak for themselves yet again.

The Portuguese man left Chelsea as the most successful skipper in team history, but no one can argue that having almost €380 million to assemble a team helped a bit.

Then at Inter, Mourinho took over a squad that had won the previous three league titles and was in the middle of its most successful period in history. He was only at the helm for two seasons, but he still managed to bring in just more than €175 million worth of transfers.

But again, I am not saying that he was not an integral part of that historic squad. Winning the Champions League is not something that just any manager is capable of doing.

I just think we have to wonder if another manager could have taken over a team that had been dominating Serie A, spent almost €200 million, and then led them to a Champions League title.


Up to this point, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Mourinho benefited from money and favorable situations just as much as those teams have benefited from him.

That argument is not as strong when looking at his first European title... or is it?

The common thought is that Jose Mourinho took a very weak Porto side and led over the best of Europe en route to winning his first Champions League. It seems the perfect underdog story.

Unfortunately, this is not entirely accurate.

Yes, Mourinho did lead a 'smaller' team to glory, but he was not exactly working with a weak team.  Nor did he slay the giants of Europe to lift the trophy.

The squad he took to the Champions League consisted of many stars. Among others, he had Vitor Baia who became the most expensive keeper in football when he left for Barcelona before returning to Porto.

There were also club legends Deco, Jorge Costa, and Ricardo Carvalho. They played alongside the likes of Maniche and Costinha.

For those who did not follow these players or Porto at the time, these players were also very big stars for their time. It should also be noted that most of these players were around before Mourinho.

The teams Porto beat to win the tournament? Manchester United, Lyon, Deportivo, and Monaco. They were able to avoid most powerhouses at the time.

It is also important to note that this was at a time unlike today. This was still in an era where the powerful and few elite were not far superior to the second-tier teams like they are today.

Still the Special One

Despite all of these favorable scenarios playing such a key part of his success, Mourinho is worthy of his title as one of the very best in the world.

In Portugal, he took a group of players that had shown potential and helped mold them into European Champions. For that, he deserves enormous and endless praise.

What Mourinho did at each club was historic and deserves appreciation, but we have to keep things in context when deciding how important he was to those clubs' successes.


Let's get back to the main question—who is more important to the club.

What this article shows is that, while both Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo are major reasons for Real Madrid's success, perhaps they get too much credit in the end.

The goal is not to degrade or downplay the impact of both people. Instead, the goal is to show that their supporting cast is just as important.

Ronaldo would not be where he is today without the likes of Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, Mesut Ozil or Xabi Alonso. The superstar would not be where he is today without the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson or the guidance of the Special One.

Mourinho would not have won so many titles without such legends and stars as Deco, Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder and Ronaldo himself. The manager would not have been as successful without more than €718 million and a few owners who were willing to invest in championship-winning squads.

Bringing this back to today's Madrid team, Ronaldo and Mourinho are key parts of Europe's most decorated club.

However, they are not the reason for Real's success. Nor are they incredibly more irreplaceable than other vital members of the organization.

So I leave you with this question—who is really more important to Real Madrid?


Note: All transfer fees courtesy of Transfer Markt.



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