Real Madrid: Is Jose Mourinho Florentino Perez's Biggest Mistake?
Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez’s biggest mistake could be hiring two-time UEFA Champions League winning manager José Mourinho.
José has won a La Liga title, a Copa del Rey cup and the Supercopa de España (Spanish equivalent of the FA Community Shield) during his time with Los Blancos.
However, Mourinho’s antics have tarnished the reputation of Los Merengues.
He’s also split the dressing room, engaged in a cold war with the media and surrendered this season’s La Liga title to El Clásico rival Barcelona.
This article will address why Florentino has given up so much power to José and how it will play a part in both men’s future at Real.
Florentino Pérez's Incompetence Part 1: The Claude Makélélé Saga
Florentino Pérez has handed over most of his autonomy to José Mourinho because Florentino is mentally scarred from making mistake after mistake when he used to call all the shots.
What made Pérez's errors even more humiliating was that he made his decisions with pomposity.
It's the summer of 2003, and after a victorious La Liga campaign, Claude Makélélé felt undervalued.
At the time, Claude was the best defensive midfielder in the world, and he was so good that the position was called the "Makélélé role".
With the blessing of his teammates, he mustered up the courage to ask Florentino for a significant wage increase.
Pérez was so taken aback by what he deemed an insignificant role player trying to hold leverage over him, that Florentino went out of his way to discredit Makélélé (via Richard Stevens at The Guardian):
He wasn't a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres.
I am surprised at the difference between the exemplary behaviour he showed over the last three years, on and off the field, and that which he has shown recently. I believe it is due to bad advice.
He wanted half of what Zidane is earning and that was not possible.
Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélélé to be forgotten.
When we were winning league titles and European Cups at Real, I always said Claude Makélélé was our most important player. There is no way myself, Figo or Raúl would have been able to do what we did without Claude and the same goes for Liverpool and Gerrard.
When Zizou negotiated his return to the French national team, it wasn't about him (via UEFA.com): "Raymond Domenech came to see me two or three times in Madrid and we have discussed the possibility that Makélélé and I might return to the side."
Emphasis on the "Makélélé and I" part.
Pérez was oblivious to what Claude meant to Zinedine.
Claude Makélélé (7/10): One of the water carriers for Zidane, Makélélé made sure his French international colleague never went thirsty.
Zinedine Zidane (9/10): A joy to behold, displaying his extraordinary range of talents—feints, flicks, and dummies—as well playing the final ball for the first two goals.
When Real Madrid were dumped out of that season's Champions League by Juventus, writer Marcus Christenson said it was due to Claude's injury, which again reinforces how vital Makélélé was to Vicente del Bosque's side (via UEFA.com)
The Frenchman [Makélélé], out with a thigh injury, has this season been asked to provide defensive cover for the foraging attacking midfield players that are Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Guti et al, and on Wednesday night the unenviable task of replacing him against Juventus went to Flavio Conceição.
Real Madrid CF were left ruing the absence of defensive midfield player Claude Makélélé as Juventus FC reached the final with a 4-3 aggregate win.
You know that cliche: one man's trash is another man's treasure?
Without the engine (Makélélé), Pérez's Bentley (Los Galácticos) was all show and no go.
Florentino made one last-ditched attempt to fill Claude's void with the pugnacious Thomas Gravesen.
The president said (via Sid Lowe at The Guardian): "We have signed Denmark's best player. Gravesen is exactly the player we were missing and he had some important offers from Italy and England but he only ever wanted to come to Real Madrid."
To which Thomas responded: "I didn't have any offers at all except for the one from Madrid."
Three trophyless years after selling Claude to Chelsea, Florentino resigned from Real Madrid.
Florentino Pérez's Incompetence Part 2: Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o
When Florentino Pérez was asked why he chose David Beckham over Ronaldinho, Pérez—with his best poker face—said Real Madrid didn't even entertain thoughts of signing Ronaldinho.
A member of Florentino's entourage anonymously told El País' Diego Torres (via Sid Lowe at The Guardian):
How ugly is Ronaldinho?! There was no point buying him, it wasn't worth it. He's so ugly that he'd sink you as a brand.
Between Ronaldinho and Beckham, I'd go for Beckham a hundred times. Just look how handsome Beckham is, the class he has, the image.
The whole of Asia has fallen in love with us because of Beckham. Ronaldinho is too ugly.
Ronaldinho scored five times in four consecutive El Clásico games and earned a standing ovation from the Santiago Bernabéu faithful.
The Brazilian also won back-to-back FIFA World Player of the Year awards for Barcelona.
To make matters worse, Pérez gifted Samuel Eto'o to the Catalonian club.
Mallorca owned 50 percent of Samuel Eto'o's rights, when Joan Laporta came knocking.
The other 50 belonged to Real Madrid—much to the chagrin of Joan—with then-Real sporting director Emilio Butragueno telling Sport (via BBC Sport): "There is still time to decide if we will use our option on the player."
The option being, accept 50 percent of Barça's transfer fee, which was €12 million of the €24 million, or buy out Eto'o's rights at Mallorca.
The latter option would deny Laporta an athletic and dangerous 23-year-old forward in Eto'o, who had scored 21 goals for Mallorca, and had been crowned the African Player of the Year.
BBC Sport reported in July, 2004: "Before he was re-elected on Sunday, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez said he intended to buy back the full rights to the player from Mallorca and then loan him out to another club."
Think about it, Real Madrid management had foreseen the probability of Eto'o making the next step at Mallorca, hence why they kept a 50 percent stake in the Cameroonian's contract.
Just to clarify, Florentino felt the club didn't need Samuel because of Raúl and Ronaldo.
Then there was the resentment Eto'o felt towards Los Blancos, so he was never going to go back and become a star at the club.
What should have happened was Florentino going with his original decision in buying out Eto'o's contract, and either loaning or selling him to an elite team in another league.
Of all the teams interested in his services, why give Barça Eto'o? Such a presumptuous move from Pérez.
Florentino underestimated what Samuel would bring to the Blaugrana because in the president's mind, Los Galácticos was just a better team. When in reality, Real were just a more expensive team.
Pérez eventually relented to Laporta's campaign for Eto'o and gave them a striker, who would later win a Pichichi, score in two UEFA Champions League finals and net four times in El Clásico matches.
Samuel made sure to rub salt into Florentino's wounds (via Sid Lowe at The Guardian): "Madrid, you arsehole, bow down before the champion!"
Florentino Pérez's Incompetence Part 3: Pellegrini, Robben and Sneijder
Compare and contrast the egos of Florentino Pérez and Massimo Moratti.
Both are hire and fire type executives with a Jerry Jones-esque view of how to run a club.
However, Moratti bowed down to then-Inter Milan manager José Mourinho, when the Portuguese had the audacity to request more transfers after Ricardo Quaresma and Mancini were expensive flops.
One of those transfers was Real Madrid's Wesley Sneijder, who Manuel Pellegrini begged Pérez not to sell.
Just to make sure Manuel knew his place, Florentino sold Arjen Robben to Bayern Munich.
What happened that season?
Both Sneijder and Robben were influential figures in the Nerazzurri and Bayern reaching the UEFA Champions League final.
When Pellegrini was sacked, he referenced the view of Champions League winning Los Blancos manager Vicente del Bosque (via The Guardian):
As Vicente del Bosque said, even the club show no respect for the position of the coach, and they don't give them the authority internally or externally.
I asked for them to keep Sneijder and Robben, who were two very important players for me.
I missed having a debate on sporting issues, with the coach included.
Florentino's project is extraordinary but I think he's got it wrong.
About this time, Pérez looked himself in the mirror and said: "I give up!"
In came, the Special One.
Florentino Pérez Just a Puppet for Puppeteer José Mourinho
Florentino Pérez's egomaniacal, power hungry and self serving way of being president coincided with Barcelona enjoying their most successful period ever.
Pérez is washing his hands and thinking, "finally, I'm not making the big calls."
Wrong. You hired José Mourinho, who has always craved power, and you're accountable for the Portuguese manager's decisions.
With no stature in the game, rookie coach José gave Benfica an ultimatum—extend my contract or I'll resign. SLB's board said no and Mourinho walked.
He took a pit-stop at União de Leiria, before being hired at Porto and won the UEFA Champions League.
At Chelsea, Mourinho was locked in a power struggle with Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, a battle the Special One ultimately lost.
As Inter Milan manager, Mourinho had control over Massimo Moratti, persuading the Italian to overhaul the entire squad:
2009-10: Diego Milito (signed from Genoa for €28 million), Samuel Eto'o (included in Zlatan Ibrahimović Barça deal), Wesley Sneijder (signed from Real Madrid for €18 million), Thiago Motta (signed from Genoa for €10.2 million), Lúcio (signed from Bayern Munich for €8 million), McDonald Mariga (signed from Parma for €5 million)
2008-09: Ricardo Quaresma (signed from Porto for €18.6 million + Pelé) , Sulley Muntari (signed from Portsmouth for €16 million) and Mancini (signed from Roma for €13 million)
Inter won their first Champions League title under Massimo's ownership.
Florentino is hoping his lax management of Mourinho will lead to a Champions League triumph. But, in doing so, he is sitting idly by whilst José routinely ignores decorum, which in turn portrays Real Madrid in a negative light.
Whenever El Clásico rolls along, the storyline is "bad" Real Madrid vs. "good" Barcelona.
Barça's diving is a concern but Mourinho's thuggish tactics bring the game into disrepute.
Commentator Ray Hudson eloquently summed up Mourinho's Real Madrid:
This is what Real Madrid are getting their reputation about. There's this nasty edge, and it's on Fàbregas, and it's nasty as a rat-bite from the back by Marcelo. It's wicked. It's malicious. It's verging on criminal.
Real spent decades trying to erase the negative image of being Franco's club (even though Athletic Aviación de Madrid had clear military links to the regime), but now, José is creating a PR nightmare.
Will it lead to marketing problems (I know, how ironic) down the line?
To quote former Real president Ramón Calderón (via Inside Spanish Football):
Perez is Mourinho’s puppet. He is not in control of anything and has no interest in showing that he is actually the boss at Madrid. He has given the coach all the power.
Mourinho has not fooled anyone. It’s not his fault that he was brought in and given all the power at the club. The only winner of that action was Mourinho. But the president knew what to expect when he brought him to Madrid. He has already shown at his previous clubs that he thinks about himself first.
Mourinho is the de-facto president, having ousted general manager Jorge Valdano and filled the squad with Jorge Mendes represented players (Cristiano Ronaldo, Ángel Di María, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão and Ricardo Carvalho).
José is ripping apart this Real team with the dressing room split between the pro-Sergio Ramos/Iker Casillas footballers, the Mendes players + Mourinho's boys (José Callejón, Antonio Adán and Michael Essien), whilst the rest of the team are Swiss neutral.
By the way Mourinho, how's Adán working out for you? Where's that "form"?
Casillas' replacement conceded three in the loss to Málaga and was red carded against Real Sociedad.
Don't rule out Jesús Fernández starting a game.
Having just extended Mourinho's contract, Florentino would break the severance package record paid to a manager, should he dismiss José .
In doing so, Pérez also faces the wrath of Mendes, and could potentially lose several starters including that of CR7, who voiced professional problems with the club last September.
Hiring Mourinho wasn't Florentino's worst mistake.
Being José's puppet will be the decision that ends Pérez's second term like his first term—in resignation.
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