Real Madrid: The 5 Mistakes That Will Cost Mourinho His Job
Jose Mourinho has won seven domestic league titles and two Champions Leagues. His Real Madrid side won last year's La Liga with a record-breaking tally of wins, points and goals scored. His win percentage of 73.2 percent is better than any other trophy-winning manager at the Spanish side.
This season, however, things aren't going as well.
Madrid trail fierce rivals Barcelona by 18 points and neighbors Atleti by seven. There have been reports of disharmony in the dressing room and with club president Florentino Perez. Statistically, this is officially the worst start to a season that Mourinho has ever had (via Daily Mail).
Fans have now turned against The Special One, with 62 percent of those polled by Spanish newspaper Marca believing he has damaged the club's image (via The Guardian). Of those polled, 41.8 percent did not want the lauded manager to keep his job after this season.
The dissatisfied fans may soon get their wish. Mourinho has made choices and decisions in recent months that will, in my opinion, cost him his job long before his contract expires in 2015.
Here are five of them...
Alonso and Ramos' "deliberate" Red Cards
During a 2010 Champions League group stage match with Ajax—a few months after Florentino Perez had appointed Mourinho and given him unprecedented powers—the Portuguese coach appeared to instruct Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos to each pick up deliberate second yellow cards for time wasting. They each duly obliged, got sent off, served their suspensions during a meaningless game with Auxerre, then started with a fresh disciplinary slate for the knockout stage.
After investigation, UEFA fined the team €100,000 and the manager €30,000 for "improper conduct". The money was not an issue, but the pronouncement of guilt was an embarrassment for the club.
Perez has always insisted Madrid act in a "noble" manner. A large part of his job is a PR exercise in shaking the perception of Barcelona as the "good" Catalan team and Madrid as the "bad" side affiliated with the Franco regime.
This incident may have been the first fracture in the relationship between Madrid's president and manager.
Perez is up for reelection next year and will surely need to take action over an unpopular manager who has not always towed the party line.
Fighting with Players
At half-time of Madrid's 5-1 win over Deportivo La Coruna in September, Mesut Özil was replaced by Kaka.
Sergio Ramos then emerged in the second half, clearly wearing Özil's shirt under his own (presumably to reveal it if he scored a goal, which he did not).
The gesture was interpreted as defiance towards Mourinho from both players, and a sign of the growing disgruntlement in the dressing room.
Mourinho played down the incident in the press, but told Marca that his relationship with his wife was "much better than with Sergio Ramos." It may have been a joke, but it was a telling one.
While he is said to have a good relationship with the club's Portuguese players, the manager has since endured alleged bust-ups with other squad members, including Iker Casillas (more on him later).
The players are the best-paid people at the organisation. Upsetting them means upsetting the fans. Upsetting the fans means upsetting the people who will vote to reelect Florentino Perez. Upsetting Florentino Perez means losing your job.
Snubbing the Ballon d'Or Awards
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Mou was nominated in the best male coach category at the 2012 Ballon d'Or but chose not to board Madrid's private jet to the Swiss ceremony.
He claimed he had to stay behind to prepare for an upcoming Copa del Rey tie. Around the time of the ceremony, however, he was spotted by Spanish newspaper AS watching his son play football instead.
The implication was that the 49-year-old's relationship with certain members of the squad was so frayed that he could not bear to board a plane with them.
Furthermore, AS asserted that Florentino Perez took the award ceremony snub as a direct insult to Real Madrid.
Mourinho will argue that performances on the field are more important than glitzy award shows, but the incident was generally regarded as a negative gesture.
Dropping Iker Casillas
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Iker Casillas is the No. 1 choice for the World Cup and European Championship holders, he has been voted into the FIFA/FIFPro World XI for the fifth consecutive season and he's generally regarded as one of the finest shot-stoppers in the game.
Those who picked up a team sheet before Madrid's match at Malaga in December must have suspected a typo, as Casillas had been dropped for Antonio Adan.
But it was true, and Adan went on to concede three goals in Madrid's fourth loss of the season. Casillas was dropped once again after the winter break for the visit of Real Sociedad, and he only found his way back onto the field when Adan was sent off.
The decision stank of a power play: there was no tactical reason to drop the hugely popular Casillas. It was simply Mou's way of showing everyone who was in control.
By no coincidence, Florentino Perez had hailed Casillas as a "legendary captain of Real Madrid" a few days earlier (via Sports Illustrated).
Perez would not have appreciated the undermining gesture. Judging by the fans' jeers and whistles at the manager at the Bernabeu, the Madridistas did not like it either.
Openly Touting Himself for Other Jobs
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In the football equivalent of publicly declaring how much fun it would be to date your girlfriend's co-workers, Mourinho has been flirting with the idea of managing other clubs for some time.
This week, he appeared in an FA video declaring his interest in returning to the Premier League (via The Guardian). In October, he told CNN's Pedro Pinto that he "hates" his social life and wishes to return to England to face Sir Alex Ferguson as a domestic adversary once more.
Is this the behavior of a man who wants to fight to keep his job until his contract expires in 2015? Or are these the unsubtle hints of a man who is auspiciously trying to engineer his own downfall at Madrid? One would suspect it is the latter.