Can Real Madrid Actually Do Better Without Jose Mourinho?

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Can Real Madrid Actually Do Better Without Jose Mourinho?

How many managers would kill to have the worst season of Jose Mourinho’s career?

Following Friday’s Copa del Rey defeat to local rivals Atletico Madrid, the Real Madrid boss told reporters the current campaign would go down as his poorest in 13 years of club management.

“With a final, a semifinal, a second place and a Super Cup, for me it is the worst,” he said to Marca, adding, “When things go well it’s because of everyone. When things go bad it is the manager’s fault. For me it is the worst season.”

The 50-year-old went as far as saying that even the previous term, in which Madrid won La Liga and compiled 100 points, had been a failure given the club’s inability to win the Champions League—remarks Florentino Perez hinted at in announcing Mourinho’s exit in a Monday press conference.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Mourinho celebrates Real Madrid's title win last spring.

“I would have liked Mourinho to stay for many more years,” stated the Madrid president after revealing the Portuguese would be leaving the club at the end of the season, according to Marca. “But,” he continued, “many Madrid fans believe the pressure he was subjected to wasn’t normal and a person can only put up with so much.”

And he certainly did put up with a lot—the club’s demanding fanbase and a core of egotistical establishment players saw to that.

But he created his own drama as well, picking fights with the likes of Iker Casillas and losing his temper when a more statesmanlike approach would have served him better.

After hearing Perez announce Mourinho’s exit, Barcelona vice president Carles Vilarrubi lashed out at the departing Madrid manager, saying he had been “a scourge” to La Liga and that seeing him leave Spanish football was positive because “he had created a negative atmosphere,” per Marca.

It seems the decision makers at Madrid eventually came around to Barcelona’s way of thinking (something that doesn’t happen often), and one of the first points of business for the new manager will be to restore an element of respect at the Bernabeu.

Enter Carlo Ancelotti.

Michael Regan/Getty Images
Carlo Ancelotti is expected to replace Mourinho as Madrid manager.

Set to leave Paris Saint-Germain, it is thought the Italian already has a personal agreement in place with Real Madrid, according to Goal, and his behavioural style is certainly something that would have been considered in approaching him.

A league winner in both Serie A and Ligue 1, Ancelotti is widely regarded as a gentleman. His ability to manage relationships with the media, the club hierarchy, the establishment players and the fans would no doubt settle the nerves of some executives who, in recent seasons, grew increasingly exasperated with what they saw as childish antics from Mourinho.

But Ancelotti, or whomever will be brought in to replace Mourinho, will be expected to win as well, and lifting the club’s 10th European Cup—the elusive Decima—will be at the top of their to-do list.

It’s here that the new manager will struggle to replicate Mourinho’s success. For while he couldn’t quite get Madrid into a Champions League final, he nevertheless brought them into three successive semifinals after six straight years of Round of 16 defeats.

He gave Barcelona a run for their money in La Liga as well, coming second to the Catalan juggernaut on two occasions and finishing nine points above them (and 39 above third-place Valencia) last season.

Even Perez conceded Mourinho had done well from a purely footballing perspective, saying to Marca, “It has been a successful period. Real Madrid is back where it should be.”

Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Chelsea fans have long been clamouring for a Mourinho return, and they may soon get their wish.

Only legendary manager Miguel Munoz, who was in charge of Madrid’s glory years between 1960 and 1974 (nine titles and two European Cups), has delivered more victories for the club than Mourinho’s 127, and only Manuel Pellegrini, who was at the helm just a single season, boasts a better winning percentage than Mourinho’s 72.57.

But Pellegrini was sacked in May 2010 after coming second to Barcelona—something Mourinho would get used to as well.

And it’s Barcelona that is really the quiet influence in all this.

Had Madrid’s archrivals not hit on the magic formula of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta some years back, the capital side would surely have enjoyed a rather more prosperous last few seasons.

What Madrid and their carousel of managers is up against just happens to be the most dominant club side of recent times, and in that light, it’s hard to blame them for their desperate scrambling and attempts at quick fixes. 

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