Jose Mourinho: Why La Liga Won't Miss Him

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Jose Mourinho: Why La Liga Won't Miss Him
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Jose Mourinho has made many enemies during his time in Spain

The Special One. The Only One.

For Jose Mourinho, his stint in La Liga was less about the Spanish institution that is Real Madrid and more about himself. 

Never one to shy away from the spotlight, the Portuguese has polarized opinion throughout his career like no one before him—save perhaps for the legendary Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough.

Brian Clough does a 'Mourinho'

Revered and reviled in equal measure, you can be assured that everyone has an opinion on Jose Mourinho.

Revered by his players.

Wherever he had managed prior to Madrid, Mourinho's players would—to a man—give their all for "the gaffer" and that was certainly replicated, at least initially, in the Spanish capital.

Reviled by just about everyone else.

After three years at the helm of Los Blancos, Mourinho has decided enough is enough and has returned to one of his former clubs Chelsea.

His time in Spain was peppered with incidents unbecoming of a man charged with upholding the highest traditions of Real Madrid Club de Futbol.

It was precisely that propensity for controversy that persuaded Marc Ingla and Txiki Begiristain to plump for Pep Guardiola as Barcelona manager in 2008 rather than go for the much more experienced Mourinho.

Ben Lyttleton evidences this via Sports Illustrated: 

This dramatic period in Barcelona's history is brilliantly captured in Graham Hunter's book, "Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World," where the clearest thing that comes through is that everyone wants to take the credit for it.

Begiristain travelled to Lisbon in early 2008 with vice president Marc Ingla, and they met Mourinho individually and together, and were impressed with his detailed plans for the club; but it was Mourinho's refusal to stop his polemics, his public mischief-making, that turned him off.

This was not the Barcelona way, and not the direction Begiristain wanted for the club. Both Ingla and Begiristain told Soriano that Mourinho was not the right fit (a decision vindicated when, in his first season at Real Madrid, Mourinho went to war with Barcelona, with attacks that the Catalan top brass believe was out of revenge for being overlooked for the job).

Mourinho arrived in Madrid fresh from delivering the 2010 Champions League trophy to Inter Milan" href="http://bleacherreport.com/inter-milan" target="_blank">Internazionale of Milan, ironically at his soon-to-be-new home.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Mourinho's final act at Inter Milan was to win the Champions League—at the Santiago Bernabeu

Much was expected—nay demanded—of the new man in charge especially given that arch rivals Barcelona were enjoying a golden period at the time.

That he suffered his heaviest ever defeat as a manager at the home of the club which spurned him, just a few months after his appointment in Madrid, did nothing for his credibility.

To his great credithowever  he would—by the conclusion of his tenure—have the upper hand on La Blaugrana.

At this point it's noteworthy to reflect that a lot—in fact most of—Mourinho's ire throughout his time at Real has been directed venomously toward Catalunya.

Perhaps the most unsavoury of all of the incidents was the moment the Portuguese took it upon himself to poke Barcelona's then Assistant Manager Tito Vilanova in the eye.

The infamous eye gouging incident

That came during the Spanish Supercopa of 2011/12 and came just after a horrible tackle from Marcelo on Cesc Fabregas that would spark a near riot on the touchline.

It was a similar theme to the tensions that had punctuated the four El Clasico matches in 18 days and the end of the previous season.

Barcelona's Xavi and Madrid's Iker Casillas acted as peacemakers and it was probably around this time that there were the first rumblings of discontent between Mourinho and Iker Casillas.

Stefan Coerts of goal.com reported Xavi's father as saying:

Iker got into a lot of trouble with Mourinho over his friendship with Xavi. These problems became public last season and everybody knows about it. Xavi and Iker never had any intention to end their friendship.

If it weren't for Xavi, Casillas and Vicente del Bosque, Spain would not have come this far. The Clasicos led to difficult moments. Relationships between players who used to be friends were about to go sour. 

There were issues with [Alvaro] Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos among others. The behaviour of some players wasn't appropriate. Luckily Iker and Xavi then got involved.

Clearly this relationship irked Mourinho. To such an extent that earlier this past season Casillas, one of the most loyal of Madrid servants, was treated like an outcast and relegated to the subs bench.

The oft-used excuse of Spain's No. 1 being out of form or unfit fooled no one, including Spanish national team manager Vicente Del Bosque, and it left a bitter taste.

Andres Iniesta, hardly the most controversial character, recently told El Pais (via David Kent, Daily Mail)

You just have to look at the facts. Yes he [Mourinho] damaged Spanish football, in general he did more harm than good.

But I don’t like talking about that person at all. So if you don’t mind we’ll leave it at that.

At the time of the eye poking incident, Gerard Pique said this:

I do not talk about the brawl. But it's a shame, it is not the first time and it's always the same.

Someone has to take action on the matter. Mourinho is destroying Spanish football. There is talk about the Catalans, but the problem is with Madrid.

I think it's going too far. It cannot always end well. In the end this will end very badly.

And just this past week, Pique harked back to the influence of the Portuguese (per Andrew Wychrij, goal.com)

There was a football rivalry, which was strong, but that's just football.

Mourinho took this rivalry into press conferences, but football is played on the pitch and you must try to win with the weapons you have.

This sort of rivalry [through the press] something that had never been seen before in Spain. He [Mourinho] wanted to take over the press.

Barcelona players were not finished there with Xavi much more vociferous at the style of play of Mourinho's Madrid and the treatment of his friend Casillas:

In September, they were touting him [Casillas] for the Ballon d'Or. Now it's like he's dead wood

A big club can't play like Mourinho's Madrid. We don’t let the pitch dry up so it turns into a ‘potato field’, nor do we kick the other team 30,000 times or try to turn up the heat in a game.

We didn’t even do that when Madrid went above us. We’ve won, drawn and lost, but always according to a footballing philosophy.

I don’t want people to think that I’m always attacking Mourinho, that’s not my intention, but obviously I don’t like the way his teams play on the pitch. It annoyed me to see them play like that.

Given Mourinho's record as manager before taking over at Madrid, one can rightly suggest that his time in the Spanish capital has been largely forgettable.

A season of unprecedented records (2011/12) where La Liga was won with a record points total, record goals scored, record goal difference and record number of wins, merely masks the fact that the Portuguese only managed to win a single La Liga title, Copa Del Rey and Spanish Supercup during his three seasons at the helm.

Real Madrid's record 2011/12 season

An uneasy relationship with the Spanish press also followed Mourinho from the beginning.

Full of quotable copy, Mourinho is normally a joy for sports editors but woe betide any scribe that gets on the wrong side of him. Yahoo Sport reported on his diatribe when it was clear his time in Spain was coming to an end.

I am loved by some clubs, especially one. In Spain it is different, some people hate me, many of you in this (press) room.

The record league title is mine, you (journalists) will want to erase it but you won't be able to.

We won the Copa del Rey for the first time in 20 years and you won't be able to erase that either.

That he even turned up to the Press Conference was something of a novelty.

Unheard of in Spain before his arrival, Mourinho would often send his assistant Aitor Karanka to do his dirty work or Mourinho himself would be deliberately inflammatory to either journalists or the footballing powers-that-be.

A tactic clearly designed to get under the skin of the media.

Mourinho's "Por Que" press conference rant

It worked.

As we look back over the course of the past season, Madrid dramatically went from La Liga Champions by nine points (2011/12) to runners up by a record 15 points to Mourinho's nemesis FC Barcelona—a huge 24 point "swing".

Across the season there were losses or dropped points against La Liga's more unfashionable teams and as the season began to unravel, so it became clearer that Mourinho's relationships with his players were at an all-time low.

According to Ben Haywayd of goal.com, at one time or another Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Casillas were at loggerheads with their manager.

By the time of his final appearance as manager in the match against Osasuna, even his own clubs fans had tired of his antics and roundly booed him.

Madrid fans boo and whistle Jose Mourinho when his name is read out by the announcer

It was an easy decision in the end for President Florentino Perez to announce Mourinho was to leave "by mutual consent" and perhaps Perez remains one of very few friends Jose Mourinho has left in Spain.

The President told reporters including Dermot Corrigan that he doesn't rule out a future return for the Portuguese:

The door is not closed for Mourinho.

He is going with sadness, with a difficult understanding of how the media are here. With sorrow, I believe.

It is not easy to live with this pressure, which has sometimes been unjust, with a personal side.

In the end we reached a conclusion, after three years that the best for him and the club was to separate, but to remain good friends. Life is very long and you never know what can happen.

 

In true Mourinho style, in his first press conference as Chelsea manager, the Portuguese had to have the last word on his time in Spain. To get in one final dig as seen in the tweet below.

As the circus rolls into London town, La Liga will bid Jose Mourinho good riddance rather than a fond farewell. 

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