The relationship between the respective coaches of Barcelona and Real Madrid over the past three years can best be described as fractious. “Fractious” on this occasion meaning public insults, eye-poking and a tremendous amount of Clasico violence between opposing players.
Much was deplorable of course, but life in La Liga was never dull. All this is set to change with new bottoms on the benches at Barcelona and the Santiago Bernabeu. The buzzword for the campaign to come is “dull.”
For the first time in a decade, both Real Madrid and Barcelona will be beginning the campaign with brand new managers. The departures of Jose Mourinho and Tito Vilanova for very differing reasons sees a shake-up at both sides, as well as a realignment of the relations between Spain’s big two.
The biggest change from times past is that the two institutions are going to be getting on considerably better with the departure of Mourinho. In a three-year spell in Madrid, the Portuguese provoker did everything humanely possible to irritate the Catalan club. More often or not, Mourinho’s tactic of winding up Pep Guardiola and anyone else who strayed in front of his sights achieved the desired result of making Barcelona lose focus.
One of the reasons that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez chose Carlo Ancelotti is for a quiet life in the press. The Italian has never especially been renowned for picking public spats with opponents, and the hope must be for Perez that this continues. The new manager is going to be busy enough trying to reboot Real Madrid and make the side competitive again in Spain and in the Champions League anyway.
A certain self-confidence and maturity lacking in his predecessor sees Ancelotti unlikely to be suggesting his opponent in the Camp Nou should be “ashamed” of winning the Champions League due to favors from referees.
The former Paris Saint-Germain coach will instead be a throwback to the more dignified days of Manuel Pellegrini, a manager who was consistently polite and gentlemanly. This approach in turn saw the Madrid manager’s press conferences sparsely attended by yawning journalists, but it meant considerably less hassle for the Chilean’s boss.
Of course, it takes two to tango in terms of feuds. Even more reason to suggest, then, that the next season will see a thawing of tensions between the two clubs. Tata Martino is still an unknown quantity in the European game. This sees little or no back story between the pair to spark off any quarrels. This is in stark contrast to Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, who were once colleagues at the Camp Nou.
Rather like Ancelotti, the Argentinean is going to be quite occupied with matters closer to home rather than wanting to throw mud at the rivals. Barcelona need a tinkering with the team’s style to battle a dominant Bayern Munich. Neymar and Leo Messi are going to need careful and constant handling, too.
All in all, there is no scrub or kindling between Madrid and Barca to start a fire. Of course, that can all change quite quickly, but the beginning of the campaign will see the two teams largely ignoring each other. In terms of the image of La Liga, this detente is probably a good thing. However, there may be some pangs of regret that the days of Mourinho vs. the Barcelona world are long gone, as two less ferocious figures take charge of their respective sides.