Pellegrini vs. Mourinho: A New Coaching Paradigm at Real Madrid?
Let's be realistic here: Manuel Pellegrini, despite repeated pronouncements to the contrary from Jorge Valdano, the locker room and nearly everyone else, is probably not going to last beyond May at the Bernabeu. He is an excellent coach and has racked up record point totals and statistics at Real Madrid this season.
Furthermore, I am of the opinion that stability is necessary for long-term institutional health and for the success of the team, and that a manager cannot really show his worth in one season at the helm, so I am loath to cheer Pellegrini's departure.
That being said, is Pellegrini the right coach for Real Madrid? Frankly, the quality of the opposition in La Liga this season has been subpar, mostly because of the financial crisis. That combined with the exceptional talents on the Madrid bench can account for the record point totals.
Although the Chilean displayed magnificent skill in managing personnel, coaxing the best out of forgotten talents such as Guti, Van der Vaart, Gago, and others, he has often showcased a remarkable tactical naivete, losing all of the big games in the calendar often by shocking margins.
Admittedly, the 1-0 loss in the Camp Nou earlier in the year was a good performance from Pellegrini's men in a game they were extremely unlucky to lose, but the 2-0 defeat in the Bernabeu in which Pellegrini was unable to dictate possession or starve Messi and Xavi's supply lines showed the Chilean trainer's weakness.
Madridistas will also recall with a bad taste in their mouths the 4-0 humiliation at unfancied Alcorcon, being dumped out of the Champions League by an average Lyon side and losing and drawing with an aging, horrendous Milan side in the group stages. Essentially in every game against legitimately strong opposition Pellegrini has failed, and with a talented squad at his disposal much of that comes down to tactics.
Admittedly with so many players coming into the Bernabeu during the summer, squad cohesion was not at an all-time high, and the early failings can be excused. But the losses to Lyon and Barcelona are not what Madridistas want to see, and if Barcelona do not slip up and Madrid lose the league, the back-to-back Clasico losses and loss in the round of 16 to Lyon will undoubtedly spell Pellegrini's doom at Madrid.
Looking at Pellegrini's near certain replacement, Jose Mourinho, things could hardly be more different. I have always been a huge proponent of having Mourinho at Real Madrid. His performance with Inter against Barcelona showed once again his incredible tactical mind and ability to organize his team as a unit, something Madrid desperately need.
Mourinho's penchant for establishing a "siege mentality" by focusing the press' attention on him rather than on his players and pitting his team against the world would be immensely helpful at Madrid, where pressures are high and the consequences for failure huge.
Finally, Mourinho is a winner. His teams often get castigated for playing ugly football, although unfairly in many cases, such as his great Chelsea team that switched so effortlessly from a 4-3-3 in attack to a 4-2-3-1 in defense.
The Madrid faithful, it is often repeated, demand not only victory but victory in style. For this very reason, Fabio Capello was let go after winning the league. But at this point, the Madridistas just want to win, and Mourinho is their man.
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