Keep Smiling Jose: Mourinho May Be the REAL Winner from Camp Nou Capitulation
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When Jose Mourinho woke this morning, he may have felt a little less special, his ego was battered every bit as much as the Real Madrid defence had been during the Monday night's El Clasico mauling.
Mourinho's matadors were truly gored by Barca, but the 5-0 humiliation may well be a blessing in disguise for the self-styled "Special One."
Real lined up at Camp Nou with four forwards—Ronaldo, Benzema, Di Maria and Ozil—leaving just Khedira and Alonso to protect the vulnerable Madrid defence. This is the way Mourinho has set his team up for most of the La Liga season so far, but against the Champions his team unravelled almost from the kick off.
Barcelona were able to slice through their opponent's midfield at will, allowing them to torment the back four, pulling them one way then the other and sucking the full backs into the centre, which provided space for Villa, Messi and Pedro to run riot on the flanks.
By the time the Real coach had corrected this technical error, swapping Ozil for Lassana Diarra, the damage had been done and the Catalans were two goals ahead.
This was most unlike a Jose Mourinho team. He has built his reputation as a master tactician and his success with Porto, Chelsea and Inter has been based on a 4-4-2 formation with a water-tight defence, hard working midfield and counter-attacking mentality. These are the methods he favours.
One of the many questions raised by his appointment at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu was how this tactical approach would work at a club who demand a style of football befitting the true aristocrats of the European game.
Against his will, Mourinho bowed to the demands of his troublesome president Florentino Perez and attempted to play a more expansive game. Everything was going well until in their first real test, Los Blancos' hated rivals unceremoniously removed them from the summit of La Liga.
This disastrous setback may actually have some benefits for the Portuguese. At a club where politics are never very far from the surface, he can now make the argument that the first Clasico shows Real must change.
If they try beat Barcelona at their own game, the Catalans will destroy them. Mourinho can now argue that they have tried the Perez way and failed miserably. It is now time for a more pragmatic approach, and who better to have as coach than the man who has won the Champions League twice doing it his way?
The Clasico calamity may also give Mourinho some room for negotiation during the forthcoming transfer window. He does not appear entirely happy with the players at his disposal. It is no secret that he wanted a big centre forward in the Didier Drogba mould.
In fact, it was claimed that Madrid signing his old Chelsea talisman was a prerequisite for Mourinho accepting the job at the Bernabaeu. Perez and director of football Jorge Valdano failed in that task and will almost certainly be required to remedy that situation in January.
Also on Jose's post-Christmas shopping list must be a left back. Marcelo was found completely exposed in that position on Monday night and is clearly not good enough. On the other flank, Spain's World Cup winning right back Sergio Ramos may find himself surplus to requirements.
The suspicion with Ramos is that he is better going forward than defending. He had an awful night in Barcelona, capped by a red card for punching Carlos Puyol in the last minute.
Thirdly, this defeat will give credence to the argument that he needs time. Real are a work in progress, just five months into the Mourinho Project. Barcelona are the finished article. They are a team in every essence of the word and have grown together in the last few years into the formidable force they are today.
It is no surprise that seven of the starters on Monday came up through the youth ranks where they learned the Barca way from an early age. How many millions could Real have saved over the last decade if they had followed the same route?
Even if Mourinho does win the battle over tactics and gets the players he wants, there can be no doubt that this is the biggest challenge of his career. Barcelona completely dismantled the expensively remodelled Real team, so much so that Pep Guardiola's side are being talked about in the same breath as the great sides of European history like the Milan side of the late 1980s, the Ajax "total football" team and even the legendary Real Madrid team of Di Stefano, Puskas et al.
So dominant were they, that Barca captain Puyol was able to take a break from his defensive duties to assist the match officials in refereeing the match!
If Jose can build a team to put this Barca in the shade, he will be a very special one indeed.
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