I am absolutely a huge Real Madrid fan, no ifs, buts or maybes about it but regardless of being a huge supporter of the club I am never one to shy away from openly criticizing any decisions I feel wasn’t warranted by the club or what I felt was utter stupidity. That being said, I will be giving my opinions as to why I feel it was a wrong decision to sack Manuel Pellegrini and hire Jose Mourinho.
Manuel Pellegrini before joining Real Madrid was best known in Spain for his fairly 5 year stint (practically successful) at Villarreal having taken a modest club like Villarreal and made them a top 5 team with ambitious goals such as qualifying for a place in Europe and even further a place in the elite Champion’s League tournament. Villarreal’s most successful finish in the league came under the Chilean in the 2007/2008 season coming in 2nd behind Real Madrid and ahead of 3rd place finishers Barcelona! In his first season he led the modest club to a Champion’s League berth after finishing 3rd in the league and in his 2nd season (2005/06) led the yellow submarines to a semi-final spot in the Champion’s League where they eventually lost to runners-up Arsenal. Along with creating history with these accomplishments in the Villarreal’s record book, Pellegrini succeeded in having Villarreal play some superlative brand of football that is best associated with the Spanish style. He also, paid attention to the youth system and had a hand in developing the likes of Santiago Cazorla. After 5 years as a coach in the top flight of Spain and fundamentally turning Villarreal into a top 5 team with very little resources available to him you would agree that his appointment as Real Madrid’s boss in the 2009/2010 season would mean taking Madrid back to the pinnacle of football if given the right amount of time and the freedom to make decisions?
On the 1st June 2009, it was announced that Pellegrini would be taking over from interim manager Juande Ramos and was presented to the public the following day, penning a 2 year contract with the club. In his first stint as manager of the club Pellegrini managed to break the record books not only of the club but in the league. Also, doing so with the core of the team being new faces, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema, Xabi Alonso, Granero (not entirely new as he came up through the Cantera), Raul Albiol, Lassana Diarra (although he had 6mths experience with the club having joined during the winter) and Ezequiel Garay, but he managed to break the total points accumulated by any team in the league, most points accumulated in the league and by the club, most victories in the league and by the club, 5 goals short of the 89-90 season and he guided the team to a brilliant victory over Deportivo La Coruna in El Riazor, something that wasn’t done for nearly 18 years by any coach of Real Madrid. The only problem with some of the records (in particular the points accumulated record) was that Barcelona was better and managed to win the title by 3 more points than Madrid did! Nevertheless a fairly good season under Manuel, however, the old folklore and I reckon a potential achilles heel for Real Madrid is “a season without a trophy is unsuccessful and largely disappointing” and while I agree that a trophy-less season is a disappointment, it is however unfair to say that the season didn’t in large parts see major improvements in the style we played and the squad becoming closer and beginning to gel, something only achieved with stability. Also, one must take into consideration he did all this with a NEW squad!
I hate to make comparisons between Real Madrid and Barcelona but to make it a lot clearer and to bring my point across I will make this comparison- In trying to reclaim the league crown the club brought in players not only to strengthen the team but essentially changed the core of the team, there by building a new team and as Perez refers to it, “a new project”. If we look back at the 2 seasons prior to Real Madrid’s 2 years of famine, one would realize that they had won the league twice consecutively and while doing so Barcelona was busy building the core of the team they have now, hence it took them a total of THREE years to get the chemistry right that led them to undoubtedly one of the most memorable trebles in world football and helped them retain the league title the following year. Hence, they ensured stability by making very few changes and changes that would give the squad depth rather than interrupt the chemistry. Another year under Pellegrini and the chemistry of the team would surely have improved, as well as he would have the team playing the sumptuous/attractive football (which we saw in some of Real’s games under Pelle) that they have been long associated with in the past and he would have at the very least snatched the league back from Barcelona.
As is the case with this great club, no trophies equal no job and so, once again the squad harmony was interrupted not only by the sacking of Pellegrini and hiring “The Special One” but also, again Florentino has showcased his knowledge for business and his lack of footballing knowledge by delving into the transfer market and making 6 new signings! In truth and in fact all the club really needed were 2 defenders and since Raul and Guti left, a striker and midfielder to cover their places (and using this need could have taken a look at the Cantera because there are some very good players coming up through the ranks).
Jose Mourinho, who was coming off another great year both on the club and personal level was hired after Perez and his board decided to sack Manuel at the end of the season.
The world of football knows that Mourinho is certainly one of the greatest managers alive, if not THE greatest manager alive, having been a BIG success at three clubs and winning the Champion’s League with two different teams from two different countries.
However, his general style that he likes his team to play is everything that is NOT Spanish football, anti-football or that which is associated with Real Madrid, as well, it is everything that Jorge Valdano has over the years criticized and complained about. I remember hearing Valdano say something as a swipe at both Mourinho and Rafa Benitez some years ago that I immediately recalled when I heard that Real had officially signed Mourinho as head coach for the next four years.
If memory serves me correct, what Valdano said was,
“Football is made up of subjective feeling, of suggestion – and in that, Anfield is unbeatable. Put a stick with shit hanging from it in the middle of this passionate, crazy stadium and there are people who will tell you it’s a work of art. It’s not: it’s shit hanging from a stick…If football is going the way Chelsea and Liverpool are taking it, we had better be ready to wave goodbye to any expression of the cleverness and talent we have enjoyed for a century.”
Which leads me to wonder whether or not Valdano was advocating the hiring of Mourinho but that is another blog for another day!
There are certain positives that are associated with the hiring of Mourinho as well as negatives. I think the biggest pro about Mourinho’s appointment is certainly a strengthened defence and the team defending as a unit as opposed to solely leaving defensive duties to the defensive players. There is also a greater chance of Mourinho winning the league in his first season as coach and that I presume is the main target this season. Also, his track record shows that generally his teams tend to be better in their second season when he’s had enough time to mold the players into what he wants them to be. A big con is the goals or lack thereof the team will score. The team will focus on being more efficient in the first season under Mou and I suspect they will create very few opportunities but try to finish the few they manage to create. Another negative that is associated, in my opinion, with the new coach is the development of or lack thereof, Cantera players as Mourinho will more likely opt to use his already well bolstered squad to play in the King’s Cup (which in recent years has been a competition where most clubs use their youngsters in the earlier stages). If Mourinho believes in a young player he will give them the chance but he will not have reason to look at the youth players with the squad he has available unless he has a long list of injuries to contend with, which will for yet another season see the youngsters being stifled and reserved to playing reserve team football until they are loaned out or sold to another club that will benefit from their immense talent. We can think of many talented youngsters who were thrown by the wayside but managed to make a name for themselves and become important players for the teams they are apart of, such as Juan Mata, Alvaro Negredo, Ruben de la Red, Esteban Granero (although both he and De la Red made a return to the club) and Samuel Eto’o, just to name a few. It sort of makes a person wonder, what will happen to Enzo Zidane when he finally comes of age or even Pablo Sarabia, Joselu, Palanca, Morata, Alex Fernandez, etc. Will they too be a victim of the transfer policies at the club?
As much as I would love to see Real Madrid win and return to the pinnacle of football I wont appreciate it as much if it is done in a vapid way. Titles Mourinho will bring because he is a coach very capable of doing so but in doing so it is likely it will be quite prosaic more than entertaining and to think the squad is loaded with players who play with flair, may be forced into playing a more “simple” game.
As a fan I would love to see more stability in the team and more youths being given their chance like Raul, Guti, Butragueno, Pardeza, Sanchis and ALL the other kids that were given the chance and repaid the trust with their efforts and performances. To gain stability I think the club needs to focus on giving the new players time to settle and a coach (like Del Bosque was) that understands the club inside out and gives the squad and the fans reassurance. The presidents elected to be at the helm of the club should not only look at the business aspect of the club but also the footballing aspect. They should also, try not to make drastic changes such as new coaches every season or building an entirely new team that never needed rebuilding in the first place. These are some of the reasons why the team’s success comes in clusters/batches rather than more smoothly and spread over the years.
I look forward to the new La Liga season and all the excitement that goes with it and I wish Real Madrid all the success for the new season and I look forward to them pushing hard and winning the league and I expect to see the team play well in the King’s Cup with the goal of winning it and possibly the Champion’s League. With that, I will say ¡Hala Madrid!