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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Jose To Fill In The Blancos?

“Poverty wants much, but avarice, everything.” So said the Roman author Publilius Syrus. Fast-forward more than two millennia and the wise scribe may well have been talking about Real Madrid and their all-encompassing obsession with being the world’s most successful club. And so it has come to pass that for seven of the past 15 years, the Ballon d’Or winner has made his way to the Bernabeu, unable to move for all the bells and whistles. It is as if, season on season, the Real Madrid president, whoever he may be, takes his summer shopping list from France Football, buying into a marketing opportunity first and the concept of a player actually fitting into a system merely an afterthought.

This summer, were he a player, Jose Mourinho would almost certainly be first in line to get his hands on the golden ball. Having just tied up another Serie A title with Inter Milan, a week after winning the Coppa Italia, the Portuguese has his sights set firmly on the Bernabeu this weekend as he seeks to lift his first Champions League trophy since his days at Porto. Mourinho is already revered by Real fans for his bus parking job in the previous round, thus saving them from the frankly unthinkable travesty of having Barcelona trot out in the Champions League final (and worse still, win it) at the Bernabeu. Win or lose come Saturday, the assumption is that Mourinho is more than likely going to make the Bernabeu a home from home from the summer onwards as the Real board line him up as Manuel Pellegrini’s replacement.

At first glance, given the Madrid public’s voracious appetite for attractive football, Mourinho seems an unlikely choice to take the helm. But then again, the one trophy desperately sought by the fans is also the one you sense is also first on the list of Mourinho’s priorities each season. Compromise, therefore, seems to be the order of the day. The expansive football demanded by Real fans will certainly be evidenced next season, should Mourinho be in charge or not. With creativity the likes of that possessed by Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema, Real Madrid are never going to do a Blackburn. Also, people are too quick to forget the early days of Mourinho’s tenure at Stamford Bridge, when Damien Duff and Arjen Robben ran defences rugged and were, by all accounts, pretty easy on the eye.

The insatiability of the handkerchief wavers at Real is two-fold; success, but by playing Barcelonaesque football. Under Mourinho, this rapacious mindset will need to be tempered as success at all costs becomes the new mantra. There will be glimpses of the sort of computer game ‘ole’ football so lauded at the Nou Camp but there will also be a greater discipline under Mourinho, of that there is no doubt. Given the choice between watching a Ronaldo flick or a Walter Samuel reducer, one gets the impression Mourinho would probably favour the latter. That isn’t to say he is a killjoy, however. Far from it. He just appreciates that to win, more is needed than sticking a team full of Galacticos onto the pitch and saying “get on with it”.

The size of the task at hand should not be sniffed at. In many ways, it is the most thankless task in world football. Mourinho will ostensibly be given no more than two seasons to bring the Champions League to the Bernabeu for the first time since the class of 2001/2. In the interim, an astonishing nine managers have come and gone (presuming Pellegrini goes as seems a dead cert). Indeed, Real have not got past the quarter final stage for four seasons. Quite why they have this preordained sense of entitlement to Europe’s biggest prize is strange to comprehend for most fans. But it is simply a fact of life Mourinho will have to embrace if he is to succeed. As if this wasn’t enough to contend with, it has traditionally been the president who cherry picks the new transfers. Cast your minds back and it wasn’t so long ago that Mourinho was locked in another power struggle with a hands-on owner.

Bearing all this in mind, should the Special One take over next season, the grit that has been noticeably absent from Real in recent seasons may well be thrown into the mix. Bells and whistles coated in grit; now that might just be the golden formula. Adam Bushby

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