Feud between Mourinho and Valdano threatens to derail Real’s pursuit of Barca

by Charlie Coffey

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Whoever thought Jose Mourinho could be shocked by arrogance? It seems that in Real Madrid general manager Jorge Valdano he has met his match as a potentially detrimental feud threatens to derail Real Madrid’s pursuit of Barcelona.

When Mourinho took over at Real, he made it clear that he wanted greater control over the management of the team than the long list of ‘coaches’ who had bowed to the whims of the board for more than a decade. As a result Real are much improved. They have won 15 of their 19 games and only sit behind a Barcelona side who have dropped a measly five points all season – a La Liga record at this midway stage – and have a huge goal difference of +50.

However, after just half a season Valdano and his board are starting to interfere with the work of the man widely regarded as the best manager in the world, and are in danger of continuing their run of instability. Following Golzalo Higuain’s back injury which will rule his out for around four months, Valdano’s attempts to bring in a replacement striker have been arrogant even by the high standards of Mourinho himself, a man who coined his own ‘Special’ alias.

Real’s arrogance has been seen frequently in the past, for example in their relentless pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo from a club who did not want to sell. The board know the draw their white shirt has around the world, and their tactics are usually to court a player in public so he will force a move by declaring his desire to play for Real rather than the club to which he is contracted, leaving them with no option but to sell or risk disharmony in their own squad. This arrogance is fuelled by the fact that the tactic usually works.

Firstly Real contacted Hamburg to request they loan them Ruud van Nistelrooy, their top goalscorer and talisman, for free for the rest of the season. It is no coincidence that it was Mourinho and Ronaldo, the two men with the highest profiles at Madrid, who were quoted in the press saying how much they would like to have van Nistelrooy back at the club (even though it is common knowledge that Ronaldo and the Dutchman have not had the best relationship both on and off the pitch in the past). Hamburg quite rightly told them where to stick it.

Then Real contacted Manchester City and made a similar request for Carlos Tevez, their top scorer and captain, the player they have just managed to persuade to stay at the club and who is absolutely vital to any chances they have of success in the future. Mourinho no doubt saw this kind of ludicrous request as embarrassing for the club and for himself. Real know the only way Tevez would ever leave City now is if he kicked up another storm, and so in they are actively encouraging dissent of a player against his club.

The final straw for Mourinho came last weekend when he left Karim Benzema on the bench, and Real only managed a draw at bottom-placed side Almeria. Valdano accused Mourinho of doing so to highlight inadequacies in his squad at the expense of the success of the team, saying ‘I hope Benzema does not stay on the bench for too long. The situation surrounding him is unfair.’

Mourinho has every right to rotate his squad. The game against Almeria was the perfect opportunity to rest Benzema, who  has to be kept in top condition if he is to perform at his peak against stiffer opposition until Higuain recovers. Oh, and the man who replaced Benzema in the starting line-up was former world player of the year, Kaka! The man up front was Ronaldo! Hardly second string. When Real were still level at 0-0 on 54 minutes Mourinho brought Benzema on for Kaka and Real deserved to win the game having had at least three or perhaps four decent penalty appeals turned down.

Valdano is blinkered by his relentless pursuit of Barcelona. These things happen in football, especially away from home, and to heap the blame on a manager with such a fantastic CV who put out a team that was more than good enough to beat Almeria is naïve and, that word again, arrogant.

An unnamed board member said: ‘The Problem with the coach is he has created a split where there was not one before. We are following a self-destructive path over the simple matter of whether or not we bring in a striker for six months.’ If the feud wasn’t public, it is now.

Mourinho has refused to pledge his loyalty to Real after the end of this season. As we all know he is a proud man who works on his own terms, and there is every chance that he will walk if he is not given the control he requires. Valdano and the Madrid board need to learn patience, to realise the enormity of the task of catching the best club side in world football, and to remember that Jose Mourinho is their best hope of eventually doing so.

Read Charlie Coffey’s brilliant blog at my11.com.

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  • Stanko

    This article defends Mourinho too much…
    His arrogant style of management is what is undoing him. It is the sort that works only when his teams are winning. When he is failing, it does nothing but highlight his shortcomings, and becomes unbearable for those he works for, as well as the fans (in the long run).
    He should have known what he was in for before he accepted the job. For once in his life, the club that employs him has even more ego than he does. Now he has to sleep in that bed.
    Catching Barcelona will be impossible the way they have been playing for the last couple of seasons.

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