It began as a marriage of convenience between a coach hungry to establish himself at the top of his sport and a club determined to put the brakes on the runaway success of its archrival.
For Jose Mourinho, coaching Real Madrid added a major notch to his career, having previously led Inter Milan to the 2010 Champions League title and guiding Chelsea to six trophies in three years.
Madrid president Florentino Perez banked heavily on Mourinho having the qualities required to counter Pep Guardiola’s stinging victories with Barcelona and also the strength of character to sort out a squad encumbered with ‘’galactico’’ trappings but lacking any silverware.
Mourinho had proved his Champions League pedigree early by winning the trophy with Porto in 2004, aged just 41. Perez set aside considerations that Mourinho’s fascination with defensive tactics might grate with his team’s tradition of overwhelming opponents through attacking prowess.
Two-and-a-half seasons later, the honeymoon is in tatters and the talk is that it was never a love match anyway.
Spain’s media has claimed the Portuguese doesn’t understand the ‘’stateliness’’ of Madrid and the reverence it deserves.
As evidence they point to the disrespect Mourinho showed to his position by poking (then assistant coach) Tito Vilanova in the eye during a melee in August 2011, and also to how he has criticized his own players in public for not showing the guts and commitment to win matches.
Mourinho was scathing after Madrid’s 2-1 loss at Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey last Wednesday.
‘’There are players who have disappointed me,’’ he said. ‘’(Some) didn’t want to play because it was cold, raining.’’
Perez showed unusual warmth as he quickly stepped up to defend him on that occasion.
‘’We have the best coach in the world, with an impressive track record,’’ Perez said Sunday. ‘’From here, Jose Mourinho, I give you my acknowledgment, my confidence in your work and my affection.’