Real Madrid will realise when it is too late.
The club which has worked through 25 coaches since Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson took charge in 1986 will wave goodbye to Jose Mourinho at the end of this season. How quickly they may regret that decision is a matter for conjecture and future results.
Mourinho did not win the club a 10th European Cup, but he broke Barcelona's dominance of Spanish football, the hegemony of the best football side of recent times. And while he failed to lift the decima, three successive Uefa Champions League semi-final appearances were a huge improvement on Madrid's record in the six previous years, when they were unable to get beyond the last 16. His huge personality and ego were enough to handle the job of Madrid manager where others have wilted.
Mourinho is far from the shy-and-retiring type. He says what he thinks and many in Madrid think that is disrespectful to his employers, especially when he is openly critical of his players. They prefer Madrid coaches to talk in reverential tones about the club.
He also has few fans in the Madrid dressing room. Not that he cares, nor is he concerned that he might be dismissed from his job by Florentino Perez. If he were, that would make him cheaper for his next employers. His current contract has three years to run and the pay-off for termination would be around £10 million (Dh57.1m) for either side. But Mourinho is moving: he even made the obvious point of buying bubble wrap from Ikea on Monday.
Mourinho has fought many battles and won most of them, in Madrid, but he does not believe he can win the war. He believes the players have too much power and he has fallen out with almost all of them. He also thinks the Madrid media have too much power, especially when they write ultra-critical stories about their coach with the blessing of the club president.
After three years, Mourinho has had enough. He knows he is in demand in England and he is happy to return. He wants to go where he feels he is treated better, respected by the majority rather than the minority.
The Catalans will miss their pantomime villain; Madrilenos will miss their coach. Not that many of them realise it or will ever be humble enough to admit it.
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