x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Jose Mourinho wants more than just trophies at Real Madrid

The Portuguese manager is looking to create a legacy at Real Madrid and that should make Barcelona wary.

Jose Mourinho took time to exert his influence at Real Madrid, but that influence will get stronger after the club won the Copa del Rey.
Jose Mourinho took time to exert his influence at Real Madrid, but that influence will get stronger after the club won the Copa del Rey.

Jose Mourinho walked from the Camp Nou pitch, entered the stadium's small, consecrated chapel, and cried.

In his dressing room an entire team was in tears. Physically and emotionally spent, Inter Milan had just evicted Barcelona from the Champions League, and, in their heads, won the competition.

Inter's players still remember Mourinho's pinpoint preparation for the semi-final.

Heavy favourites and supposedly the best club side football had seen, Barca had been painfully dominant in their meetings in the group stage of the competition.

Two days before their San Siro semi-final, Mourinho sat his squad down to watch a specially cut video. Replayed one after another were the chances Inter had created but failed to take in a 2-0 away defeat and goalless home draw; more than enough to have won both matches.

"That was a good meeting," said Esteban Cambiasso, the midfielder, as he left the room. "I understand what you want us to see."

In the match that followed, Inter were magnificent, clinically executing Mourinho's instructions in exploiting Barca's lop-sided pressing game to convert a first-half deficit into a 3-1 win.

Their ultimate reward was an unprecedented Italian treble, concluding with Inter's first European Cup for 45 years.

Two games into another season-defining series against Barcelona, Mourinho is teaching Real Madrid how to win titles again.

Last Sunday's league match was treated as a preparatory match, his most creative midfielder, Mesut Ozil, intentionally held in reserve as his team worked on smothering Barca's standard lines of attack.

If Alfredo Di Stefano complained that "Barcelona were a lion, Madrid a mouse", Madrid's honorary president missed the point. Even with 10 men, Mourinho's tactics created sufficient chances to recover a point and bolster belief.

The first half of Wednesday's Copa del Rey final paired the intelligently stifling defending (Ricardo Carvalho's marshalling of the offside line again exquisite) with enough creativity to have built a three-goal lead.

Desperately short on possession in the second half, Madrid still held their lines, and Cristiano Ronaldo's goal in extra time proved decisive.

"It is always good to win titles," said Mourinho in the aftermath. "A few days ago, someone called me a 'title coach'. I like the name, that is my job. I am proud of my team, the fans and my people. This is my fourth cup win and I am very proud.

"My job at Real Madrid this season goes beyond winning titles. I am changing other important things. It is good to start off by winning titles and it lifts a big weight of the players' shoulders."

The Copa del Rey was Madrid's for the first time in 18 years, and both team and club had seen the way to best their grand rivals - though one has been much harder to convince than the other.

As at Benfica, Leiria, Porto, Chelsea and Inter before them, Mourinho's magnetic personality and the sheer quality of his training ground work have won over his players, producing a Madrid team that works harder than any before it. There are reasons, though, why Mourinho describes the institution that employs them as "for sure the most difficult club in the world".

For long spells of his first season at the Bernabeu, the inefficiency of the club's organisation and the naked resistance of many of the senior appointees to his efforts to improve matters have bewildered him.

Mourinho complains about the club's political weakness within the Spanish federation, highlighting a series of refereeing decisions that have favoured Barcelona and damaged Madrid's campaign.

The domestic fixture list, he argues, is regularly rearranged to limit his team's recovery time before key matches and force inconvenient 10pm kick-offs for difficult away games.

Last summer, Mourinho was limited in his transfer market moves, asked to economise on transfer fees and prevented from selling Kaka. In January, he had to fight a ludicrous battle simply to borrow Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City.

Tellingly, the centre forward damaged Barca in both the draw and defeat.

Silverware, though, brings power and Perez has promised his winning coach more of it.

"I am happy that our work is paying off and that people want to take the same direction that I want to take," said Mourinho.

"I am always calm and I do not want to lose ambition. We are not just here for one year, but a lot more time.

"We will be here this coming pre-season to continue working. My teams are always better in the second season and I will work hard to ensure it happens here. I feel better working for Real Madrid each day that goes by."

Barca, you suspect, may not feel quite the same.

 

sports@thenational.ae