Focus on Mourinho

Madrid may struggle with Jose's legacy

May 3, 2013
By Dermot Corrigan, Spain Correspondent

When Jose Mourinho spoke after training on Friday morning he again claimed not to have decided whether or not he was leaving Real Madrid this summer. But he left the impression he was clearly focusing on the legacy he will leave behind when he returns to the Premier League in a few weeks' time.

Jose Mourinho was in defensive mode when he faced the media on Friday afternoon
GettyImagesJose Mourinho: To return to Chelsea?

As well as defending his achievement in reaching three consecutive Champions League semi-finals, after the club had previously only managed to reach that stage five times in the previous 21 years (someone had clearly done their research), Mourinho told reporters at Madrid's Valdebebas facility that he had always left his previous clubs on good terms and in a healthy condition.

"At all the clubs I have left there are no records of negative words or criticism," he said. "Just the opposite."

Mourinho was perhaps aware of a story in AS on Wednesday which claimed that he always leaves "scorched earth" behind on departure, so decided to blame the coaches who succeeded him at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan for the fallow periods which followed his fruitful years.

"Some clubs are eaten up by these changes, other clubs are not," he said, while musing that Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain could all have a new man at the helm next season. "Us coaches adapt."

He may be confident he can adapt, but Madrid fans should be worried about their club being "eaten up". Porto had four coaches the season after Mourinho left. It took Chelsea two years to get over his first departure. Rafa Benitez was quickly sucked into a quagmire at Inter Milan. The Portuguese might say that his direct replacements - Luigi Delneri (two months), Avram Grant (nine months) and Benitez (six months) - are not in his 'Special' class, but there is a definite pattern there.

Those struggles to deal with Mourinho's legacy were caused by more than just sadness at the loss. Short-term thinking during his reigns has seen squads exhausted and youth development neglected. He has then returned to sign players (for instance, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira following from Porto to Chelsea) and often, even more damagingly, appeared to unsettle players who have stayed by remaining in close contact (for example, Frank Lampard almost joining Inter, and Maicon being linked continuously to Madrid for two years). Such tight relationships - text messages and all - rarely benefit the team Mourinho has left.

A similar situation seems to be descending on Madrid. There have already been apparently well-sourced hints that Xabi Alonso, Angel Di Maria, Pepe and Sami Khedira could all be with Mourinho at Stamford Bridge next season. Meanwhile, transfer policy at the Bernabeu looks in a state of disarray.

AS claimed on Thursday that "at least 12" of Madrid's current first team squad were possibly leaving this summer. Some names were no surprise (Antonio Adan, Ricardo Carvalho, Raul Albiol), but eight of the 14 who played against Dortmund on Tuesday (Alonso, Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Fabio Coentrao, Kaka, Luka Modric and Michael Essien) reportedly either wanted out or were now surplus to requirements.

A similarly scatter-gun approach was taken regarding players likely to come in during the summer transfer window. Gareth Bale, Marco Verratti, Sergio Aguero, Edinson Cavani, Marouane Fellaini, Ilkay Gundogan, Dani Carvajal, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Robert Lewandowski have all featured heavily in speculation. While some of these stories were more believable than others, few players arrive at Madrid without well-placed journalists hearing of it first.

Premier League
PA PhotosTottenham's Gareth Bale is tipped to be one of Real Madrid's summer transfer targets

The clearest sign that something was amiss came outside Spain, with L'Equipe reporting on Thursday that Madrid's director general, Jose Angel Sanchez, had confirmed that "Benzema would stay at the club, but Higuain is going to leave". Sanchez quickly denied the remarks, and the French paper retracted its story, but the feeling was the club was not in control of events.

This is because Mourinho's three years in Madrid have seen a change in the off-pitch structures at the Bernabeu. Sporting director Jorge Valdano was fired after a bitter, year-long internal power-struggle during season one. Zinedine Zidane, who was being groomed to take a more active role at the club, was sidelined a year later. Former players Raul Gonzalez and Fernando Hierro have not been asked to return. Madrid president Florentino Perez acquiesced to the idea of Mourinho as a manager in the estilo ingles (English style), making him the most powerful coach in the club's 110-year history.

The only 'football men' within Madrid's current power structure are director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno and Valdano's replacement, Miguel Pardeza. Both represent the club in public but do not make serious transfer or business decisions. Sanchez, a long-time trusted associate of Perez, is a marketing man associated with the famous 'Zidanes and Pavones' transfer policy that characterised their first spell at the club. "We're content providers, like a film studio," Sanchez once told The Economist. "Having a team with Zidane in it is like having a movie with Tom Cruise."

Most La Liga clubs do not resemble film studios - they have a set structure with a dedicated sporting director who runs their transfer policy. Barcelona have Andoni Zubizarreta, a figure of similar weight to Valdano, who discusses new contracts with players and assesses targets with coach Vilanova and president Sandro Rosell. Sporting directors at other Spanish clubs are often widely known and respected figures, for instance Monchi at Sevilla and Braulio Vazquez at Valencia.

Madrid are now left with a vacuum where their transfer thinking should be. Presumably new signings feature heavily in conversations with potential new coaches, and the Spanish media seem sure that Carlo Ancelotti will bring fellow Italian Marco Verratti with him from Paris Saint-Germain for next season. Mundo Deportivo suggested this week that Claude Makelele could also make a similar journey, to become Madrid's new sporting director. Presumably this was a cruel Catalan joke, given Makelele was the most famous victim of the ultimately discredited 'Zidanes and Pavones' approach.

Mourinho seems well aware that, should Madrid's first season after his exit bring the squabbles and disasters that beset Porto, Chelsea and Inter in turn, many in Madrid will know where to point the finger. An attempt at limiting the damage to his reputation looks to have already begun.