Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Spain may have had just about enough of Jose Mourinho

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 17: Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid shows his frustrations during the Super Cup second leg match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at Nou Camp on August 17, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Whenever Jose Mourinho appears in the cartoon on the back page of Barcelona-based daily football paper Sport the artist depicts him looking out from the corner of the drawing wearing a straitjacket. It is an image that his critics say he is starting to live-up to.

When he arrived in Spain a year ago there was a genuine fear among Barca supporters that it would spell the end of their domination — but that loathing respect has given way to mocking humour.

There is unlikely to be any action taken against him for his behaviour in the Spanish Super Cup second leg. President of the competition committee Alfredo Flores will act only if Barcelona make a complaint and, aware that they were not innocent bystanders, that seems unlikely.

So he will be free to start his second season in the dug-out but he begins it with many in the Spanish capital wondering if all the disciplinary baggage is really worth it.

“The images will speak for themselves” said Pep Guardiola after the game and sure enough the stills of Mourinho, at best pinching the cheek of Tito Vilanova, at worst poking Barcelona's second coach in the eye, were damning.

In his defence the 'clasico' is a fixture whose history is littered with unsavory incidents and bad feeling. And the noble traditions that Mourinho is often accused by the club's elder statesmen of betraying are somewhat exaggerated anyway.

But it isn't just what Mourinho does; more the way that he does it that begs the question: has he gone too far?

The aggression on Vilanova came from behind — it was more childishly devious than bravely confrontational. Afterwards there was no apology and he said he did not know Vilanova's name, referring to him as Pito instead of Tito.

“Maybe he really doesn't know my number two's name,” said Guardiola. But it's hard to imagine Mourinho's encyclopedic knowledge of all his rivals does not stretch to the assistant manager of the Spanish champions.

The response sat uncomfortably well with another snapshot captured by Spanish television of him appearing to make the gesture of waving away a bad smell when he was in the proximity of Dani Alves and Leo Messi during another second half melee on the touchline.

The theatrics that were once heroic — the celebratory slide on his knees at the Camp Nou as Chelsea coach or the charging down the touchline at Old Trafford as Porto boss — have been replaced by exaggerated gestures of someone who knows he is the centre of attention.

Last season he communicated to his players in the final stages of a Champions League group game against Ajax that both Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos should deliberately pick up yellow cards so as to clear their suspensions. It was typical of Mourinho's attention to detail and forward planning but the master plan was executed with such slapstick — Mourinho briefing substitute goalkeeper Jerzey Dudek who then ran around to behind the goal to tell goalkeeper Iker Casillas to in-turn tell Sergio Ramos to get booked — that Uefa punished the club and what should have been some clever rule-bending became an embarrassment.

Winning is the over-riding priority at Madrid — more than at Barcelona where defeat can always be sweetened by gaining full marks for artistic impression — but Real's supporters also require their team to lose with dignity.

There was no apology for the finger in the eye from Mourinho just that disrespectful ‘who are you anyway?' And he also suggested that Barcelona had deliberately delayed getting the ball back into play - what he called a typical small-team mentality tactic.

“He is ruining Spanish football” said Gerard Pique - a reference more to the wedge being driven through the Spain squad by such bad feeling created between Madrid and Barca players than his overall impact.

Of more long-term concern to Mourinho could be the damage to his own career. The Manchester United job might once have been his to turn down but will such a famous old institution want to be linked with a coach who dragged Madrid through the mire in an everything-goes pursuit of major honors?

The Madness of King Jose

March 9, 2004 Old Trafford: The then little-known Porto coach announced himself on an unsuspecting British public by leaping out of the dug-out to sprint along the touchline to celebrate a late equaliser to knock Manchester United out of the Champions League.

February 27, 2005 Millennium Stadium: As Steven Gerrard's headed own-goal drew Chelsea level with Liverpool in the 2005 League Cup final, Mourinho raised his index finger to his lips, making a ‘sshhh’ gesture in the direction of the Reds fans. Needless to say, it didn’t go down well with the Scousers.

April 6, 2007 Stamford Bridge: Mourinho got round a Uefa touchline ban in 2007 by hiding in a dirty laundry basket to evade detection. The Special One was able to address his players at half-time during the 4-2 win at home to Bayern Munich, communicating with assistant Rui Faria.

April 28, 2010 Nou Camp: Guiding Inter to their first European Cup final for 38 years, Mourinho again burst on to the pitch as they clung on to a 3-2 aggregate lead in Barcelona. Right hand pointing upwards, he sprinted towards the away support, pausing only to scuffle with Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdez.

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