Ahead of the concluding instalment of the 2011 El Classico marathon Ger McCarthy of Back Page Football and Hold The Back Page Podcast infamy takes a look at how Barcelona’s recent 2-0 victory has defined both Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid’s season.
Millions of columns inches dominated the aftermath of a tempestuous Champions League first leg victory for Barcelona over their hated rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu last week. The World’s footballing press and online media hubs were overflowing in condemnation of the poor quality of the much hyped tie as well as the validity of both Pepe and Jose Mourinho’s dismissals.
This article does not wish to recount what was a hugely disappointing encounter – apart from two moments of magic from Lionel Messi – but instead concentrate on the effects the fallout from that semi final first leg has had on Madrid ahead of Tuesday night’s return encounter. If you missed the tie (Jaysus, where the hell were you?) then click on this Back Page Football link for my full review of Barca’s win.
The immediate aftermath of that bad tempered Champions League first- leg saw both sides ‘retained’ in their respective dressing rooms for a cooling down period of 10 minutes. Jose Mourinho emerged to give a frank and hard hitting press conference which Back Page Football’s Spanish expert Joseph Sexton translated in full.
Irrespective of your point of view the statistic of a total of seven players receiving red cards in this season’s El Classico encounters, of which five belonged to Madrid, suggests the referees have been more favourable to the Catalans. Yet since Real’s 5-0 humiliation at the beginning of the campaign Mourinho’s rough-house tactics were always going to result in a spate of dismissals as it appeared the only way the Galactico’s could knock a free-flowing Barca out of their stride.
Such a differing approach from that with which Real Madrid’s free-flowing football had become synonymous with over the decades drew the ire of former legend and current Honorary President Alfredo Di Stefano:
“The football Barcelona played at the Bernabeu was simply brilliant. Their superiority was clear. Madrid played against a Barcelona side who dominated throughout the whole game. Its clear Barca are superior to Madrid, who are a team with no personality. Their approach was clearly wrong.”
Mourinho now faces the most challenging managerial task of his career. Losing the Primera League title to Barcelona will just about be tolerated provided Madrid bounce back next season and annex either that trophy or the Champions League. Winning the Copa Del Rey for the first time in 20 years has bought Mourinho some credit with the hard core support although Ramos’ decision to drop the trophy under the parading team bus may have, ahem, somewhat dented that particular success.
The manner in which Madrid will go about their business next term will be fascinating. Even top scorer Ronaldo issued after match comments suggesting the negative Real tactics would have to change if ‘Los Blacnos’ were to mount any sort of challenge to their hated Catalan rivals in the future.
Jose Mourinho went to Chelsea and forged a winning mentality and identity within the London club which resulted in a spate of trophies. The pressing game Chelsea played under Mourinho was not as beautiful to watch as the football produced by Arsenal or sometimes Manchester United but it delivered and that was all that mattered to success starved Chelsea fans and a billionaire owner who demanded an instant return on his huge investment.
Things are different at a club steeped in Real Madrid’s history however where the manner in which success is achieved is just as important as simply winning a trophy. Winning is expected at the Santiago Bernabeu but if it is not achieved in a manner which pleases the owner, directors and fans then even experienced managers such as Fabio Cappello are shown the door.
Mourinho has taken over in the nation’s capital at a time when Catalonia has produced a team including individuals to rival the best footballers the world has ever seen. Just preventing Barcelona from continuing their domestic domination was one of the main reasons Mourinho was brought in. Winning a Champions League with Inter Milan and knocking Barcelona out along the way probably sealed the deal yet a club which is rife with internal politics must have realised the media ‘baggage’ Mourinho would also attract to the club.
Madrid have played second fiddle to Barca for almost the entire season and it is not surprising that media speculation of constant rows between Mourinho and Jorge Valdano has surfaced with alarming regularity.
Tuesday night’s encounter at the Camp Nou offers Madrid and Mourinho one more chance at redemption this season. An unlikely away victory may well be achieved but still not enough to prevent a Messi inspired Barcelona from marching on to Wembley in an attempt to cement their status as one of the most impressive European Cup winners of all time.
Jose Mourinho has the upcoming summer to add to his bulging squad in an attempt to restore Madrid to the top spot in Spain and Europe yet the manner in which Real look to reclaim top spot will dictate how long the ‘special one’ remains at the helm.
Success is demanded at the Santiago Bernabeu but the end must justify the means otherwise the Real Madrid managerial post will claim its most high profile of incumbents.
Tuesday May 3rd 2011,
Champions League Semi Final Second Leg,
Camp Nou, Barcelona,
Barcelona vs. Real Madrid
(Barcelona lead 2-0 on aggregate)