I’m hesitant to do this because I generally quite like Gab Marcotti, but he was very wide of the mark on his assessment of Jose Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid. After he lists Mourinho’s resume at Madrid—which, it should be said, for any other manager and any other club, would be extraordinary—he reaches this odd conclusion:
For an average manager, those aren’t horrible results. But Mourinho isn’t Joe tracksuit-and-clipboard (or, these days, sponsored fleece-and-iPad). He is the highest-paid coach in a major European league. Real Madrid paid more than $16 million in compensation just to free him from his Inter Milan contract. They expected him to be a difference-maker.
This is the crux of Marcotti’s argument—that because Mourinho was paid a lot of money by Madrid and had a lot of good players including Ronaldo, he should have done better against an historically brilliant Barcelona side with one of the greatest ever footballers and possibly the best midfield in the last three decades, if not longer. He also says Mourinho failed because he had a “siege mentality” and he didn’t have a clearly delineated tactical legacy for pseuds to fawn over for years after.
Some brief context. Jose Mourinho’s win percentage at Real Madrid is the third highest in Real Madrid history, at 72.67%. This is an accomplishment of which Marcotti states, “For an average manager, those aren’t horrible results.” Despite the lame attempt to compare Mourinho to the manager with the second highest win percentage—Manuel Pelligrini, who managed Madrid the season before Mourinho’s arrival—that record involved a mere 48 matches compared to Mourinho’s 172. Moreover, Pelligrini exited the round of 16 tie in the Champions League against Lyon, and went out in the round of 32 stage in the Copa del Rey against AD Alcorcón. Mourinho by contrast reached the Champions League semis three times and won the Copa del Rey once.
If you don’t think that European record is impressive, as Ravi Rameneni pointed out to me on Twitter:
@rwhittall Agree.RM won all but one of its 9 cups in 2 bunches. betw 56-60 & 3 betw 98-02. They didnt reach semifinals all the other years.
— Ravi Ramineni (@analyseFooty) May 1, 2013
Which makes Mourinho’s achievement in Europe all the more incredible. As to Marcotti’s point about the lack of stiff competition Real Madrid faced in their Champions League campaigns under Jose, it might be prudent to check Real Madrid’s CL competition in 1997-98, or their group stage competition in 1999-2000 or 2001-02.
As for Marcotti’s words about club “brand” and “image” and whether Mourinho’s tactical approach stands out—Mourinho was brought in in part because the club understood that merely assembling a group of stars in the hopes of perpetual glory wasn’t going to work against a Barcelona side that had been steeped in Cruyff’s Dutch vision for three plus decades. They needed a manager who could win in spite of an organization that still believed the rules of the late 1950s—assemble a star squad and watch the trophies roll in—wasn’t going to work against Barca. That was always the deal with Mourinho. He did all he could to keep his side of the bargain, and it was never going to be enough.
Sad that the supporters didn’t know it, nor the press. Because as long as Barca has a few good years left, the futility will continue no matter who ends up in the dugout.
Here’s the Storify’d version of the online debate that followed this article: