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Mourinho’s second coming suggests serious title tilt for Real Madrid

The Portuguese coach has always moved up a level in his second season at a club and with several new recruits and a lean Karim Benzema, Madrid will give Barça a run for their money.

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This will be a key season for Mourinho and Real Madrid as they seek to build on last season's Copa del Rey win.

“Por qué?” he asked. “Por qué?” came the question again. It was a moment to define José Mourinho’s first season at the home of Spanish football’s most successful club Real Madrid, where in recent years silverware has been lacking.

Coming after the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against their eternal rivals FC Barcelona, his comments were an attack against UEFA and the purported unfair treatment dished out to his players who had seen themselves down to 10 men for the fourth time in as many clashes in El Clásico last season.

It was also during a run of games that would see the two teams meet four times over the course of three weeks and this was exactly the reason why the Portuguese manager was drafted in, to put paid to Barça’s hegemony. A fitting climax to an eventful debut season.

The opener to Mourinho’s second season in charge at Los Blancos began almost where it left off last season, against Barça in the Supercopa, which his team lost 5-4 on aggregate. And once again, controversy was not far away, with the Portuguese coach stoking an end-of-match brawl by poking a member of the Barça coaching staff in the eye before hauling his players off the pitch to avoid the trophy presentation ceremony.

But looking beyond the off-the-field tensions surrounding Barça and Real Madrid, barring a miracle this season will once again be a two-horse race with both teams going neck and neck in La Liga.

However, Mourinho’s second season has typically proved more successful at previous clubs Porto, Chelsea and Inter, something which is of no surprise to the man himself. “I didn’t win the UEFA Cup in my second season at Porto, nor did I earn the Champions League title in my second year at Inter Milan, just by chance. It’s normal for a team to be more solid in a second season,” he said in a recent interview.

So, to his already solid team which can boast a substitutes bench of Kaká and Gonzalo Higuaín, Mourinho has added five new summer signings, many of whom joined very early in the summer, with Turkey midfielder Nuri Sahin signing at the back end of last season from Borussia Dortmund.

The 22-year-old playmaker – who is the youngest ever player to feature in the Bundesliga – acted as the heartbeat of the German champions last season setting the tempo, scoring six goals and providing nine assists in 30 league appearances in a season which saw him voted the Bundesliga Player of the Season by Kicker magazine.

He was soon joined by another Turkish international, Hamit Altintop on a free transfer from Bayern Munich but both players are yet to debut for Madrid with injuries hampering their pre-season.

José Callejón – a former product of Madrid’s youth team Castilla – returned to the place where he began after a five-year spell at Espanyol and the highly rated 18-year-old defender Raphaël Varane arrived.

Portuguese international Fábio Coentrão was the latest addition to the newcomers and has impressed in the various positions he has occupied during pre-season, not simply the left-back spot it was assumed he was bought for.

The new recruits have added some spice to an already impressive collection of players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Özil, Ángel di María, Kaká and Karim Benzema, the latter looking particularly impressive in pre-season.

Confident Benzema

The Frenchman – beginning his third season at the club – racked up eight goals in seven games this summer but numbers aside, he has looked dramatically thinner than this time last year, showing evidence of his commitment. Now brimming with confidence, he seems like a different player to the one often labelled lazy and sulky a year ago.

Indeed, such is the confidence in this turnaround in Benzema that despite Madrid once again beginning the season with two strikers – the other being Higuaín – Mourinho is not publicly demanding another striker as he did last year. He seems quite content and that speaks volumes.

Of course, it was the lack of a third striker and his sometime refusal to play Benzema last season that opened the almighty rift between Mourinho and Madrid’s sporting director, resulting in the not so subtle threats to quit if Jorge Valdano remained.

He did not. The ever-eloquent Valdano was sent packing in the close season with club President Florentino Pérez putting aside an association of more than two decades to demonstrate to Mourinho exactly where his allegiances lie when it comes to the club.

Mourinho has now assumed more control than any Madrid coach before him, in fact he is no longer simply a coach but now a manager.

Breaking the Barça jinx

All this bodes well for Mourinho’s second year at the club, but what of breaking the dominance of Barça?  Well in recent years, it has seemed as much a psychological barrier as a physical one. Madrid could almost compete with their eternal rivals but at times seemed afraid, though they would never admit it.

The 5-0 destruction at the Camp Nou cannot have helped but by the time of the Clásico series in April, the belief was being slowly restored, with the Copa del Rey final win providing a huge boost.

Losing to Barça in the semi-finals of the Champions League was a blow but it showed Madrid were competitive at least, as let’s not forget this is a side that before Mourinho arrived had failed to get past the knockout stage of Europe’s most prestigious competition – and one with which the club are synonymous – for six consecutive seasons.

In a preview of what is to come this season, the two-legged Supercopa this week saw Madrid once again lose to Barcelona but their aggressive, attacking style of play showed the fear of playing the Catalans seems to have been banished, which will prove vital.

There is a real belief amongst the Madrid faithful that this year will be the one that sees them crowned champions and in a league which sees the big two competing for every single point, it is the way in which they tackle the reigning Spanish champions which matters most. In the end, it may all boil down to yet another Clásico or two.





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Published: Aug 19 2011
Category: Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=3486
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1 Comment for “Mourinho’s second coming suggests serious title tilt for Real Madrid”

  1. Iam be hind you realmadrid in any sictuation

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