La Liga: The end is nigh for José Mourinho
Real Madrid lose again as the Portuguese coach controversially drops club captain Iker Casillas
By Halima Ali
This season, there have been very few quiet weekends in the Spanish capital and on Saturday evening, one decision by José Mourinho opened the floodgates. At around 7pm, with just over an hour to go to kick-off, the press began circulating the news. Club president Florentino Pérez was caught on camera, peering at the phone of a Canal+ presenter to read the extraordinary line-up and appearing bewildered.
When the starting eleven was confirmed a few minutes later, it was clear why. Club captain and World Cup winning goalkeeper Iker Casillas was dropped to the bench and replaced in goal by Antonio Adán.
The man dubbed ‘San Iker’ for the miracles he performs in front of goal for Los Merengues has not been on the bench for a la liga game since 2002, and in the decade that has followed he has cemented a reputation for being untouchable.
He has never been one to shy away from controversial decisions, or take on all comers but this roll of the dice is Mourinho’s biggest gamble to date and could prove hugely significant to his future at the home of the Spanish Champions.
The match away to Malaga – who are in great form despite their financial problems – was always set to be a tough fixture, but the Portuguese coach only offered up extra ammunition to his detractors as the gamble backfired spectacularly.
Madrid dominated the first half but were unable to convert their chances before Isco put the hosts ahead in the 48th minute. An own goal by Sergio Sánchez drew the visitors level midway through the second half but substitute Roque Santa Cruz, who had been on the pitch for less than 10 minutes put Malaga 3-1 ahead with a brace in the 73rd and 76th minutes.
Karim Benzema pulled another goal back for Madrid with eight minutes to go but his side could not find an equaliser as they slumped to their fourth league defeat of the season – already twice as many losses as last season when they won the league title – and moved 16 points adrift of Barcelona at the top of the table.
Earlier in the week,Pérez gave Mourinho his backing in a private breakfast meeting between the two, just as he had publicly done the week before at a club award ceremony when he reiterated that the coach was the best in the world and stated: “I would like to express my recognition, confidence in your work and all my affection to you.”
But despite the president’s declarations of confidence, the results are not following suit and Mourinho seems intent on pushing his bosses to the very limits with his actions.
In a pre-match press conference, the coach was clear, “This is the same team that won the league last year… when we come back from the holidays, we will focus on the positive as we have already done the negative” but his decision to drop the club captain is sure to leave a bitter taste in the mouth for players and fans alike.
Mourinho’s behaviour this season has become increasingly erratic as he has picked a fight with just about everyone around him. Whereas before it was the referees and Barcelona at fault, this year he has clearly singled out several of his team for criticism including Mesut Özil, Ángel di María, Fábio Coentrão and even second club captain Sergio Ramos was controversially dropped for a big Champions League tie against Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabéu.
He did not hesitate to slam the club’s youth team coach Alberto Toriland has even challenged his own fans to boo him.
While Chelsea fans may remember him through rose-tinted glasses, they are perhaps forgetting his final year at the London club when he fell out with the club hierarchy and senior players. Behaviour that is now being mirrored in Madrid.
The latest controversy has left observers divided with some insisting it is a final power play, a message to the president to give him even more authority while others believe he is simply wanting to be fired so he can leave with a hefty pay off.
With few managerial alternatives and a huge Champions League clash against Manchester United in February coming up, the president is so far standing by his man, however difficult that may be, but the fans are falling out of love with The Special One and his behaviour smacks of the end game.
The end is nigh for Mourinho. If he manages to get the team to perform and win La Décima in May, he will leave on a high with nothing else to achieve at the club, if they continue on a downward spiral, he will be gone sooner. Either way, he will be heading for the exit.
Athletic Bilbao 0 – 2 Real Zaragoza
Málaga CF 3 – 2 Real Madrid
Osasuna 1 – 2 Granada CF
Real Valladolid 1 – 3 FC Barcelona
Real Betis 1 – 2 RCD Mallorca
Atlético Madrid 1 – 0 Celta de Vigo
Valencia CF 4 – 2 Getafe CF
Real Sociedad 2 – 1 Sevilla FC
RCD Espanyol 2 – 0 Deportivo La Coruña
Rayo Vallecano 3 – 0 Levante UD
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Published: Dec 26 2012
Category: Featured, Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=7668
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Tags: florentino perez, football, iker casillas, la liga, Málaga, Mourinho, Real Madrid, spain sports, Spanish soccer