Tales for Tapas: Compelling drama
José Mourinho’s goalkeeping saga, Rajoy’s hopes of greater integration and an Italian storyteller’s dream.
Apart from that Sinatra-esque farewell announcement in 2001, Sir Alex Ferguson’s just-confirmed departure from Manchester United has been a model of timeliness accompanied by a minimum of fuss – in rather stark contrast to the goings-on at Real Madrid, where the José Mourinho soap opera, now ostensibly focused on the benching of the goalkeeper and captain, in reality hinges on the fine print of the manager’s employment contract.
Despite his age (quite advanced in football years) Iker Casillas remains at the peak of his prodigious powers. His dissatisfaction about being dropped from the first team, the coach suggested this week, is fuelled by the covert desire for a more “manageable” manager. This, one feels bound to point out, is a remarkable observation from a man with an apparently magnetic attraction to the least manageable team in the Premier League.
Whether the 31-year old Diego López is a plausible substitute for Casillas (32 next week) can never be conclusively determined, and the issue would simply be a matter for metaphysical speculation and bibulous debate, except that it has a bearing on millions of euros in salaries and transfer fees.
Real Madrid paid a vast amount to buy Mourinho out of his Inter Milan contract three years ago and, in the event of his departure ahead of schedule, the club might reasonably expect to recover some of this up-front investment. But that will turn on the procedural point of dismissal versus resignation.
Asked this week if he’d thought about leaving Real Madrid after their recent drubbing by Borussia Dortmund, Mourinho replied that, on the contrary, he’d thought about staying.
Such sparkling repartee reflects the careful positioning of all concerned as the latest chapter in this managerial saga moves towards its unpredictable denouement.
On Monday, Italy’s new prime minister, Enrico Letta, was in Madrid, where he and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy eschewed repartee in favour of a stolid reiteration that the crisis economies are doing (almost) everything they’ve been asked to do and the EU must now show a reciprocal commitment to implementing bolder solutions to the Eurozone’s problems.
Mr Letta, who has been to see Chancellor Merkel in Berlin and President Hollande in Paris since taking office at the end of last month, wants to build a new consensus that places growth on a par with austerity. For his part, Mr Rajoy – despite his grim austerity credentials – has consistently called on the EU to step up measures that will make it easier, for example, for SMEs to obtain credit, and thus create jobs.
At their joint press conference the two leaders called for faster progress on banking union, fiscal union and political union.
But greater integration will meet with substantial opposition in London and Berlin.
Mr Rajoy and Mr Letta insisted that serious strategic steps must be agreed at the European Council summit in June, and Mr Letta warned against a “bureaucratic, routine, formal” fudge. However, with September elections in Germany, rampant Euroscepticism in Britain and an increasingly beleaguered president in France, it is not at all clear that Spain and Italy will be able to lead a successful charge towards deeper integration.
The big picture
As ever, it’s important to look at the big picture. The Eurozone’s current turbulence should be set against more than half a century of stability and (for most of the time) prosperity – an appropriately topical thought since Schuman Day, the EU’s annual salute to itself, fell on Thursday this week. How you tell the story affects the way citizens view the past and the present.
The art of storytelling was highlighted by the Italian writer Alessandro Baricco this week during a visit to Madrid. Mr Baricco is well known to English speakers through the film treatment of his literary works, notably Silk, with Keira Knightley, and The Legend of 1900 with Tim Roth. A successful critic, novelist, and playwright, he co-founded a story-telling school in Turin in 1993 and is now on tour to publicise the school’s revamped syllabus.
He told reporters that the project was “born from many dreams, ambitions, inventions” – which sounds, well, rather Italian. On the other hand, Baricco has a track record of turning dreams into compelling drama – the very thing that government leaders and football managers are expected to do from time to time.
To read more by Anna Maria O’Donovan visit My Spanish Interlude.
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