Champions League: A semi-detached Jose Mourinho aims for third time lucky with Real Madrid
The Spanish side play Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of the semi-final tonight
Wednesday 24 April 2013
The future goes on hold this evening at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion as Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid go into their third consecutive Champions League semi-final together. The dual European Cup-winning coach asked for football to be fair to his twice-beaten semi-finalist players.
Thoughts of Mourinho's next club and Real Madrid's next move were both put to one side as he responded to a question about how his team would cope with the fear of falling at another semi-final hurdle. "I combat anxiety by never having it," he said.
"Let those who have anxiety worry about how to deal with it. I don't have it. It's another game, a big one that can take us to the final but it's another game."
Asked who his goalkeeper would be he reeled off his entire starting XI, confirming Diego Lopez and Gonzalo Higuain would start ahead of Iker Casillas and Karim Benzema, and admitting only one doubt – Angel Di Maria, who had been allowed extra time in Spain for the birth of his daughter.
"We have the individual quality and we have the quality as a team," Mourinho said. "We have been together for three years and we have the mentality. We want this; we want it a lot. This team – with the exception of four or five players – has not won the Champions League.
"It is best not to talk about the first semi-final [two years ago against Barcelona, when Pepe was sent off in the first leg] and last year we were beaten on penalties. I hope that football is fair to us."
Mourinho is currently La Liga's longest-serving coach – something that jars with his image as the wandering maverick roaming from league to league, upsetting the old order.
The current state of peace – he said last night that he had a polite and professional relationship with demoted Spain international goalkeeper Casillas – is still being seen as the prelude to a summer departure.
As his future wavers between London and Paris, Real Madrid are already planning for a future without him, with one of their former Champions League winners Zinedine Zidane likely to form an important part of the coaching restructuring that will be required when Mourinho and his team move on.
Last night he took time out to congratulate the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, on his 13th league title saying: "What he did is what he has done all his life – win." And then Mourinho set about laying the foundations for victory.
Dortmund are a side capable of taking games to the opposition but can also play on the break. Mourinho did his best to encourage the former approach – one that would leave his team to do the counter-attacking.
"Jürgen Klopp is a great coach," he said of his opposite number. "He seems to be an honest person and when I read that he is not worried about Real Madrid and only about his team, and what they will do, then I can't expect anything other than a Dortmund side that will go for it."
Madrid picked up just one point against the Germans in the group stage, but Mourinho said: "The four goals they scored were all our mistakes. They were all goals that we could have avoided and I expect far more concentration in this game. If they score, then let it be a goal that we can say, 'No one could have stopped that'."
Mourinho's exit from Real Madrid is still dependent on a meeting between himself and the club's president, Florentino Perez, that will take place as soon as Real's Champions League business is finished. If that meeting comes after a victorious Wembley final then the two men will part amicably and without the need for compensation on the remaining years of the contract that runs until 2016.
Zidane is on a very short list of people Real Madrid supporters might consider "more special" than the Special One and it looks increasingly likely that Perez will call upon that star quality when the time comes to replace not just Mourinho but his extensive back-room staff in June.
Perez's favourite to succeed Mourinho is the Paris Saint-Germain and former Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, but supporters have not been convinced by the Italian in the past and the promise of Zidane sitting alongside him in the dugout, or at the very least being fast-tracked up a new coaching structure taking charge of one of the youth categories, might be what it takes to convince them.
The early draft of the post-Mourinho plan sees Real Madrid buy Ancelotti out of his £7m-a-year rolling contract with the French club and Zidane, his former player at Juventus, move alongside him – something that will be easier to achieve if Mourinho goes to PSG and not return to Chelsea in the summer.
Asked last night whether another semi-final defeat would mean he had failed, Mourinho said: "When I arrived at this club, Real Madrid already had nine European Cups but it was not even a seeded team in the group stage. Right now we are a top seed and revenue from this competition has increased. But I know that at this club finishing second is not enough."
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