Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho... in the firing line

Real are 11 points behind Barça, which is usually sacking territory. Lose the derby to Atletico and the chances of a move to PSG grow ever more likely

Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich, and the Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, are not, as far as we know, Facebook friends or following each other on Twitter. Were they regularly engaged in cyber-small talk – aside from “favouriting” each other’s firings – they might well have turned the chat this week to their respective managers.

Abramovich has installed Madrid-born Rafa Benitez, against supporters’ wishes, and seen him serve up two turgid goalless draws in his first two games; while Perez has Jose Mourinho in charge – the most popular manager in Chelsea’s history but increasingly unpopular with Real Madrid’s supporters and potentially 14 points behind the leaders Barcelona by midnight Saturday.

Perez has seen how Abramovich canned Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo – he did the same to Vicente del Bosque in the cruellest of his seven sackings – and knows the pressure will be on for him to show the same ruthless streak should things go wrong in tomorrow night’s Madrid derby.

Real have already dropped 13 points this season – only one less than in the whole of last season and while it’s acceptable to concentrate on the Champions League – it’s not acceptable to be out of the title race by November. Only six managers have ever fallen this far behind Barcelona so early in the season and all were sacked.

Last season Perez is understood to have had an agreement in place with Benitez that meant he would take over should Mourinho leave his post mid-season. There were even suggestions that the agreement involved Benitez being paid by Madrid not to take other jobs;  which would explain him turning down Chelsea when first approached.

Now there is no such plan B in place for Perez who, aside from wishing to avoid the potential €20m (£16.2m) compensation package, still believes Mourinho is the man most capable of delivering him the club’s 10th European Cup next May.

His problem is that there are almost three months before the competition starts again and the pressure on him to remove his man would intensify should Real, currently not even the best team in Madrid, let alone Spain, slip further away from the top of the table.

Real Madrid  have not looked like potential Champions League winners in the group stage in amassing what will be their lowest points haul since 2005. But then neither did Mourinho’s Inter in 2010 when they struggled in a group that included Barcelona before going on to win the final against Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That night, sat in the visitors’ dug-out, remains Mourinho’s greatest to date at a stadium where once again in midweek the singing of his name was drowned out by jeers from supporters, despite the fact that the team were in the process of winning the second leg of their Spanish Cup game by a three-goal margin. Add that to the same magnitude of victory in the first leg and it was the first time they’d achieved such a feat since 1978. A happy crowd, then? Not entirely.

Mourinho, as ever, has his potential exits planned. He is close friends with the Paris St-Germain president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, who employed him as a pundit during Euro 2012, in his capacity as head of Al Jazeera Sport. PSG will test Real Madrid’s resolve to retain Cristiano Ronaldo this summer. If the Portuguese ends up in Paris alongside Zlaten Ibrahimovic, then a strong coach with experience of handling both men will be required and agent Jorge Mendes, representing both clients, would be the man to make it happen.

In the build-up to Real Madrid’s Champions League meeting with Manchester City, Mourinho met with his old friend Sir Alex Ferguson and if the United manager has any say in who replaces him then Mourinho remains the strongest candidate for the Old Trafford job. Mourinho has also gone enthusiastically on the record to say he would have no problem working for Abramovich again.

His suitors are less fickle than those who have never warmed to him in the Spanish capital. The press that feeds their disdain has already dubbed tomorrow’s encounter “judgement day”. He has won all six of his Madrid derbies to date but they warn the end will be nigh if his team become the first Real Madrid side to lose this fixture in 13 seasons. 

On form Atletico will provide a huge test. They have won 11 of their 13 games this season, losing only once. They also play the style of football that least suits Real Madrid, who lost last week to a Betis team who decided to let them have the ball, denying them their greatest weapon – the counter-attack.

Diego Simeone’s side is likely to employ the same tactic. Atletico are the third-highest scorers in the league but are 11th in the table in terms of minutes in possession of the ball.

If Mourinho comes out a winner tomorrow then planning will continue unhindered for the Champions League last 16. If the club can finally offload Kaka, who has been given just 360 minutes to so far this season, then there may even be room to bring in a January reinforcement.

Perez went down into the dressing room after that defeat last weekend, though his mere presence served as a chilly reminder of how serious things had become rather than a warm show of support. Players have also publicly stood up for their coach.

The captain, Iker Casillas, said: “Maybe people are being unjust with Mourinho – a large part of the success we have had over the last two seasons has been down to him. He’s the best coach in the world so maybe too much is asked of him. In the dressing room we have 100 per cent faith in him.”

At such a politically charged club a vote of confidence from the players can be as ominous as one from the board and Mourinho will discover tomorrow the real extent of his players’ desire for him to stay.

Hired in June 2010, Mourinho is now the longest-serving manager in the league. For a president who wants a Champions League it would be madness to lose a man who has won it twice, but a 14-point gap between Madrid and Barcelona would be a real test of Perez’s sanity.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
media
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz