Splits, rows and plots: Mourinho era coming to a close

Even a decisive cup victory over Barcelona tonight may not be enough to earn the Portuguese survival at Real. By Pete Jenson

Tired of Real Madrid against Barcelona? Don't worry, there's a new show in town – Real Madrid against Mourinho. It debuted at the weekend and it should run until the end of June. It is not expected to be back in the autumn.

Ahead of tonight's second leg quarter-final of the Spanish Cup against Barcelona, Jose Mourinho was asked yesterday if he was happy at the club. "Mmm" was his reply, accompanied by a brief nodding of the head. He isn't.

The dream of becoming the first coach to do the "grand slam" by winning the English, Italian and Spanish league titles is alive and well. Real are five points clear and have scored 67 goals – a Spanish record for the first half of the season. But that counts for nothing at a club who have hired and fired 30 times in the last 30 years.

Two defeats by Barcelona in the space of a month have helped reopen the wounds inflicted the last time the club had to face their foe twice in quick succession. The damage done by the Spanish Super Cup defeat festered for a while but a run of 15 straight victories lifted everyone.

Last weekend's Spanish Cup first-leg defeat brought all the bad feeling to the surface again in a squad accused of being torn into two camps – the Portuguese-speaking players who defend and are defended by their coach and the Spanish internationals who don't and aren't. "I don't' create cliques," said Mourinho yesterday, almost inadvertently confirming that they exist.

Sergio Ramos said last night: "The relationship with the coach has always been good, Mourinho remains the ideal coach for Madrid, and we are content with him." That came after the club's second captain had been summoned to president Florentino Perez's business headquarters on Monday, to report on the mood in the dressing room. That the president chose to confer with a player and not the man he pays to manage the players may indicate that the point of no return has been reached regardless of Ramos' comments.

Last Friday, a row between Ramos and Mourinho revealed another crack. "Where were you when [Carles] Puyol scored?" Mourinho asked the defender. Ramos had been told to mark Puyol. His explanation was that he had decided to swap with Pepe; that sometimes during a game the players know best; and that Mourinho would not understand because "he had never been a player". That may well prove to have been another death knell.

Worse than the argument having taken place was the fact that it found its way on to the front page of Marca the morning before Real's home match on Sunday. It will not have been Mourinho's first training-ground row, but the leaking of it suggested a deliberate plan to undermine him.

He held a meeting with the players before Sunday's match, branding the incident unprofessional, desperate to unearth the mole. The goalkeeper Iker Casillas was also targeted by Mourinho in the training-ground exchange, making him a suspect.

But a much worse scenario for Mourinho than the leak coming from one of his players is the possibility that the club itself may have played a part in the information reaching Spain's top-selling daily. The club's in-house TV channel will have been the only broadcasters within microphone distance of the altercation. Regardless of the source, it is understood that the club president knew of the following morning's front page on Saturday night and no steps were taken to prevent it going to press.

The row went beyond the argument over Ramos overruling his manager. Mourinho accused his players of "killing" him in the mixed zone after the game, adding that "as Spain World Cup winners" they knew they would be protected by their friends in the press.

There is a perceived favouritism stretching back to last season, when a Jorge Valdano rollicking to Pepe in the Real dressing room, for the way he had spoken to a rival in the tunnel, is believed to have been the catalyst for Mourinho banning the then sporting director from the dressing room.

The Brazilian full-back Marcelo said after the weekend's win: "If there were divisions then you would see evidence of it on the pitch." In the same game cameras had picked up Ronaldo giving Xabi Alonso a long, cold stare, after he had pushed his protesting team-mate in the back in an attempt to move him up the pitch and away from a possible booking.

The differences are not always divided along national lines. The Spanish players may have led the cries of "Real Madrid cannot sit on a 1-0 lead at home against Barcelona" in the inquest to the last defeat but it was Ronaldo who in last year's first leg Champions League semi-final put hands on hips, puffed out his cheeks and looked up to the heavens in a fairly candid rejection of his manager's tactics.

Mourinho still believes that Barcelona are best beaten over two legs by beating them narrowly in the first leg and then punishing them on the counter attack in the second: "1-0 is a good result for the home team in the first leg" he said after the match last week, before lamenting the sloppy equaliser.

Settling for 1-0 is never enough for Real and the image they have of themselves, coloured as it is by an ever-more distant past. One-nil tonight will not be enough. Madrid must score twice and Mourinho could pair the attacking midfielders Mesut Ozil and Kaka, who have won eight of the nine games they have started together. "Pepe will play if fit," Mourinho revealed yesterday.

Will what happens tonight mark a before and after in his relationship with the club? "I'm not answering that," he said. Could it be that win, lose or draw, too much damage has already been done for the game to change anything?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...