The Last Word: The eyes have it: Jose's on his last legs
The Real Madrid coach's latest disgraceful spat shows that Barça's dominance is getting to him
It was hard to know which was more shocking: Marcelo's wild lunge that scythed down Cesc Fabregas or Jose Mourinho's finger-poking in the eye of Tito Vilanova, Barcelona's assistant coach.
Marcelo's challenge in the closing moments of Barcelona's 3-2 victory over Real Madrid in Wednesday's Spanish Super Cup was outrageous in its sheer brutality, while there was something chillingly calculated about Mourinho's actions. As pandemonium broke out on the pitch, the Real coach strode towards Vilanova, who had his back to him, before reaching round to push a finger towards his eye.
During another mass confrontation in the second half, television pictures showed Mourinho gesturing as if to wave away a bad smell when he was close to Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves. In the press conference Mourinho did not apologise for the incident involving Vilanova – he claimed he did not even know the assistant coach's name – and accused Barcelona's ballboys of time-wasting, which he said was the tactic of a "small-time" club.
We have come to expect the unexpected from Mourinho, but he seems to be on a mission to outdo his own excesses. After all, this was supposed to be merely a curtain-raiser, even if any meeting between the giants of Spanish football assumes an importance of its own.
The obvious conclusion is that Barcelona's domination of their rivals is getting under the skin of Mourinho, who is not used to finishing second. Tensions have reached such a level that Gerard Pique, the Barcelona defender, accused Mourinho of "destroying Spanish football".
When Barcelona and Real played each other four times in 18 days towards the end of last season the matches were disfigured by brawls, dives and claims that players feigned injuries. Mourinho suggested that Uefa were biased in favour of Barcelona, which earned him a ban.
Where will it all end? Real fans may like the fact that Mourinho stands up to their greatest rivals, but theirs is a club that likes to win with style and lose with dignity. Poking a coach in the eye is hardly the Real deal. Working for Real surely requires certain standards of behaviour and Mourinho is falling beneath them.
The Spanish authorities are thought unlikely to take any action because the referee did not mention the Vilanova incident in his report. Nevertheless, Pep Guardiola, Barcelona's coach, said "the images speak for themselves" and added: "There are certain things that shouldn't be done. This will end badly if it doesn't stop."
Mourinho could find himself under pressure for football reasons. While the departure of Jorge Valdano, the club's sporting director, appeared to strengthen Mourinho's hand, particularly in recruitment, would the coach survive another season as second fiddle to Barcelona? Given the fortunes Real have invested in their squad, a return will be expected. Vicente Del Bosque, who won the Champions' League twice, was sacked eight years ago after winning a 29th league title.
It is hard to imagine where Mourinho would go next. His career has been on an upward curve. Having defied the odds to win the Champions League with Porto, he led Chelsea to unprecedented success in the Premier League, restored Internazionale to former glories and then took on the world's most famous club.
Where do you go after that? Mourinho has always talked of a return to England but, after coaching Real, would any club other than Manchester United be a backward step?
As for the possibility of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson, you have to wonder if the Mourinho brand of football is in keeping with Old Trafford's traditions. The Portuguese may have the winning touch, but for all his tactical brilliance and eye for talent, his teams do not usually play with the élan that the United faithful expect. Besides, how would his behaviour go down in the boardroom?
Mourinho as an international manager? Whatever pull Portugal might have, Mourinho's home country does not have the depth of talent to deliver success. Other countries would love to have Mourinho take charge, but nearly all those with a realistic chance of success refuse to look beyond their own borders when appointing a coach.
Wherever he goes next, let us hope he stays in the game. Planet Football would certainly be a less interesting world without the Special One.
McIlroy knows that less is more
Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy no doubt find better things to do when they are together, but you do wonder whether the women's world No 1 tennis player and golf's US Open champion, who are rumoured to be an item, have considered whether their relationship is affecting their careers.
McIlroy was in Cincinnati last week to watch Wozniacki, who lost her first match for the second tournament in succession. Despite continuing to enter more events than many of the other top players, she has won only once since Wimbledon.
McIlroy has played in only four tournaments since his US Open triumph in June. He finished 25th at the Open, where his indifferent performance was said to be not wholly unconnected to his split from his long-time girlfriend, Holly Sweeney; hewas 34th at the Irish Open;sixth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational; and 64th at the USPGA Championship. He is not due to play again until next month's European Masters.
If limited appearances do not appear to be paying off for McIlroy, there is surely more sense in his schedule than in Wozniacki's. While most of her rivals rested after Wimbledon, she played a clay-court event in Sweden the following week. This week most players will be honing their games on the practice court in readiness for next week's US Open – Wozniacki will be competing in New Haven.
Regularly grilled about her failure to win a major title, Wozniacki might learn from Serena Williams, who has won 13 Grand Slam crowns but restricts her appearances elsewhere. The world No 31 pulled out of Cincinnati last week because of a minor toe injury and because she wanted to prepare for the US Open. Guess which of the two women is the favourite to win at Flushing Meadows next month.
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