Saturday, January 8th, 2011
Real Madrid v Villarreal, La Liga, January 9, 2011
(By Paul Morrissey -Â follow on Twitter here.)
”Ay, goodÂ lad, but I wanted to win it betta” - Brian Clough to Don Revie.
An insidious paranoia isÂ slowly consuming Mourinho, asÂ his publishing of the ”13 Fouls” testifies.
Nothing new there then, but Mou’s Mad MenÂ are alsoÂ cultivating an image for petty trash talking which is gaining them few friends in Spain.
The petty jibes emanating from the playersÂ betray a very misplaced arrogance that is being transmitted, subliminally or otherwise, by a coach drunk on fledgling success.Â Mourinho’s list ofÂ verbally offended victims reads like a Barton charge sheet, and the vendettas are accumulatingÂ proportionately.
When Gijon coach Preciado called him a ”swine” (rough translation),Â in response to Mourinho’s jibe that Gijon had rolled over for Barca, he was alludingÂ to a deeper sense of respect that is patentlyÂ lacking in Mourinho.
Not to say that La Liga managers have any sort of Edward and Tubbs village mentality, that “this is aÂ LOCAL shop, for LOCAL people”;Â Â but there is an underlying feeling of, well, “You just got here, so know your role.” Galecians are a traditonally conservative folk and the showbiz swagger exhibitioned by Mou was roundly derided.
It seems a game can no longer go by without him firing his mouth off, or forgoing etiquette – like when he spoke ahead of Valencia’s Emery. Emery was told by the Madrid press spokesman that they “can’t control him.”
The unsavoury side to this team once againÂ reared its uglyÂ head in the Copa del Rey with Levante’s players the witless victims.Â The bad blood apparently stems from the league fixture, when Levante had the temerity to deprive them of two points.
With the score at 6-0, Di Maria toldÂ a Levante playerÂ ”Don’t touch my jersey, I don’t want you dirtying it.”
Pepe is another recidivist, although Mourinho can hardly be called to account for his odious character: the man is a certifiedÂ basket case. Despite having completed an Anger Management course following his vicious assault on a prone Getafe player, Pepe’s “mal educado” reputation has stuck with him like a bad smell.
During el Classico, CR7 was up to his old tricks, performing hisÂ Invisible ManÂ act as per most big games. He briefly appeared to ask Pedro “Who are you?”; Pedro had too much class to reply with a succinct “a World Champion.”
This deluded self-importance, as if they invented hot water, exuding a fabricated bling-bling aura leaves a sour taste; all the more so when their Segunda and Segunda B counterparts struggle to see out the end of the month.
As in Italy, Mouâ€™s finding his persona – and it a persona – is incongruous to the party.
In England, the press bequeathed him a Midas touch, his Latin flair fitting seamlessly into a continental movement that was very much in vogue. In Spain, where 1 in 10 citizens buy a newspaper by all accounts, there is muchÂ less pressure to churn out copy, and hence to humour his bilious gas. Naturally, there is little culturalÂ novelty in his personality. There is even a feeling that even the Madrid hierarchy are becoming embarrassed with the image that’s being projected.
The contrast with the Del Bosque era is stark.
Then there’s the capriciousÂ idiosyncrasies. TheÂ illusory image of him as an extension of the players was accentuated with his sporting of the ultimate accessory of the modern cosseted footballer, the snood.
The over-the-top celebrations, too; they used to be interesting, fun even. At this stage his insistence on participatingÂ like a dad on a bouncing castle clearly betrays some Freudian complex, that there remains some raw bitterness at having never made it as a professional footballer.
But the legacy he will leave is a debate for another day; of more immediate importanceÂ is winning on Sunday.
Un PotentialÂ Partidazo
A real game now looms for Mourinho, and that fragile spine will now be put to the test by a team who all come round to Giuseppe Rossi’s house for morale-boosting meals.
Curiously, there has been no sign as of yet of genuine togetherness at La Casa Blanca, aÂ defining characteristic of Mourinho teams.Â Witness the forced goal celebrations: when Ronaldo sealed the game against Valencia, there was a conspicuous delay in tracking him down, in fact only a pair of teammates even bothered to congratulate him.
Up front, MouÂ would wash his hands of Benzema if he could, but in Ian Holloway parlance, he’s the only bird left on the dance-floor and Mou needs to pull. He scored a hat-trick against Auxerre, but hat tricks against Auxerre, of course, don’t count.
He even tried Kaka as a false 9 on his comeback, such is his exasperation with the work-shy default number 9. He might as well put a horse’s head in Benz’s bed.
What he wouldn’t give for one half of the Rossi-Nilmar partnership. The Italian-American broke the Villareal record in midweek withÂ his 59th goal for the Yellow Submarines, and the pair were truly lording it until the Brazilian succumbed to injury. Cazorla and Cani provide the width, offering alternative outlets to their central passing game.
Some of Real’s challengers have been downright pathetic at the Bernabeu – Valencia maddeningly losing to a counter attack having just been reduced to 10 men – but in Villareal they’ve met their match.Â Villareal contained Barca – in a great game, incidentally – for 70 odd minutes before they finally suffocated under the Boa Constrictor technique.
Aside from the Hercules freak result (jetlag followingÂ needless long haul round trip to Argentina), Villareal are the only team to have taken BarcaÂ mano a mano and (almost) lived to tell the tale. They don’t just wanton attackÂ a la Atleti; they’ve been surreptitiously modelling themselves on Barca’s tiki-takaÂ for some time now and keep possession for long periods. Senna won’tÂ be afforded the same time and space to control from midfield and he’ll need to devote as much time to tracking the elusive Ozil between the lines. Excuse the clichÃ©, but “a lot could hinge on the midfield battle.”
IfÂ they take theÂ same approach as expected, they might justÂ inflict an overdue homeÂ league defeat on Mou’s MadÂ Men.Â Third place is all but tied up, they have nothing to lose; why not?
Real’sÂ trouble behind the scenesÂ conflated with Villareal’s all-round feelgood factor will make forÂ a cracking game, and a narrow Villareal win.
101gg predicts: Real Madrid 1 – Villarreal 2