Real Madrid – flawed but can still win

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“Jose Mourinho’s reaction spoke volumes about just how much Real Madrid’s 3-2 victory over Manchester Citymeant to his side: not for nothing does he slide on his knees into the pitch. There had been pressure and when Aleksandr Kolarov gave Manchester City the lead with five minutes remaining, he must have feared the discontent around the Bernabeu would become intolerable. After an 87th-minute equalizer and a 92nd-minute winner, though, there was euphoric relief.

The great Hungarian coach Bela Guttmann always insisted “the third season is fatal.” It’s not true for every manager, but it perhaps is true for those who are not empire builders, those whose method is an exhausting blend of motivation and tactical genius. Guttmann kept hopping on, kept winning titles, kept picking up lucrative new contracts, kept leaving behind a squad shattered by the experience. It’s no great leap to see Jose Mourinho as Guttmann’s modern equivalent.

Wherever he’s gone, success and controversy have followed. This is only the second time Mourinho’s attempted a third season at a club. The other occasion was at Chelsea, a season of acrimony and infighting that brought an FA Cup and a League Cup but no championship; he left the club the following September. It’s early, of course, but Real Madrid this season has a similar feel of the final days of the Roman republic; politics and infighting everywhere threatening to consume the whole.

It’s not just Mourinho, of course. Real Madrid has always been a hotbed of intrigue; Mourinho is their first manager to be given a third season in a decade. Last season he broke the domination of Barcelona; this season his job is to end a 10-year hiatus and, at last, win a tenth Champions League. In that regard the miserable early season form that sees Madrid eight points behind Barcelona after three games is irrelevant. Champions League success would excuse any number of failings elsewhere.”

Continue reading Jonathan Wilson on Real Madrid flawed but talented enough to hold off Manchester City

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