The Special One’s point to prove

Jose Mourinho has picked a fight with Madrid B coach Alberto Toril, underscoring the club’s failure to develop and promote young players from within.


I’m not going to waste time asking for sympathy, because he doesn’t need it, but I think it was more than somewhat unfair that Jose Mourinho’s achievement in becoming the fastest coach in Real Madrid’s history to reach 100 victories has been reduced to less than a footnote this week.

Saturday saw Mourinho leave great figures from Madrid’s past, with 100 wins in 133 games, followed by Miguel Munoz (140 games), Leo Beenhakker (162), Luis Molowny (172), and Vicente Del Bosque (184).

Of course, it’s the fierce spat between Mourinho and his Madrid B (Castilla) coach Alberto Toril that has taken our eyes off the ball these past several days.

But one of the reasons I mention all of this is that he’s genuinely opened up a valuable debate on a topic I think he’s got right and Madrid, institutionally, has wildly wrong.

The scenario is this. For some time now, the youth players (canteranos) have believed that Mourinho is not the kind of top-team coach who is going to seek to promote them into important first-team action, unlike Sir Alex Ferguson or Pep Guardiola or even Roberto Di Matteo (who started Ryan Bertrand instead of Fernando Torres in the Champions League final).

For some time now, there has been very little relationship between Toril and Mourinho. In strict working terms, if Mourinho wants a Castilla player, he sends a messenger to pass on the request. The two men don’t have a shared agenda and Toril, to be frank, is a legacy from sporting director Jorge Valdano, whom Mourinho came to regard as an enemy and forced out.

So when Mourinho compensated for the absence of both left backs, Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao, in four of the past five matches by using either right-footed midfielder Michael Essien or Alvaro Arbeloa, it was the cause of much criticism in the Spanish media.

Madrid have had 59 youth-system debuts for the first team since Del Bosque took over in 2000. But the nine coaches since only have given 18 of those youth products more than 10 games to prove themselves. That is insufficient.

Of the 59, only Arbeloa (perhaps Esteban Cambiasso and Raul Bravo at a pinch) really made anything of their time at Madrid. Perhaps Jose Callejon still will.

There was a day when the combination of Raul Gonzalez, Iker Casillas and Guti, all proud products of La Fabrica and all diehard Madridistas, were not only good enough to form the bedrock of this club’s first team, but when the Real Madrid members adored them still more than Figo or Hierro or Ronaldo because they were “our” boys.

Yet Barca manages two things that Madrid does not. Firstly, every single team below the first 11 plays the same system, teaches the same values, demands the same attitudes to the ball and how to use it – it’s a proper system.

Secondly, there are, and have been for some years, good channels of communication between the board, the first-team coach and the academy of coaches who train the 12 layers of youth development underneath Messi & Co.

The fact that Madrid’s Factory isn’t calibrated the same way seems to me to be an error. We live in a financial recession, UEFA is introducing Financial Fair Play, the fans yearn for home-bred heroes, top quality kids will look at Real Madrid and Barcelona and if they are scouted at the age of 11, 12 and so on they will probably choose with their allegiance. By 15 or 16, they, their parents and their agents will clearly reckon that progress to the first team is vastly, vastly more likely at Barcelona.

And a small aside: Mourinho has achieved almost everything at club level, although it’s clear that he still wants to win the Champions League with Madrid and a major English club, too. However, there is a gap on his CV — the place where it should detail his impact on the culture and youth development of one of his clubs.

Such an achievement wasn’t originally necessary when he had major money to rely on at Chelsea, Inter and Madrid. But if he could correct that and encourage a re-assessment of Real Madrid’s development policy and, who knows, give Joselu, Alex, Nacho and Jose Rodriguez, more opportunities to prove themselves, then the Special One’s reputation would grow and glow.

Read the entire article by Graham Hunter on ESPN Soccernet.

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