It is a footballing commandment of the highest order; the thesis “no one is bigger than the club” is something of an ingrained tenet of the modern game.
But to the surprise of the Santiago Bernabeu press conference on May 31st, this hallmark was greeted with respect and honour by new Real Madrid Coach Jose Mourinho, as he sat picture perfectly addressing the world’s media ahead of arguably his greatest managerial challenge to date. The tone of Mourinho’s utterances in the media spotlight spoke elegantly about the importance of the history of his new club, its exclusive mannerisms and the need for the typically mad Madrid circus to not focus on him:“I look at what’s best for the team. The identity of a club, no matter what, is not going to change” he said. This promise of rejecting the personal pride Mourinho typically has taken above all else before underlines the test of his mental attribution facing him as he prepares to pick his wits against the occasional insanity of Real President Florentino Perez and the ever so hard to please Los Blancos faithful.
The impresario Portuguese character is a man whom on the back of his past credentials deserves a plethora of respect. His work taking an unfancied, ordinary and rather starless Porto to Europe’s richest honour (the 2004 Champions League), followed by a success laden spell at Chelsea where he had to juggle Roman Ambramovich’s ambition in turn with an endless multimillion pound chequebook to break English football’s traditional monopoly, reveals a distinctive management mind ticking an abundance of crucial attributes. Italian giants Inter Milan, Mourinho’s next port of call saw a degree of man management and defensive organization succeeded in stifling even the normally unassailable attacking forays of Barcelona on route to winning the Champions League at the Bernabeu last season – the ground just a few weeks later that would welcome him yet again.
A decade for Real Madrid which started off with two Champions League triumphs in 2000 and 2002 respectively has since faltered into a congregation of chaotic confusion. The fallen era of the original and well documented ‘Galacticos’, added to with the woes of the ever revolving Coach exit door begs the question of where exactly does Mourinho start on re-building one of Europe’s great clubs. One of the former Barcelona Assistant Coach’s enviable talents is his ability to connect with his players, thus increasing their desires to work with him, and not against. The reputable skills of an international class Madrid squad incumbently makes for pleasant reading on paper, but Mourinho’s quest to turn the mentality of a highly assembled group of players into one whereby they are a collective force could yet prove to be difficult. For example, the mercurial talents of Mourinho’s Portuguese compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo will need diffusing. Although, a wholesale hit last season, Ronaldo may take a little persuading to have to slot into a rigid organizational structure (usually a feature of Mourinho’s teams) hence limiting his flamboyancy on the front foot.
If anyone can bide his time in search of a winning formula though, it is Mourinho. The shackles seem to be off as far as Real Madrid’s Director’s inputs go on the dawn of another new project, and so it seems a little bit of patience has been required from the hierarchy reigning above. Patience has always however and probably will still be a forlorn activity among White’s supporters. Los Blancos’s new Coach is aware of the symbolic stature of Real Madrid, a hallmark he seemed to always reiterate in his maiden Madrid media gathering, but a quick fix of footballing artistry should not be expected from the offing. With the prominent powers that be in bitter rivals Barcelona overturning footballing myths into submission at present, Mourinho needs time to develop a team with an ethos of winning. The latter, a word poignant in the so called ‘Special One’s’ vocabulary, fuels his desires and if he can strike the right chords with Madrid’s players and home contingent quickly, the rapport generated could see Real Madrid return to where they want to be: in Champions League finals once more. In a throwback, to Los Blancos’s imperious European supremacy in the 1950’s, the legendary figures of personalities such as Alfredo de Stefano indefinitely create pressure and cannot be escaped from, but the key to Mourinho’s armoury will be stamping his authority on the team, whilst nurturing the players along to work effectively together.
Jose Mourinho is a born winner. Real Madrid, his next vested interest is a club where winning is the central ingredient to its make-up. This coming campaign could be one of the most defining ever in Los Blancos’s 108 year history and just maybe, if Mourinho is given time to pursue the dream and everyone is with him, the Santiago Bernabeu can look forward to a cluster of titles decorating its trophy cabinets in years to come.
There’s just one key component to this Madrid mission statement. Can the cultured Mourinho keep his confident ambiance under wraps and his relationship with the Bernabeu Presidential suite admirable? Because whether he likes it or not, his search for further greatness is hindered by Los Blancos’s history, and the old proverb Mourinho was so willing to adhere to in his Bernabeu baptism “no one is bigger than the club” inevitably rings true.