Real Madrid start the dawn of a new era on Sunday night when Jose Mourinho’s affluent amassed team make the trip to the Balearic Islands to take on a financially stricken Mallorca outfit, now managed by former Los Blancos and Barcelona playmaker Michael Laudrup.
A successful, unbeaten pre-season has helped Mourinho tinker and test the resolve of a Real Madrid squad boasting an impressive catalogue of world-class talent. Even with an unprecedented amount of Euros again lavished , Madrid still remain partially wounded from last terms failure under erstwhile Villarreal Coach Manuel Pellegrini to secure a Champions League Final berth at their Santiago Bernabeu home, added to the woe of Los Blancos having to watch in awe at their Catalan adversary dominating the domestic spotlight.
In spite of the fact The Whites racked up a record haul of points last May, sweeping summer change has reimbursed fresh personnel into a squad now marshalled by a Coach whose winning mentality and ability to deliver European footballs most desirable attraction is a combination which looks set to buy him a rare luxury in the Madrid managerial hot seat, time.
Optimism appears buoyant amid the Bernabeu before this weekend’s kick off, with talk although of the cheap variety, from new signing Mesut Ozil among others suggesting this is Madrid’s time to dust down and add to an already imposing trophy cabinet by winning every competition thrown under their noses. It lingers unfounded how quickly Mourinho can gel a team and cement a formation the tools within his armoury deem likeable. An organised, 4-2-3-1 set-up which has come to the fore in pre season seems well judged to accommodate a flood of new signings, built upon the club’s steady backbone of talents such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso.
The wing options of Argentine Angel di Maria, onetime Getafe man Pedro Leon and wonderkid Sergio Canales, supported by central midfielders Alonso and Sami Khedira make Los Blancos, on paper at least look formidable. Striking options aplenty featuring star man Ronaldo and a lone striker Gonzalo Higuain will make-up the latter of Real Madrid’s opening day line-up against Mallorca as Mourinho begins to work on building a team unity and focused belief they can go toe to toe with Pep Guardiola’s Camp Nou outfit this season in a La Liga division not boasting the competitive nature its once did.
One integral aspect to how Real Madrid have comprised much of their history has been the stylistic, classy and sublime way, although not of late, they have motored to endless success triumphs down the years. From the great Alfredo de Stefano to Zinedine Zidane, Los Blancos’s capability to give to Santiago Bernabeu supporters the purist of footballing talents has created an oath of expectation, which has caused a wholesale burden on an abundance of recent Coaches.
The Santiago Bernabeu faithful have been bought up with a unique brand of football, but Barcelona’s recent dominance and aptitude of flair has added to Madrid’s fans frustrations of suddenly finding themselves second best. The big question is whether patience can be sustained from supporters and club hierarchy alike. And importantly a balance needs to be found to how it may take a successful Mourinho era playing counteractive, workmanlike football longer than demanded to compete with Barcelona in terms of the quality of football played. This extra layer of pressure, daren’t trouble the ultra cool and calm presentation of the Portuguese tactician though, will it? Indeed, Mourinho will structure ideas to his own rulebook, but even after a mission statement of confidence from President Florentino Perez and General Manager Jorge Valdano emphasizing the plight of a four year plan to supremacy, if Madrid start to peruse themselves on the pitch playing negative, unattractive football, unfair or not, pressure will build from followers in spite of the fact they are fully aware Mourinho is probably one of the only Coaches in the world who can reconstruct a wading footballing monument. Time will inevitably exude us all too how Mourinho sets his stall out as Real Madrid start their assault on La Liga in what looks like being a two horse race.
This weekend’s opening day test against Laudrup’s Mallorca, who under ex-Coach Gregorio Manzano finished last season just short of a coveted Champions League berth have since been denied by UEFA a place in this year’s Europa League as a result of turgid financial struggles. This has taken the gloss of what was an incredible fairytale for Los Bermellones last time out, but retaining their 14 year top flight status this time round will prove difficult.
Real Madrid, will need to hit the ground running from the offing and few would bet against them not to do so on Sunday evening as they need to stamp their mark of authority early on La Liga, signalling a warning to Barcelona’s faultless Spanish armada, their pursuit for a third consecutive Primera Division maybe a more trivial matter than first thought.