Andy Mitten

Stability Mourinho craves lacking at Real Madrid

Andy Mitten

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Real Madrid were the most successful club of the 20th century, but success does not bring stability.

Since Alex Ferguson was appointed coach of Manchester United in 1986, Madrid have worked their way through an astonishing 25 coaches, far more than any other major club in European football.

Even the game's highest honours could not guarantee more time in the hottest of hot seats.

Current Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque brought two Champions League trophies, two Liga titles plus Super Cups and Intercontinental Cups to the Bernabeu in less than four years between 1999 and 2003. Then he was sacked.

Big names like Fabio Capello won the league and were still told to take the next flight from Barajas airport. Reasons were varied, but usually centred around the style of play - or, that is, the lack of perceived style. You could understand why Anglophiles like Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez turned down the job which has an average shelf life of less than a year.

That hasn't stopped other big names from continuing to go to Madrid - and Jose Mourinho is no different. Madrid needed him more than he needed them when appointing him last summer, having seen him lead Internazionale to domestic and European success.

Following the failure of his much-vaunted galacticos policy, president Florentino Perez appeared to realise that the club's continual hiring and firing of coaches was not only costly, but gave them the stability of a house built from eels. The demands for instant success were unrealistic at a time when the best teams were allowed to mature and develop together over time.

However, any notions of longevity and legacy building are at odds with Mourinho's unsentimental status as a collector. He wants to win as many major honours in as many major football nations as possible. Madrid benefited from that ambition when they prised him from Internazionale.

Mourinho was chiefly charged with knocking Barcelona off their perch, a task akin to getting a mouse to shake a bear out of a tree. He's doing well, but Barca are doing better and tensions have risen at the Bernabeu in the form of public spats between Mourinho and sporting director Jorge Valdano.

The cerebral Argentinian is highly respected on the Paseo de la Castellana for his role as a former player and title-winning coach (he lasted 20 months before succumbing to voracious demands for his dismissal). Add to that his experience as a sporting director, plus a carefully crafted reputation for being a football philosopher.

But is there room for him and Mourinho at the same club? Their public disagreements have recently centred over the role of French striker Karim Benzema in the squad; Valdano thinks he should be playing more often, while Mourinho wanted to bring another striker in to replace the injured Gonzalo Higuain - and succeeded when Emmanuel Adebayor arrived on loan from Manchester City this week.

Is this merely the front for their power struggle?

Mourinho wants the absolute authority which Ferguson enjoys at Old Trafford, Wenger at Arsenal and Pep Guardiola at the Camp Nou. He doesn't want a president who sides with his sporting director. There's tension and Mourinho's press conference was cancelled on Tuesday, probably because the club feared more damaging public utterances.

What Madrid fans want more than anything is a return to trophy-winning ways. With Barca favourites to retain the title and four points ahead in the league, Madrid's best hopes are in the Copa del Rey (they play the first leg of the semi-final at Sevilla on Wednesday) or the Champions League, where Mourinho hopes to take them beyond the last-16 stage for the first time in six years when they play Lyon next month.

Barcelona could stand in their way in both competitions and if the Catalans weren't so brilliant, there would be a lot less pressure on Mourinho. He can handle the burden as well as any coach and positively thrives on adversity, but if he feels undermined within his own club then he's not one to hang around.

And there would be many eager suitors if he walked.

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