There are rumours Florentino Perez wants the sacked Man United manager back even though the case for Spurs’ manager is a more compelling one
With every passing point that is dropped – the most recent being three thrown away in a humiliating 2-0 home defeat to Real Sociedad at the weekend – and every further, deflated performance, Santiago Solari’s chances of being Real Madrid manager next season grow slimmer and slimmer.
The real question is just who will replace him.
Solari is running out of time at Real Madrid The majority of the world’s true elite coaches will likely be unavailable: Jurgen Klopp’s project at Liverpool is only just starting to reach its potential, Pep Guardiola would rather eat his own shoe than coach Madrid, and Diego Simeone would rather eat both. Nor will there be a feasible option of promoting from within, Solari’s struggles showing that Zinedine Zidane’s success was to do with the Frenchman’s unique talent, not some universal recipe for success in bumping the B-team boss up to the seniors. More than ever, the options are limited, which isn’t exactly something the most successful side in European football history are accustomed to.
Mourinho won the league and cup as Real Madrid manager Under those tricky circumstances, one name just won’t go away. The man who Madrid president Florentino Pérez never wanted to see leave the Santiago Bernabéu in the first place, who also happens to be the man who managed to drag Manchester United to the worst start to a Premier League season in the English club’s history. Less than a month after his Old Trafford departure, reports in the UK suggest Madrid have opened a line of contact with Jose Mourinho. Reports in Portugal suggest they had already done so as far back as October, while he was still in a job and when Madrid were looking for someone to replace Julen Lopetegui.
Florentino Perez did not want to lose Mourinho as Real Madrid manager Considering Pérez’s well-known admiration for the Portuguese coach, who he holds in higher esteem than perhaps any other, it’s not unfathomable that both stories are accurate. Guardiola’s globally admired Barcelona were the scourge of the Madrid president in the early years of his second spell in the Los Blancos top job. Mourinho’s feat of beating that team to a La Liga title in the 2011/12 and by extension, knocking the Catalans off their perch, endeared him hugely in the eyes of his employer.
Mourinho beat a very dominant Barcelona side, managed by Pep Guardiola, to title glory in 2012 But while a second coming of Mou fits the personal preferences of Pérez, it is difficult to make a case for it being a good idea. Mourinho may have departed the Spanish capital in 2013 with the president’s favour in-tact, but the same could not be said about either the players, nor the supporters. In the case of the latter, the coach became a hugely divisive figure, with some sectors of the Bernabéu faithful backing him, and others vehemently opposing him due to his perceived poor treatment of club legend Iker Casillas.
Mourinho fell out with Iker Casillas during his time as Real manager Casillas wasn’t the only player that Mourinho fell out with, and several more relationships broke down to a standstill by the end of the manager’s tenure. Some of those footballers are still at the club, their status at Madrid only growing in the time since. Sergio Ramos, by now a Real Madrid legend to rival most, would not welcome a reunion with his old coach. It’s no coincidence the defender became visibly annoyed when asked about rumours of a Mourinho return last month, nor that he pointed out that Madrid had “won everything” in the time since he left.
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It’s not only the impact Mourinho would have on the fans and the dressing room heavyweights that makes his potential return problematic. A change in the way the La Liga side’s squad has been built and the kind of transfers they carry out these days also raise questions. The recent arrival of Brahim Díaz means Los Blancos now have nine players in their first team squad aged 23 or under. Many of them, like Vinicius Junior (18), Dani Ceballos (22) and Marcos Llorente (23) are hoped to be future starters, and could even end this season in that position.
If there’s one thing that Mourinho’s premature end at Manchester United has taught us, it’s that he has lost his touch with players. In particular, he lacks an understanding of the younger generation, whose personalities require a different kind of man-management in the age of instant stardom for bright talents. Gone too is his ability to improve blossoming footballers – five minutes on the phone with Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford would be enough for Madrid’s hopes of the future to turn around and run a mile.
Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino There’s a far more compelling case to be made for a younger, fresher coach like Mauricio Pochettino to come to Spain and give Madrid the real shake-up they need to launch a new era, and the Argentine could yet be convinced, but circumstance and presidential preference will also play their part.
If the phone rings, Mourinho may well consider going back to his former club, but perhaps he should call old mentor Louis van Gaal before deciding. Van Gaal won four trophies in his first spell at the Camp Nou, at the time becoming Barcelona’s most successful coach since Johan Cruyff.
Two years later he returned for a second bite at the Barça job. He didn’t make it past January.