Today Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2-0 in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals. This defeat was all the more satisfying because it happened at the Santiago Bernabeu in front of the Madridistas. This is the fourth of five times that Barcelona has met Madrid this season, and thus far the Blaugrana have won 2, drew 1, and lost 1. As a result, Barcelona will probably win La Liga and advance to the Champions League final at Wembly to face Manchester United.
This season Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey, thereby winning its first trophy in (I believe) three years. A few things to note: (1) The Copa del Rey is far and away the poor cousin tournament of the Spanish season. If it weren’t Barca v. Madrid, it would not have carried nearly as much meaning as it did. (2) Sergio Ramos promptly destroyed the trophy by accidentally dropping it from the team bus. In honor of Passover, Ramos created the first unleavened trophy. (3) It was a psychological victory, but even that victory was tainted (the first victory over Barcelona in seven meetings.) Madrid had to become everything the Madridistas hate. The fans want attractive football; the team is a bunch of thugs.
Today, once again Madrid was reduced to 10 players during the match. Once again, the match was highly combustible and resulted in handbags and red cards. And once again, Madrid coach Jose Mourinho–the eye of the hurricane–complained about how the referees (and everyone else) fixed the match for Barcelona. Mourinho has been going off the handle for the past few week–even more so than normal. In fact, so much so that the normally demure Barcelona coach (and legend) Pep Guardiola exploded and called him out.
The truth is that Mourinho had this coming. He uses an ultra-defensive, in-your-face style that at times threatens to become antifutbol. It was the same at Porto, at Chelsea, and at Inter. His style reflected his personality. No one would accuse Mourinho of making friends, either with other coaches or with the media. Maybe his abrasive and obnoxious personality is an act, but it is a convincing one. It overshadows all else about him, including the teams he coaches and his legacy.
He has also been incredibly successful. He was brought to a cowed Madrid to win, specifically to win the Champions League. Given the loss today, he has probably failed, and failure is not acceptable at Madrid. It remains to be seen what will happen, but the cracks that appeared in the Madrid facade months ago (between Mourinho and Jorge Valdano) will surely grow once Madrid is eliminated from the Champions League. Yes, they won the Copa del Rey, but the biggest prizes will have eluded them.
This is what Mourinho feared in his nightmares. Failure. And worse, failure at the hands of Barcelona. He has a special hate for Barcelona, which is the other reason Madrid brought him in. The Barca fans hate him with equal passion, and Mourinho is only too happy to make himself a pantomime villain for them. He likes the attention, but, he fears failure. He cannot stomach it. As a result, there has to be an excuse. Now he blames the referees and UEFA. The truth though is that all year his team has been second-best. Rather than deal with that, he has been only too happy to turn into a conspiracy theorist, aided and abetted by Marca and AS.
The truth is that Mourinho brought this on himself. He alienated everyone while raising expectations to an impossible level. Instead of turning his team into something special (only he can be the Special One), he turned them into thugs and whiners. The truth is that Madrid has been completely remade in Mourinho’s image. When the passions die down, the Madridistas should call for his head–although they are probably so thrilled to have won something that they will overlook that he did not succeed. (Although who knows. These same fans demanded the termination of the Vincente del Bosque era, and he won the Champions League. They didn’t like the way his teams played.)
I am waiting for the obligatory statement from Alfredo Di Stefano saying how awful Madrid has become. He has already made his displeasure publicly known. It will not change anything, but perhaps it will make the Madrid fans wake up. Let Mourinho go back to England, which is more suited to his style and personality.
Mourinho failed. He wanted to humiliate Barcelona, and Madrid was his vehicle to do it. The real loser however, has been Real Madrid.