It's been a contentious three year reign in charge. While few people are questioning his CV, frankly he's arguably one of the top football managers of all time, he's met his match at Real Madrid. Barcelona are often referred to as being more than a club, that they say represents an ideal or a socio-political movement, but Real Madrid really are more than a club, it's like their playing the Game of Thrones in the capital and the knives are for whomever takes the coach's seat. Now, Mou likes to think of himself as an aficionado of Sun-Tzu or Machiavelli, and his confrontational tactics might have worked anywhere else, but Spain is a different animal, or rather it's Madrid that's the difference.
Real Madrid is a living breathing entity kept alive by the obsession of supporters, ultras, the media, socios, administators, politicians, and arguably the State itself, and all pulling that great beast in directions that would suit themselves and not necessarily anyone else. It's a process we followed four years ago at the tail end of the Ramon Calderon presidency, with its corruption and ineptitude, and everyone looked hopefully at the return of Florentino Perez with guarded hope. See if you see any parallels.
The failed pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo left them with a major publicity disaster, losing the subsequent war of words with Sir Alex Ferguson; where the Scot lamented the abuse of power by the Madrid giants and gave a misguided history lesson about the club’s attachment to the Franco regime; Ramon Calderon called him senile, and subsequent negotiations collapsed. That triggered the Robinho trifecta. The Brazilian cried on public television for Chelsea to save him, the London club printed replica shirts for the Brazilian, and an angry Madrid subsequently sold him to the Sultan of Manchester City instead. To replace the Brazilian’s late exit, the club had clearly had no backup for the Ronaldo signing, so they began a series of impulse buys: Rafael Van der Vaart first, and then Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Lassana Diarra and most surprisingly Julien Faubert from West Ham, who came to Madrid in January with no knowledge that Madrid had even been up for him, and neither it seems did Real Madrid management. No one wanted to take credit or blame, a hallmark of the Ramon Calderon Presidency, but nothing new if you know the history of Real Madrid. They fired Bernd Schuster for essentially giving up on the club; the German was frozen out of a power struggle with sporting director Peja Mijatovich and hired Juande Ramos who had failed so miserably at Tottenham. They were drilled out of the Copa del Rey in November by a third division side in Real Union which had last won the Cup in 1927 and they were drilled out of the Champions League 5-0 on aggregate by Liverpool marking the fifth year in a row that the club had exited the competition in the first knockout stage. Even Ramon Calderon was forced to step down from the club after questions rose about the validity of a club election in December that had ratified club finances. The club was resigned to the fact that the league was for Barcelona. The election was on the horizon. Florentino Perez was returning to his post and set to usher another run of Galacticos for the merengues.
We tried to end that piece positively, looking to the new Perez-Revolution in the works and it was certainly going to be better than what was already in place, but we had our doubts knowing how the last Galacticos era ended under Perez. Four years on with another election in sight, there is much that has changed, a league title, a couple of domestic trophies, and they've gone farther in the Champions League, but there's still more that has stayed the same. Barcelona have won the league again, the hegemony is still alive and running despite what some pundits have written, but more glaringly is the institutional chaos that Real Madrid seems to breed by right.
Four years ago they were pursuing Cristiano, but now they're just trying to keep him happy otherwise he'll bolt? It's ironic considering that trying to sign him couldn't keep Robinho happy and now with the prospects of losing Cristiano they're throwing the bank at Robinho's heir at Santos, Neymar? You couldn't have written a better best-seller. They swapped Mijatovich for Valdano and then for Mourinho himself, but there is no grand plan. The oars aren't rowing in the same direction and with the constant movement of players, coaches and systems in and out of the organization Real Madrid has maintained in stasis for the last 10 years.
There is much talk about an end of an era in Barcelona, that no club could ever continue that level of dominance forever, and they're right, no club can, but as long as Real Madrid is their only rival, and los blancos continue to make wrong decision after another, there is no telling how long Barcelona can continue to dominate (domestically at least).
***As a post-script, if they were to change the dynamic or plan for a real new beginning, one that they could have started at the end of the Calderon era four years ago, then we'll follow the course that we did at La Liga Weekly and postulate a Real Madrid 3.0: what they should do over the next Summer to change their course. Any suggestions are welcomed.