Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Mourinho Thought

While I've been upfront about my queasy feelings regarding the possibility of Jose Mourinho replacing Frank Rijkaard, one factor that might change my judgment would be the possibility that Mourinho takes over at Real Madrid. Those rumors are now flying after Real were booted out of the Champions League before the quarterfinals for the fourth year in a row, all while being unimpressive in La Liga (despite an eight-point lead).

On the one hand, Mourinho would be an unlikely fit at a club with a circus-like management. Mourinho might also run afoul of sensibilities at Real when they figure out that his commitment to defensive football is no greater than that of Fabio Capello. (The fact that Mourinho isn't Italian will help. The Spanish have a major complex about Italians and negative football, which is part of what sunk Capello.) That said, the guy is a winner and I don't want a real winner at Real Madrid. The fact that Mourinho could end up there with Real on the heels of consecutive titles is even more nauseating. So the question becomes: should Barca make nice with Mourinho and tolerate a more defensive approach to avoid allowing one of the best managers in football to end up at the Bernabeu? It's a legitimate question.

As for Barca-Villarreal over the weekend, it was the same match that Barca played against Real when Los Merengues came to the Nou Camp in December. The visitor sat back in numbers, let Barca have possession, and then waited for the ineffective attacks to peter out before creating great chances on the counter. Villarreal had the better chances, just as Real did in December. Barca have little ability to vary their offensive play and none of their forwards can beat defenders with the dribble when Messi is out (with the occasional exception of Eto'o). When Barca get caught forward, their backline gets completely exposed in space. Thus, Barca are having the same struggles this year against the top teams in La Liga (1-0-4 against Real, Athletico, and Villarreal) that they had last year (1-2-3 against Real, Valencia, and Sevilla).


LD said...

Instead of having the choice be between Real and Barcelona, you could always hope Mourinho opts for one of the big Italian clubs, which wouldn't be a shock either considering Milan's bowing out of the Champions' League and Inter's possible elimination today.

Michael said...

He's almost certainly going to end up at one of Milan, Inter, Real, or Barca. The interesting question would be which he would choose if he had his druthers. Inter and Barca have the best players, but he has bad blood with Barca and he can't be the savior at a club that will have won Serie A three years in a row. Milan would make a lot of sense, especially if Mourinho can bring in Carvalho and one or two other signings to freshen up the backline. Real has good talent, but it's mismatched, so Jose could make them look a lot better with a few tweaks.