Florentino Perez is the man responsible for persuading the Bank of Spain to bankroll hundreds of millions of Euros – for a second time – into his Real Madrid club in an effort to return the club to the summit of both Spanish and European football.
Perez has attempted to recreate a second Galactico era following on from the hallowed footsteps of such purchases as Ronaldo (Brazil), Beckham, Figo and especially Zidane who helped deliver a Champions League.
Yet amid much fanfare, last summer’s signings of the mercurial Brazilian midfielder Kaka, Spanish midfield maestro Alonso, French striker Benzema and even the dancing feet of Ronaldo (Portugal) has failed to reproduce the glory days for the Santiago Bernabeu based club.
Worse still, arch-rivals Barcelona, inspired by the magnificent Lionel Messi, have won everything in sight. The Catalans followed up their outrageously successful 2009 season with a record points haul to claim a second consecutive La Liga title just a few short weeks ago in a campaign which included home and away victories over Real.
Perez moved quickly last night to begin the process of rehabilitating Real by sacking Manager Manuel Pellegrini and replacing him with quite possibly the first ever Managerial Galactico, Jose Mourinho. The self-proclaimed \’Special One’ has just enjoyed the most remarkable of campaigns by even his lofty standards. Mourinho delivered the Scudetto, Copa Italia and the Champions League (which included a sweet semi-final victory over Barcelona) to Inter Milan.
Winning is something the Madrid media, fans and owner will demand of Mourinho from day one but as long as it is easy on the eye. That will be the key to the Portuguese manager’s success. Can he marry a talented squad into a cohesive unit that firstly plays beautiful football and secondly wins football matches?
As a manager, Mourinho will only be interested in results.
Naturally if his side plays attractive football along the way then well and good, but win first and entertain if you can is a mantra that has followed the coach from his days in Porto. Look at the talent at his disposal at Inter. Sneijder, Eto’o and Milito formed a devastating triumvirate of attackers. Yet each player also knew his role when not in possession and could always be relied upon to close the opposition down by pressing high up the pitch.
Mourinho’s biggest task will be accepting the demands of his fans and the Madrid media in producing attractive rather than the effective football style he successfully introduced at Inter and Chelsea.
Most clubs would be happy to lift trophies under the stewardship of a manger such as Mourinho irrespective of the type of football they produce. But Real Madrid are not like most clubs and Mourinho will never have been under as bright a spotlight as he is about to come under.
So the question is will Mourinho be a success at Real Madrid?
Well his credentials are impeccable. He has already worked under demanding club owners in Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and Massimo Moratti at Inter. He has galvanised star-studded squads full of egos into his way of thinking, his way of playing, his way of winning.
He has demonstrated shrewd judgement in the transfer market in acquiring Wesley Sneijder to anchor Inter’s Champions League success. He has even persuaded Samuel Eto’o to track back and defend.
In short, Mourinho is the only manager with a big enough ego and big enough cajones to take on the Madrid hot seat and bring success back to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Only time – possibly not as much time as he has previously been afforded at other clubs – will tell. Irrespective of his success or lack of it, Mourinho stoking the fire with his vitriolic comments and getting under Barca’s skin is going to make for some fascinating football and TV next season.
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled \’Off Centre Circle’, published by the Evening Echo, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork amateur soccer player.