Jose Mourinho leaves Inter Milan with the parting gift of a treble but that is unlikely to assuage the anger of the Milanese fans that have had to sit and watch the best manager in world leave them for Real Madrid.
The Special One is not a manager to baulk at a challenge and, despite the embarrassment of riches he has inherited in the playing department, coaching Madrid will be a gargantuan task. No longer does their stature demand being in control of the league and producing an excellent showing in Europe. For the last 6 years they have not managed to get past the last 16 in the Champions League, a statistic that they will hope to end with Mourinho’s arrival. Taking them further is one thing; overhauling their recent decline is another.
For Mourinho Madrid is almost the perfect destination. A man that works so well in an environment of siege mentality enters a club desperate for success and bowed by the brilliance of their bitterest rivals. To achieve success in a normal context would mean greatness; to conjure success out of Madrid’s current situation would mean immortality.
The translator turned coach may find it more difficult than anticipated. Cristiano Ronaldo will hope to continue at the height of his powers after the World Cup, along with the burgeoning genius of Gonzalo Higuain. But they may not be joined by some of Madrid’s recent acquisitions. There seems to be simply no place at the Bernabeu for Karim Benzama and Mourinho must invest in a reliable support striker to secure Madrid’s attacking options.
Moreover in midfield they may be short of a couple of players especially after letting the now vindicated Wesley Sneijder and his Dutch team mate Arjen Robben go and doing little to fill that creative dearth. Raphael Van Der Vaart is showing more of the skill that his early career promised but is not the central midfield lynch pin they need to accompany Alonso and rival the genius of Xavi at Barcelona. If the early hints that Jose has made toward attempting to secure Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard’s arrival prove founded it may be very difficult for either of the England men, especially the Liverpool captain, to turn the offer down.
Part of the difficulty for Mourinho not only lies in the weaknesses of his own side but in the strengths of others. Barcelona are showing no signs of letting up in their quest for footballing perfection and, having already added the superlative David Villa to their forward line, look as though they could succeed in bringing Cesc Fabregas home to form a triumvirate of home grown maestros with Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. In Europe an improved result is a similarly fragile prospect. Inter now have the players and the experience to feel that they can try to retain their European title; especially if Massimo Moratti succeeds in bringing someone with the clout of Fabio Capello to the San Siro. Chelsea must now also be desperate to push for European glory after dominating in Britain. One suspects that anything other than victory, or at least a place in the final, may cost Carlo Ancelotti his job.
So Mourinho has it stacked against him. He needs to add at least 4 players to his squad before Madrid are even considered challengers for major honours again but, should he do that, his combination of astute tactical nous and ability to command the utmost respect from his players may see Madrid through. Either way “The Special One” needs to produce a special season.
Written By Jake Farrell