Friday 24 February 2017

Legacy of Special One tainted by Real and imaginary slights

Dion Fanning

J ose Mourinho is not the enemy of football, he is the enemy of himself. If he was as calculating as most people assume then he would have said nothing after last Wednesday's game.

If his comments were essential to his success as a coach, he would have stayed quiet but they are not. Mourinho's words and actions surrounding matches are part of his genius, but it is the part he can't control. If he could, he wouldn't be a genius. Last week, they were once again the roots of his self-destruction.

Pepe had been the victim of a debatable sending-off and Real Madrid had been made to suffer thanks to the genius of Messi and the diving of Barcelona's players. When he spoke to the press afterwards, Mourinho ceded the high ground and may have permanently damaged his reputation.

If he somehow manages to triumph in the Nou Camp or survive in the Real Madrid job, the perception will change and his reputation as a genius will be restored. But Mourinho is, right now, as vulnerable as he has ever been. He is, it is generally agreed, unsuitable for Manchester United after Wednesday night and many in Madrid think he is also unsuitable for Real Madrid.

Right now, he is only suitable for the brash, like Manchester City or those who need to win by any means necessary. Soon he may end up in Qatar, selling his project with the same self-belief as he sells himself, only the project will have less substance.

Mourinho's genius is that he sold himself on his achievements long before he had achieved anything. That was his starting point. Now he is a man who has achieved as much as anyone working in football and the claims he makes are consequently more grandiose and paranoid too.

He had, he said, played no part in Madrid's defeat last week. The reasons for the defeat were the referee, UEFA, Barcelona, Unicef, the global conspiracy and the military industrial complex. Just like Oliver Stone's movies are all ultimately about why he had to go to Vietnam, Mourinho may be reaching a point where everything he says is ultimately about why Barcelona only viewed him as an interpreter. Mourinho produced his own Zapruder film on Thursday when Madrid put out a video of Pepe's tackle on Dani Alves which they said proved that Pepe had not touched Alves.

All that was missing was Mourinho as Jim Garrison, holding a pointer and asking us to follow the movement of Pepe and Alves's leg: "back and to the left, back and to the left." The video might have proved that Alves dived but it didn't prove that Pepe was the victim of an injustice.

Barcelona spent most of the night diving. They are masters at this too but perhaps if you spend all your time with the ball, facing opponents who spend all their time trying to kick you, you decide that you have to try and get what you can out of referees.

Mourinho suggested that his team had set out to play with honour. They had set out to play without the ball but because they didn't dive, he felt they had honour.

Guus Hiddink stated in a column last week that he felt Mourinho's remarks concealed the manner in which his side plays football. This would be like murdering the shopkeeper to conceal the shoplifting of a packet of wine gums. Mourinho traduced his own reputation on Wednesday night but the world has known how his sides like to play football for a long time.

Of course, there was Real Madrid's reputation to consider. Men like Di Stefano have criticised him and what he is doing to the reputation of Real Madrid. Mourinho refused to criticise a man like Di Stefano because he has shaped Madrid's history while Mourinho has done nothing. Mourinho is gambling that it is his own reputation that will prevent Madrid from firing him as they have with others who have displeased them like Capello.

Mourinho appeared to put the players on their squad list ahead of their place in history. He decided that with Lassana Diarra and Sergio Ramos in the side, the historical demand to play football had to be sacrificed. The game ended with the referee being protected by policemen's shields as he left the field. It was a scene reminiscent of an inter-county GAA match (although they might not have provided the shields) and not what anyone wanted at the end of a high-profile sporting event.

Mourinho summoned other events from history at the conclusion to justify his and his side's actions.

Pep Guardiola had to be embarrassed by the title his side won. Usually men who accuse teams of winning by cheating don't have long left in their current position but Mourinho knows no other way out of his mess.

A day later he was saying the same thing. "I did not make an accusation, I asked a question: 'Why?' That was my question and, as I said, I might die without getting an answer. These events mean that I have even more desire to continue at Real Madrid, because of what it means. Our shirt is white -- and that has meaning."

So he claims the high ground which is no place for a man like Mourinho.

If he did any good last week, it was to demonstrate that "mind games" are a cliché. They are not an act of cunning but an explosion of despair or relief. In Mourinho's case, they are the manifestation of his self-destructive genius. Others used the bottle or the betting-slip. Mourinho's drug of choice is the microphone.

dfanning@independent.ie

Sunday Indo Sport

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