Has Mourinho lost the plot?
'Gouging' controversy moves Portuguese one step closer to Real exit if Barcelona can't be toppled
Jose Mourinho is facing failure for the first time in his managerial career after it emerged Real Madrid's hierarchy are growing increasingly impatient with the endless swirl of controversy generated by the Portuguese and are prepared to end the Special One's reign at the Bernabeu if his second season at the club does not bring tangible success.
The ex-Chelsea manager was once more at the centre of the storm on Wednesday night as his Real side lost the Spanish Super Cup to Barcelona -- a result marred by a mass brawl on the Nou Camp pitch in which the Portuguese appeared to eye-gouge the European champions' assistant manager Tito Vilanova. Mourinho then proceeded to label his conquerors "a small club" in a frenzied outburst after the game.
Such antics have long been associated with Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, but it is believed Real's president Florentino Perez is unimpressed by actions he perceives as damaging to the club's reputation.
The notoriously implacable construction tycoon is likely to tolerate them only as long as Mourinho is successful, raising the possibility of the 48-year-old being sacked for the first time in his illustrious career should he fail to topple Pep Guardiola's side either domestically or in Europe this season.
Mourinho has been under pressure to surpass Barcelona ever since he arrived at Madrid fresh from his Champions League triumph with Inter Milan last summer. However, the scale of Perez's investment -- together with his acquiescence to Mourinho's wishes in terms of the structure of the club -- means the Portuguese targets are now narrower than ever.
Perez removed Jorge Valdano, Real's long-serving and hugely respected technical director, at Mourinho's behest this summer, affording his manager the control he craves, and took his spending past £100m in the two years the Portuguese has been in charge with the signings of Nuri Sahin, Jose Maria Callejon, Raphael Varane and Fabio Coentrao.
Mourinho is under no immediate threat and Perez remains wary of enraging a manager he fears could walk out of the club if he feels he is not being granted the support he demands.
That will change should Perez's huge investment fail to bear fruit. In such a climate, Mourinho's actions on the touchline at the Nou Camp, and in front of the world's cameras afterwards, do not help his position.
The Real Madrid manager is not expected to face any disciplinary action for his apparent altercation with Vilanova after referee David Fernandez Borbalan failed to mention the incident in his match report. His players Marcelo and Mesut Ozil -- as well as Barcelona's David Villa -- are also not expected to be punished beyond the mandatory sanctions for their red cards.
Lionel Messi scored twice to give Barcelona a 5-4 aggregate victory in what had been a superb second leg until Marcelo's dreadful lunge on Barcelona debutant Cesc Fabregas saw the game descend into chaos.
Mourinho's comments about the Barcelona assistant manager after the game, though, showcased the lack of respect which has so enraged the Catalan club.
"I do not know who Pito is," said the Portuguese, deliberately getting the coach's name wrong. "I have nothing to hide. It is all on camera." His complaints about Barcelona's gamesmanship, too, prompted anger in Catalunya.
"From the first minute of the second half there were no ball-boys, no balls. That's something small-time teams do when they are in difficulty. I was taught that football was a game for men, not a game where you fall over at the slightest touch."
Barcelona's reaction was typically furious, with their players and officials demanding Mourinho be censured for his consistent belligerence towards a club where he worked as translator and assistant manager.
"Mourinho is destroying Spanish football," said defender Gerard Pique. "Sometimes they say it is a problem with the Catalans, but it is a problem in Madrid. Every game cannot end like that."
Guardiola too warned that the escalating tensions -- stoked, he feels, by his Real counterpart -- in Clasicos are a recipe for disaster; Spanish observers have blamed Mourinho's attempts to foster further rivalry between already bitter enemies for the lunge from Marcelo on Fabregas, which triggered Wednesday's fracas. "One day, someone will get hurt," said the Barcelona manager.
Most worryingly for Perez, and therefore Mourinho, was the assessment of the respected, considered Xavi. "Real's image is pathetic, lamentable," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)