Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho were sifting through the debris of what the Portuguese coach termed a “disastrous” 2012-13 campaign after Friday’s King’s Cup final defeat left the world’s richest club without a major trophy for the season.
The 2-1 reverse to Atletico Madrid at their own Bernabeu stadium meant Mourinho,widely expected to move on at the end of this term,finished a season without significant silverware for the first time in his otherwise glittering career.
It represents a huge setback for the self-appointed “special one”,as well as for Real president Florentino Perez,who lured Mourinho from Inter Milan at great expense in 2010 and has constantly referred to him as “the world’s best coach”.
Obsessed with winning the 10th European crown that has eluded Real since 2002,Perez has splurged more than 400 million euros ($513 million) on players since returning to lead the club in 2009,including a record 94 million on Cristiano Ronaldo.
That investment has so far yielded one King’s Cup in 2011 in Mourinho’s first season and a La Liga title last term with a record points haul of 100,a meagre haul for a club as ambitious and as wealthy as Real.
The nine-times kings of Europe have fallen in the semi-finals of the Champions League in each of Mourinho’s three campaigns and surrendered their La Liga title to Barcelona last weekend,a fourth for their arch rivals in five years.
Friday’s extra time defeat to Atletico was made even more painful – and damaging for the club’s image – by the dismissal of Mourinho from the bench for furiously protesting a decision by the referee and a red card for Ronaldo for kicking out at Atletico captain Gabi and catching him in the face.
Mourinho,who has done little to quash speculation he is on his way back to Chelsea,spent a large part of his post-match press conference defending his record at Real while claiming that Atletico had not deserved to win the match.
“What for many would be a good season is my worst,” he told reporters. “We have been close but that does not exist in football.”
Always outspoken and often controversial,Mourinho has alienated some Real fans in recent months with his treatment of club captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas,who has been benched since returning from a broken hand.
Dressing room divisions burst into the open in the last few weeks,with Mourinho’s Portuguese compatriot Pepe earning the coach’s wrath after a public defence of Casillas.
The central defender was left out of the squad entirely on Friday,while Mourinho again selected Diego Lopez for the goalkeeping slot.
Before recent games at the Bernabeu,a large section of the crowd have cheered Casillas when his name has been read out among the list of substitutes while roundly whistling Mourinho.
All this leaves Perez in a tricky position and a number of reports have suggested he is lining up Paris St Germain’s Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti as a replacement for Mourinho.
Perez rarely speaks in public – his call for unity on his last appearance was ignored by Mourinho – and has appointed club director Emilio Butragueno,a former player,as Real’s spokesman.
Questioned about the future in a post-match TV interview on Friday,Butragueno said it was not the right time to discuss it.
“The Madrid family is sad,all of us,” he said. “But now is the time to applaud our players and our fans,who supported us until the end.”
Mourinho,who has a contract until June 2016,said he would sit down with Perez after Real’s final two La Liga matches to decide whether he will continue.
If he does stay,he will be in charge of a divided dressing room and a club where a significant section of the home support have lost faith in him.
Atletico’s fans gleefully mocked their Real counterparts at the Bernabeu on Friday with their ironic chants of “Mourinho stay! Mourinho stay!” but a change of coach may now be inevitable after the events of recent weeks.