While FC Barcelona out-wrestled Hércules (the last team to beat them in La Liga) 0-3 in Alicante, Osasuna took Real Madrid 1-0 in Pamplona. This left Barça 7 points clear at the top of the La Liga table. Given the 5-0 “Manita” they inflicted upon Real Madrid in Barcelona last fall, Barcelona also hold the tiebreaker, unless Madrid can beat them by six or more this spring in the Bernebéu. In the face of a steep deficit they stiffened their backbone and resolved to do—nah, I’m just kidding…cue the violins:
I always tell my teams that I don’t like to gift games to the opposition, by not playing, not fighting or because we were relaxed… that wasn’t the case. We lost against a team who gave it everything, and who had a week to prepare for the match.
Now sure, he hinted at an excuse at the end there (“they had a whole week and we didn’t”), and he also said:
We lost three points that we didn’t deserve to lose, but based on the way the opponent played, they also deserved a positive outcome…
Still, by José Mourinho standards, this is surrender-talk. Seriously…Mourinho once said:
Please, don’t call me arrogant. I have won Champions League title with Porto, I am The Special One.”
Mourinho is a man who complains that other teams and referees and the media are all conspiring to sink Real Madrid’s title chances. Real Madrid is a club that simultaneously claims to be Spain’s/Europe’s/the world’s best as well as a perpetual victim. Somehow they believe both in their team’s ineffable strength and its vulnerability to any number of dastardly plots against it. Baseball fans: they combine the cockiness of the New York Yankees with the self-pity of the Chicago Cubs.
Splash the transfer kitty on Europe’s biggest names…buy “The Special One”…promise to end FC Barcelona’s league domination…Real Madrid’s “galácticos” strategy doesn’t appear to be working.
I’m still struck by the contrast in styles between these versions of Barça and Madrid. When Mourinho was hired, here was the reaction of Pep Guardiola, FC Barcelona’s coach:
The arrival of Jose Mourinho to our league will make me a better coach. It is very important he coaches in Spain because he is one of the best in the world.