The Libero - Mourinho's Real Madrid are the real draw in Europe
Published: 15 Sep 2010 - 07:40:23
Holders Internazionale, perennial contenders Manchester United and debutantes Tottenham may well have been in action last night, but the one team that has really captured the imagination ahead of this season's Champions League group stage is still to play.
Not even last season's finalists Bayern Munich, the ever-expectant Chelsea and always-entertaining Arsenal, all in action tonight, can get the juices flowing like the club in question.
Across the entire continent, possibly only Barcelona, for obvious reasons, and AC Milan, with their new, mouthwatering strike force of Robinho, Alex Pato and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, can rival them for sheer box office attraction this season.
But even with a handful of exciting summer signings, both the Blaugrana and the Rossoneri fall short in the final judgement simply because they don't have Jose Mourinho as their coach.
Real Madrid do. Not only that, but they also have a squad of players that is so eye-wateringly strong on paper it makes you wonder why the rest don't just pack up and call it a day right now.
In Madrid, the aim has long been to achieve global domination by creating a 'dream team' at the Bernabeu and, backed by Florentino Perez and his cavalier approach to spending, several have been assembled during the Galatico era.
While that has been great news for the marketing department, domination on the pitch has been somewhat lacking and results - certainly in European competition, where Real have failed to progress beyond the last 16 in the past six seasons - have not been as good as Perez would have liked.
Hence the steady stream of coaches passing through the Bernabeu's revolving doors over recent years, hired and then fired by a president whose trigger finger seems to get horribly itchy at the first sign of a manager's failure to turn lavish expenditure into success.
The latest to enter, however, may just be able to buck that trend.
In Mourinho, not only do Real have a fine coach with a CV to die for, they have a man who is absolutely focused on winning a third Champions League trophy, and in doing so becoming the first manager to win the competition with three different clubs.
The Portuguese's comments at a press conference earlier in the week belied his passion for the competition - and for his determination to achieve that personal milestone. Clearly, his priority as Real Madrid coach is to take them back to the summit of European football, even if it means remaining in Barcelona's shadow for another domestic season.
It's a trade-off that some fans may find difficult to accept, but one which Mourinho, as a newcomer to the club, has no bones about.
It may be a selfish attitude to adopt, but since when has Mourinho been bothered about anyone else but himself? And if it means delivering a trophy to keep the currently under-used silverware polisher at the Bernabeu busy, then why argue?
Certainly he has the squad to win the competition with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas being joined by exciting young prospects Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil over the summer. In terms of talent, it is yet another 'dream team' on paper.
But more importantly, and perhaps unlike previous incumbents of the hotseat, Mourinho has what it takes to transform this group of highly talented individuals into a team who actually play like one.
The idea of a fit Kaka firing on all cylinders alongside Ronaldo is still a mouthwatering prospect, despite the disappointment of last season. And with Gonzalo Higuain having announced himself on the international stage this summer, Ozil and Khedira likewise, Real have once again the basis from which to create something truly special.
The difference this time is that they have the manager too. And with Mourinho on board, the club's chances of revisiting former European glories has never been better.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:the libero
- Libero (noun): 1. Versatile, ball-playing defender given licence to roam. Expected to break up opposition attacks while instigating counters. Role patented by German legend Franz Beckenbauer. 2. Versatile weekly football columnist, aka journalist Mike Hytner, given licence to write what he likes. Expected to file every Wednesday. Not nearly as talented as his boyhood hero Der Kaiser.
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