Paradoxes have for me always been fascinating. Where you least expect positive outcome from based on the face value of evidence available is where you eventually discover to be the scion of such level of positivity as to almost render the result incomprehensible. The position of new Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti in coming weeks I am sure will present somewhat of a paradoxical dilemma to officials and players of the club.
Madrid has always been known as a football powerhouse, a prestigious institution where only the best are allowed in. To play for Madrid is in itself recognition of the fact that you are part of a rare breed of exceptional footballers playing at the very uppermost echelon of the beautiful game and as such, the quality of Madrid’s game has always been top notch. Breath-taking technique and exceptional brilliance from a splendid array of their amassed superstars has always made the level of Madrid’s game unrivalled and unparalleled, until Barcelona’s evolution happened.
Barca’s harvest of their now legendary La Maisa single-handedly turned the balance of power in Spain, Europe and ultimately in world football to which until a few shocking results of recent no one had a single response for. A turn of events which left Madrid trailing far in the wake of their bitter rivals until someone on the board had a moment of brilliance and said “Call up Mourinho” and just like that, Barca’s monopoly of the champions spot in all Spanish top flight competition was broken and La Liga became a little bit of a competition once again (if you choose to call perpetually having only two contenders for top spot such a name).
“The Happy One” as he now elects to be called drastically changed the face and focus of Madrid’s game from vainly trying to beat Barcelona at playing beautiful football which was never going to work to just winning by playing some precise ugly, negative football. Enter the Pepes, Cavarlhos, Alonsos, and Khediras of this world, Mourinho changed Real from a spineless pack of resigned players awaiting that dreaded moment of Tiki-Taka magic to an imperious squad of gladiator-like players who’d hack-down, tackle, stamp, even punch their way through their opponents often leaving both themselves and their hapless quarries bruised and bloodied after 90 Minutes. Admitted it was ugly, real ugly. In fact so ugly that enthusiasts of the game in Spain are still bitterly crying about how Mourinho has damaged Spanish football but ugly or not, it was highly effective.
And this wasn't just a fortunate accident of stumbling on an effective formula; it was rather the culmination of a brilliantly devised strategy of out-foxing self-styled purist’s romance with total football which took years of cunningly perfecting on opponents ranging from Arsenal to Barcelona themselves in their brief skirmishes in Europe. At Chelsea, Inter and ultimately Madrid, he proved you didn't need to play beautiful football to beat Barca just focus on stifling them as much as possible in the middle and be precise on the counter against their unconvincing defence and you had your decent chance of beating them.
The same strategy worked for Chelsea years after he had exited the club en-route their European triumph, worked at Inter-Milan in similar circumstances, was hugely successful in claiming his first title in Spain and ultimately delivered El-Classico superiority and the La Liga title in his second season with the Galacticos. And the infamous infliction of a disheartening battering by Bayern Munich in last season’s CL Semi-Final clash was built on the same principle of stifling Barcelona’s creative force in the middle though with a touch of daring attacking creativity and ruthless German efficiency lacking in Madrid’s approach.
The task for Ancelotti now is keeping up the competition with Barcelona and maybe even winning one or two trophies in the process. The natural impulse will be to listen to the wild accusations from the quarters who are labelling Mourinho’s stint as a stain on Spain’s prestigious legacy and attempt to “take Madrid forward” and away from his much maligned ugly football when in actual fact the best course may be to revert to “The Only One’s” wildly successful formula, which in fact is the only known formula that has successfully defeated Barcelona successively. Recruiting attacking talent in the vain hope of matching Barcelona’s silk and skill will surely cost more in transfer fees, wages, and managerial casualties than Ancelotti and indeed the Madrid board can afford as Roman Abramovich and Chelsea have come to find out; Mourinho’s way is the way.
Ancelotti must build on Mourinho’s already effective legacy and if at all he is to make changes, the different course of action should be to add to Jose’s negative style Bayern’s touch of ruthless capitalization on the inability of football’s finest club to adapt to a packed midfield.