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European failure top of Mourinho's legacy in Madrid

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Updated 20 May 2013 19:47:09

European failure top of Mourinho's legacy in Madrid

Jose Mourinho's three-year reign in charge of Real Madrid was finally brought to an end on Monday when it was announced that the Portuguese will leave the club at the end of the season.

Just as in his spells in charge at Chelsea and Inter, Mourinho's time at the Bernabeu has been filled with controversy, debate, scandal and no lack of success.

Brought in by Florentino Perez to bring back the Champions League trophy that he had won for Inter Milan in the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, his legacy in the Spanish capital will though be indelibly marked by his failure to deliver "La Decima", Madrid's 10th European title.

The Portuguese's relationship with Madrid has been a love-hate one throughout his three years in charge and the degree to which he was allowed to cross what some saw as unacceptable lines of conduct very much depended on just how much he was winning.

The ultra-defensive tactics used against the all-powerful Barcelona side in Pep Guardiola's reign were palatable when winning the Copa del Rey against them in 2011, but not so much when Madrid lost their Champions League semi-final against the same opponents two weeks later.

There were flashpoints such as poking the now Barca boss Tito Vilanova in the eye on the touchline in another heated El Clasico clash between the two in August 2011 and so many clashes with the press that any media briefing from the Portuguese has become a rarity in 2013.

However, for all his media squabbles, Mourinho's real problems throughout his time in Madrid, but particularly this season, have been not so much with the press but a number of his own players.

In past years splits between the Portuguese and Spanish speaking groups in the dressing room have been patched together by a common goal and hunger to oust Barcelona as top dogs in Spain.

Yet, having won the league last season, from very early on in this campaign Mourinho was quick to criticise in public those that he saw as not reaching the standards they set in last season's record-breaking run to the La Liga title.

The likes of Sergio Ramos and Mesut Ozil were singled out early in the campaign as Madrid relinquished their title with barely a fight as they dropped 20 points in the first-half of the season to gift Barcelona a commanding lead that they never relinquished.

And there were even more fireworks to come as Mourinho dropped club captain and legend Iker Casillas for a couple of games at the turn of the year and then refused to bring him back into the side once the Spanish number one had returned from a three-month absence due to a hand injury in April.

Those undercurrents of dressing room division exploded in recent weeks following their third Champions League semi-final elimination in three years against Borussia Dortmund.

As Mourinho continued his own personal campaign against Casillas, Pepe, one member of the squad seen as being closest to Mourinho, publicly criticised his coach for having a lack of respect for Casillas.

That led the Portuguese coach to leave his compatriot out of the Copa del Rey final against Atletico Madrid, and Mourinho's judgement to put personal duels ahead of the team was questioned even more when Atleti sprung a huge surprise to lift the cup in their neighbours' own backyard.

That embarrassment capped a horrible year for the club and one which Mourinho accepted was his "worst in his career."

In recent weeks Mourinho has been keen to stress that his overall delivery of a title, a first Copa del Rey for 20 years and three consecutive Champions League semi-finals is a great improvement for Real given their previous six-year run of not having made it past the last-16.

But even he accepted that Madrid is not a club that measures success in semi-finals, especially given the fact he has presided over the most expensively assembled squad in history for the past three years.

And if strong rumours are to be believed, the 50-year-old looks set to return to Chelsea, the other stop on his managerial tour of Europe where he failed to achieve his Champions League dream.

Mourinho, by his own recognition, is loved in West London after ending the Blues' 50-year wait for a league title, winning the Premier League on two occasions, as well as two League Cups and an FA Cup.

And whilst failing to become the first manager to win Europe's top prize with three different clubs at the most successful one of all in continental terms will sting the "special one's" ego, the challenge and reward of doing so at Chelsea may be even more gratifying.


AFP

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