A guest blog from Dave Hillier.
Say what you like about Jose Mourinho; nobody can deny that he is a masterful practitioner in the dark arts of football’s pseudo-psychology. Whilst the mind games may not always work entirely in his favour, Mourinho is a man skilfully adept at getting into the heads of both journalists and fellow professionals, be it players or managers. Who else could provoke the normally sanguine Pep Guardiola into swearing on national TV before last season’s Champions League Semi-Final? For all the talk of Mourinho being “the enemy of football,” or of his “destroying Spanish Football,” as Pique would have it, the reality isn’t so black and white. It is as grey as Mourinho’s hair.
Perhaps a little personal perspective might rationalise my sympathies for Mourinho. I am biased, but not like you might think. It is more of a affinity based on personality than on allegiances. Being a life-long United fan, you’d think I have no reason at all to like Mourinho. Yet I love him like I love Ronaldo. I love him for the same reason that I hate Lionel Messi. Yes, yes, I know, I support United, but hear me out. I hate Messi because his ability is almost unfair. It makes every game he participates in practically a write-off. Yes, he is probably the best player of all time, and yes sometimes he does something truly sublime, but more often than not this detracts from the drama of the game. Knowing that at any moment he can simply walk through the greatest of defences renders the games almost obsolete. It’s depressingly futile to come up against. It’s like playing COD with one of those modified controllers that lets you fire the pistol like an automatic rifle. Messi’s abnormal centre of gravity, coupled with his almost dwarf-like stature, give him immeasurable advantages over every other player. And then he has the nerve to be so humble! Like he’s not even proud of what he’s achieved. Perhaps this is because he’s aware that his abilities are so outlandish, they’re frankly ridiculous. Bearing that in mind, Messi is still one of the most boring footballing personalities on the planet.
Which brings me on to Ronaldo, a player so aware of his own excellence that you can practically smell the arrogance radiating from every pore on his smug body. This personally is what I want to see- Ronaldo is the shit, and makes no bones about letting everybody know. He also scored more goals than Messi last season, but everyone forgets that because Messi is such a nice guy. I would say that this mentality has been instilled in Ronaldo by Mouinho since he started his tenure at Madrid, but Ronaldo always knew he was the best. Mourinho has simply amplified this belief. Mourinho and Madrid get such bad press because of the physicality and the roughness that the bring to the Clasicos, yet this approach is one that makes sense to me.
When faced by a team with a player such as Messi, the only resort is to repeatedly tackle him very very hard. Otherwise he will simply score against you. This approach has seen Madrid get 5 players sent off in the last 4 Classicos. Everyone remembers the goal he scored in the second leg of last year’s Champions League semi-final, but he was only able to score that goal because Pepe was sent off for an innocuous challenge (I’d go into how bent Barca are, but that’s a whole different story. I’ll just say one thing: why the hell did Van Persie get sent off in that quarter-final tie for doing something that happens practically in every game and never warrants a yellow, never-mind a red?). Mourinho complained and got a five-match ban. I sympathised. The recent Super-Copa that ended 5-4 saw the biggest off-pitch brawl seen yet. Who do I blame? Messi! Not Mourinho. Madrid were playing some excellent football over the two legs, arguably playing better than Barcelona on the whole, and yep, along came Messi to score a ridiculously difficult volley minutes from time. No wonder Marcelo was pissed. No wonder Mourinho was pissed. No wonder the whole thing went to shit. Messi is the enemy of football.