To the south of Madrid there is area of undeveloped land that will soon be one of Europe’s major attractions. While there are still a few obstacles left to be cleared, last week it was announced that the ‘EuroVegas’ project, that will see a host of hotels and casinos built in the suburb of Alcorcón, has the financing it requires to get the ball rolling. The regional government are betting that the new site will create jobs, bring in tourists and make everyone forget the woes that surround Spain. A week after the news that work could start and a little further north but still in Madrid, Jose Mourinho takes another big gamble as he faces Manchester United in the Champions League, hoping a win will help him forget his own woes.
This is it for Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho. Barca are almost certain to take the La Liga title and are 16 points ahead of their rivals. Although they are still in the Copa del Rey, Los Blancos and the Special One have put all their eggs in one basket and are hoping that the Champions League will be their redemption.
Since 2002, they have been chasing La Decima and each year they find new omens to prove that this is the year that they will seal a 10th Champions League crown. Some of the omens that both AS and Marca have used to suggest that this could be the year have been interesting, others have been downright bonkers but there is an almost need to the point of desperation that this year really is the year.
It has all gone pear shaped for Mourinho. Barca lost Pep Guardiola and should have been in a period of transition and this meant it was Real Madrid’s turn to dominate, but Messi and Co didn’t read the script and have blown the Spanish League away by only dropping seven points all season. Mourinho’s boys on the other hand have dropped 23 and are a far cry from the team they were last season.
Bitter infighting has been a major reason for their fall from grace. On the surface everyone is keen to stress and give the appearance that everything looks fine, but scratch a little and you see a squad and Coach that are not happy with each other. Mourinho wants out and he isn’t even denying it anymore. His relationship with the Spanish press has been in freefall for a while with papers that are seen, and known, as pro Madrid, chastising the Portuguese coach for every decision, but tomorrow’s game is different. Tomorrow they will stand by their man.
Mourinho wants the Champions League as much as Real Madrid does. He came to Madrid with the objective of delivering the 10th and much desired trophy and on a personal level he wanted to win the league, which would be his fourth title in a different country, and his third Champions League which would make him the first coach to win with three different clubs. One objective completed, one left to do. His future may lie elsewhere come June, but right now he knows that he still has a chance to deliver both his and fans dreams. The big question is: does he change or does he continue to manage the way he has been doing?
This season nobody has been spared the wrath of the bench. Casillas, Ramos, Özil and even Alonso have been at loggerheads with their coach. Last weekend, two very respected and knowledgeable journalists wrote two articles. First was by Pete Jensen for the Independent that suggested that by arguing with his entire squad that Mourinho has actually united his squad. There is evidence to this point and one can only wonder whether with the stakes so high will Mourinho change his tactic. Yes, the players may not be happy with their coach but for people like Ramos, this offers the perfect opportunity to complete the set and win all that a player can win in football.
In the other article Ramos spoke to Sid Lowe of the Guardian and while he said he wanted Mourinho to stay; the most important thing he stressed was the clubs passion and desire to win in London in May. It seems that when it comes to Europe that players and hoach are prepared to put aside their grievances.
On Tuesday, Mourinho faced the Press. When asked about his next club he smiled at English journalists as he suggested it would be an English one, but then almost simultaneously turned and frowned at the Spanish ones. He knows that his reputation in Spain may not be held in the same regard as it once was, but he also knows that he could carve his name in history forever should he deliver the Holy Grail. With the league gone and the Copa final just a game away, it maybe the first time, but it won’t certainly be the last that someone in Madrid goes all-in as they search for glory.