Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Mourinho finds the way
Almost all sports commentators have a theory about Barcelona's style and the reasons why Madrid seems incapable of defeating the blaugranas since Guardiola has taken the seat as the Head Coach. Well, I have mine as well. Obviously, I agree that this Barcelona is one of the best teams ever, at least the best team I have ever watched. It is pretty common sense that Mourinho's Real Madrid is the second best team in the world right now. Until today, the difference between these two teams was believed to still be significant, but today's dram may have shown Mourinho the path to follow to have great chances of defeating Barcelona in the next matches between them.
For me, it is clear that Mourinho is one of the main reasons for the development of Pep's Barcelona as a team. In 2009, Guardiola implemented his ideas during his first season and won every single trophy they played that season. He knew his team was not so perfect as the results had suggested, and kept looking for improvement, buying Ibrahimovic and moving Messi to play freely in the field. During the same period, Mourinho was in his second season as a Inter coach, and found a way to defeat Barcelona in that unforgettable Champions League semifinals.
Likewise Andre Villas Boas, Mourinho is a great believer of Dr. Manuel Jose's theories. Manuel Jose is a famous Physical Education doctor in the University of Lisbon, ans has published amazing theories such as the human motor science. Another one of his brilliant ideas suggests that soccer has a strong cultural component that professional coaches must consider in their careers. He has a famous quote that says: "If you know only about soccer, you know nothing about soccer". It meant that cultural traditions of players from different backgrounds and club traditions should be respected by the coaching staff.
Mourinho truly followed this idea during his period in Italy. He implemented the same defensive tradition of the Spanish coach Helenio Herrera who had made Internazionale European Champions twice in 1964 and 1965. There are reasons why he was able to implement this style at Inter. First of all, he was respecting the club's tradition of defensive soccer. Secondly, he had a roster that allowed him to use such strategy. Inter squad in 2010 was a very experienced one, with players that were able to mentally support being attacked by Barcelona during the whole game at Camp Nou. Mourinho had total control of the roster, that agreed to give the ball to Barcelona during the whole game and stay focused at their defending position. Even Samuel Eto'o agreed to be pretty much a defender during that match. Having prepared his team during twp years for that match, Mourinho was able to defeat Barcelona and give Inter its third European crowd.
After going to Real Madrid, basically being hired he was able to defeat Pep's team, Mourinho did a basic rationalization process: I have defeated Barcelona by playing defensively in Inter, and I will make it again on Madrid. During this process, I believe that Mourinho may have forgotten two important aspects. One, he forgot that his roster at Real Madrid was younger and more technically skilled than the Inter one, which would make much more difficult to put the same strategy into place with los merengues.
More importantly, he forgot Manuel Sergio's theory about the cultural importance in soccer. Real Madrid, as it is clear on his name, is the team of the Spanish Royalty, used to be superior and impose its style and finesse throughout its story. For Madrid fans, playing defensively against Barcelona means a recognition of Barcelona's superiority, which is extremely hurtful to their egos, used to victories. Guardiola was able to learn from Mourinho's imposing tactical difficulties, and diversified his team, making Barcelona even better during his second and third season. By playing in this defensive way, Mourinho lost a game by 5-0 in Camp Nou, has never won Barcelona at Bernabeu and was extremely criticized by Madrid's press during the last weeks. Even during these defeats, Mourinho created even more problems, tactically speaking, to Guardiola, who then responded by evolving his team to a point that he reached what we call the Total Football, with constant moviments, remembering Holland's Cruyff team of 1974.
Despite of Madrid's elimination, tonight's game may have shown Mourinho that face Barcelona openly, accepting the fact that they will score, but try to challenge them and score even more, is the best way of facing Guardiola's squad. Madrid played its best game against Barcelona in the last two seasons, raised the level of its game against the toughest possible opponent, respected the institution's tradition of going into attack and played beautifully tonight, drawing a amazing 2-2.
The mental aspect, very important on soccer, was always on favor of Barcelona until today. I don't think so anymore; Madrid's roster have experienced they are able to defeat Barcelona y playing at their peak. As I see these teams much more prepared than any other European One, they are likely to meet again this season at Champions League, in addition to one more game by the Spanish League.
These games are probably going to represent amazing battles between these two teams, which are going to be playing offensively, with courage, giving an spectacle for fans, who will remember this historical period of Spanish and European football forever. Tonight's game represented a point of transition in the history of the clash of Mou Real vs Pep Team. It may finally represent that the winning cicle will turn to Valdebebas, or it may represent one more evolution of the system promoted by Guardiola. We will know it just watching it in the next months.