Jose Mourinho finds himself in the unusual position of being criticised and unpopular in the media despite helping Madrid open up a ten point gap at the top of La Liga, and in the process seemingly ending Barcelona's charge for a record fourth straight consecutive league title.
His latest clash with the Madrid press came as one paper accused him of not selecting Cantera (youth) players, namely defender Daniel Carvajal for recent games, only for Mourinho to hit back at the standard of journalism while revealing the reason for the youngster’s non-selection is because he is suspended.
"When we do our job, coaches are still criticised. When you're wrong you must also be criticised," he told reporters after Madrid’s 4-0 win over Racing Santander on Saturday.
"So you cannot ask for a player, who is suspended, to play. The present quality of journalism is disastrous."
Mourinho has seemingly made it is his life’s work to use the media as his very own puppet show, from his astonishing attack on Barcelona following Real Madrid’s Champions League defeat to his admission that ‘When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started” - the ‘Special One’ has always been good value for entertainment in usually boring press conferences.
The Portuguese was never shy of a quote or two during his time with Porto, Chelsea or Inter Milan, but it is his ongoing battle with the fiercely partisan Madrid press that has proved to be the most absorbing.
Wary of the Madrid press who have recently turned on him despite the ten point gap enjoyed by Madrid from Barcelona, matters came to a head after Madrid’s quarter-final Copa del Rey first leg defeat against their rivals last month.
A leaked transcript of an animated conversation with Sergio Ramos as the pair mulled over what had gone wrong during the game revealed all the tensions felt in the dressing room between the coach, his players and the media.
Indicative of Mourinho’s disintegrating relationship with the media was his comments as he accused Ramos and his international colleagues of being ‘protected’ while he was savaged by papers such as Marca for his perceived negative tactics.
“You Spaniards have been world champions and your friends in the media protect you” he reportedly told Ramos, while later in the conversation tensions between the two threatened to boil over as the defender accused Mourinho of failing to understand a defensive switch of tactics initiated by the players because he had ‘never played the game’.
Indicated in the conversation is not only the distrust felt between Mourinho, his players and the media but the fact the former Chelsea boss believes someone in his squad was responsible for leaking the transcript, and numerous insider reports published by El País in the build up to the game.
Since that episode Mourinho has cut a sulky figure, amidst reports he is ready to quit Madrid and return to the loving arms of English football - Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal are all reportedly ready to offer him a route out of Madrid.
While he has since dismissed reports he could leave Spain at the end of the season, there is no doubt that it is his relationship with the media that has caused the most friction during his time in Madrid and caused more headaches for the self-anointed beast coach in the world than at any other time in his career.
Earlier this season there was a hint of what was to come as, back in December, Mourinho refused to speak to the media ahead of the first El Clasico of the season – a game Madrid went on to lose amidst more criticism of Madrid’s negative style – while back in April 30 journalists walked out of a press conference as Mourinho sat stony faced and refused to talk as assistant Aitor Karanka fielded every single question.
Often Mourinho has come across as spiky, even rude, where in the past at previous clubs he has been genial and polite to his interrogators, although admittedly towards the end at Inter his claim that he ‘does not like’ Italian football didn’t exactly endear him to the locals.
Mourinho seems to thrive off the ‘us vs the world’ confrontation and has used the tactic to great effect before – the tension between him and the media is said to have come from the restrictions placed on the media by the former Chelsea boss when it came to their access to Madrid’s training sessions and interviews with their players - but he may now regret having made an enemy powerful enough to force him out of the job.
However his mind games and psychological tricks always have their victims, be it referee Anders Frisk who was accused of being in cahoots with then Barca boss Frank Rijkaard or the sanity of an opposing manager.
Only now he may be finding out that the Madrid media have a greater deal of influence than he may of imagined and that the battle he continues to wage is the reason he could be forced out at the end of the season.
Having built a career on controlling every aspect of the club he manages and those that surround it, Mourinho is finding out that the battle with the Madrid press is not one that is easily won.
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