Real Madrid were gallant in their Champions League semi-final second leg bout against Borussia Dortmund at the Santiago Bernabeu as a late surge nearly completed a seemingly mission impossible task.
Ultimately, their disastrous 4-1 defeat at the Signal Iduna Park when Robert Lewandowski was chief destroyer in bagging all four goals in a match winning individual display proved costly for Los Blancos as their hopes of claiming 'La Decima' need at least another 12 months of waiting.
This was supposed to be their year. La Liga was gone long ago and the Copa del Rey remained a scant consolation. Madrid could throw all their eggs in one basket in pursuit of their tenth European crown. Jose Mourinho had a habit as the 'Special One' for success in the Champions League. His appointment was largely based on this assumption. With their season virtually over with only the Copa del Rey final to come, the rumours of Mourinho departing from the deposed Spanish champions, have grown into credible, almost confirmed talks of exiting to return to Chelsea. His three year spell has been tumultuous at times with external and internal conflict marring what has been a successful tenure.
Hold on. Successful? Well One La Liga title, potentially two Copa del Rey titles, one Spanish Super Cup and three consecutive Champions league semi-final appearances, as well as boasting a winning percentage of 73% would be deemed as successful, would it not? Perhaps the failure to win the Champions League means Mou has not been a success at the Bernabeu?
Let's cast our minds back to 22 May 2010. The then Internazionale manager had just led the Italians to an unprecedented treble as Diego Milito's brace in the Champions League final sealed a third European crown for the Nerazzurri to go with triumphs in Serie A and the Coppa Italia. This was the highest point of the Special One's career to date and remains so, in addition to successful spells with Porto and Chelsea. He was one of the most sought-after managers in world football. Not long after that glorious night at the Santiago Bernabeu, he was back being unveiled as the new manager of Real Madrid as the club saw the Portuguese tactician as the man to end their long wait for their tenth European crown.
Arriving at a time when Barcelona were right in the middle of an alarmingly dominant era with star man Lionel Messi and co looking unstoppable, Mourinho felt the full force of their excellence in his first match in charge against the Blaugrana after a 5-0 thumping, the heaviest defeat of his career. The Champions League and La Liga were both claimed by Barcelona in 2010/11 but Mourinho gained some revenge in preventing another Barca treble with victory against the old enemy in the Copa del Rey final. Mourinho was at the centre of controversies all season long as he constantly took digs at Barcelona which increased hostilities between the two teams to a new high.
The dominance of Barcelona was something he had to quell in his quest for silverware and season 2011-2012 was a remarkable success in the league as Madrid shattered several records while romping to title glory. La Liga was emphatically sealed with a decisive 2-1 victory at the Nou Camp, Madrid's first win there since 2007 and first league victory over Barca since 2008. Champions League glory was denied by a loss on penalties to Bayern Munich in the last four, but halting Barca's three year stranglehold on the league title and improved performances against Guardiola's Catalan giants was a sign that Mourinho was beginning to make his mark on the Spanish game.
Season 2012/13 started off in the best possible manner with victory in the Spanish Super Cup over Barca, but the defence of their La Liga title was virtually non existent as Madrid have been blown out of the water by Barcelona.
However, another magnificent display at the Nou Camp in the second leg of their Copa dely Rey Semi Final clash that resulted in a 3-1 victory for Los Blancos was followed by a 2-1 victory at home in the league which Mourinho must be commended for. Exit in the last four of the Champions League for a third consecutive season has been a cruel blow given Madrid have peaked at the right time in pursuit of La Decima, but the consolation of the Copa del Rey will have to do for this season if they can overcome arch rivals Atletico Madrid in the final.
Now, Mourinho may not have won the Champions League with Real Madrid. He may have lost the midas touch and his self proclaimed title as the 'Special One' will have taken a hit despite all he has achieved. From Porto to Chelsea to Inter to now Madrid, the Portuguese manager has been a man on a mission to achieve success wherever he goes under whatever circumstance.
He has built a reputation for making the seemingly impossible possible and entertaining and enthralling the football world with his managerial genius and innovation. However, he has delievered every domestic trophy available in Spain during his tenure, while during that process halting Barcelona's dominance. He has secured three straight Semi Final appearances in the Champions league for a team that was perennial last 16 casualties for the preceding six years. He has overseen the improvements from talents to world-class footballers in players such as Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Rafael Varane, Sami Khedira and Angel Di Maria.
He has established a level of stability and solidarity that has been missing for quite some time, given he has been the first manager since Vicente del Bosque who last managed the club in 2003 to oversee at least a 100 matches in charge. That's nine managers from 2003 to 2010 when Mourinho was appointed, that have been going through a revolving door who have on average been in charge for a paltry 39 games.
Regardless of the successes an failures of Mourinho's time at Real Madrid in terms of silverware, the most crucial thing has been the fact he has been able to keep his job and give the club some stability given the high turnover of managers since their last Champions league success. Real Madrid is a club that pursues perfection and therefore this is to a certain extent understandable, which speaks volumes of Mourinho's impact at the club.
His trophy haul or impact my not have scaled the heights most will have expected or hoped for during his time at Real Madrid, given his enormous success as a manager and the sky high expectations placed on him as a result, but the considerable success on the field and impact off the field combines to make the Special One's tenure at the Santiago Bernabeu a worthwhile and successful one.
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