"This year's campaign was a failure. It has been the worst season of my career. It's not been good enough for me, nor Madrid." – Jose Mourinho
Strong words from the Portuguese tactician but probably one of his few statements during his time in Spain with which the press would wholeheartedly agree. Granted, Real Madrid didn’t put on their best performance last night but it was far from being their worst as the woodwork would testify if it could.
Over the course of the Copa del Rey final, Los Blancos were clearly the better side and for the most part, played the better football but as ever in the beautiful game, the element of luck does play a part more often than not. Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is on loan from Chelsea, played an absolute blinder during which he made a couple of world-class saves while Madrid had three efforts crash off the post.
"I don't think Atletico deserve to be champions but they won the title. We had two clear chances on goal, we hit the post three times. This is why I think it is unfair," Mourinho said. In all fairness, it’s hard to argue with that diagnosis.
Fair play to Atletico, they worked exceptionally hard and scrapped their way to their first victory over their local rivals in 14 years. Cristiano Ronaldo hung in the air glanced home a terrific header from a corner kick in the 14th minute to give his side the lead. Diego Costa then supplied the finishing touch to a chance expertly fashioned by Radamel Falcao. Miranda popped up with the winner in the first half of extra-time which was enough to see Diego Simeone’s side over the line.
Many believe that Mourinho won’t be in Spain next season and as expected, the announcement of his name prior to kick-off was greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers, which pretty much summed up his treatment during his tenure at the club.
If you disregard the Spanish Supercoppa, which is common practice, this is the first full-season that Mourinho has managed without winning a trophy. To put things into perspective, consider that in his three-year stint with the club, he has won the same number of trophies as Simeone has won with Atletico in a year and a half – two. Not so special this time around.
Simeone more successfull in Madrid?
There are other aspects to derive from the game though. Yes, Madrid had the better chances and were unlucky but their defending for the second goal was non-existent. A free header at the near post, in extra-time of a cup final, against local rivals from a Mourinho team – unacceptable.
Secondly, their lack of an effective striker was evident once more. Notice the use of the word ‘effective’ instead of maybe ‘quality’? That’s because there’s no doubting the quality of the likes of Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain but for some reason or the other, both strikers struggle to make an impact on a regular basis.
It’s not their goal scoring that’s the main issue but their contributions or lack of it which is troubling. At the other end, Falcao has a tremendous record of scoring in finals but even though he didn’t manage to get on the score sheet last night, he engineered the goal to cancel out Ronaldo’s header. He twisted and turned on the half-line to get away from a couple of players before playing an inch-perfect slide-rule pass for Costa to finish.
Mourinho's 'send off'
Ultimately the game was marred by more than a few unsavoury scenes on the pitch as well as on the touch-line. After Mourinho was sent off for challenging a refereeing decision, Ronaldo followed suit for lashing out at a defender after being blatantly fouled. The Atletico player’s exaggerated reaction only made the incident uglier while a brawl nearly broke out between the two sets of coaching staffs with Simeone in the thick of things.
This isn’t the way Mourinho would like to leave things with Madrid. A trophy-less season is simply unacceptable by his standards and by those of the club’s as well. There is the off-chance that he may decide to stay in a bid to seek redemption but it looks as if his relationships with the press, the club’s hierarchy, the fans and his players have all been fractured beyond repair. A clean slate may be just what the doctor ordered but as it stands his tenure at Madrid has to go down as a failure.
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