By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
It was a tale of two Portuguese. In truth, it often is: Jose Mourinho was jeered by Real Madrid fans ahead of his side's 4-3 victory over Valladolid in La Liga on Saturday; Cristiano Ronaldo was cheered.
Mourinho was booed before the match as his name was announced over the loudspeaker. Days earlier, as Madrid sought a comeback of epic proportions in their Champions League semi-final second leg at home to Borussia Dortmund, the Real fans had got behind their coach and applauded as his name was read out. Not now.
This time, jeers emanated from around the ground. Tuesday's Champions League exit had come with dignity and fight as Madrid beat Dortmund 2-0 to lose out by a single goal, but the 50-year-old's pre-match press conference on Friday had seen him take another swipe at idol Iker Casillas, praise Barcelona and laud his own Champions League record of three straight semi-finals, even though he had been signed to claim La Decima. The Santiago Bernabeu, it seems, has had enough of Mourinho.
After the match, Pepe told Canal Plus that Mourinho (who had claimed he should have signed goalkeeper Diego Lopez following his first season at the club instead of this January after Iker's injury) should show more respect to the club captain. "The boss's quotes were not the most suitable," he said. "Iker is an institution at Real Madrid and in Spain."
Such a view may be largely held among Madrid fans and even the players themselves, yet Pepe remained a surprising source. He is a man who shares an agent (Jorge Mendes) with Mourinho, a player so staunchly defended by his coach and almost a flagbearer for the team in the light of the Champions League exit against Barcelona in 2011 (in which he was sent off), an ally amid difficult times and a footballer tipped to follow his boss to Chelsea in the summer. That seems unlikely now.
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Mendes claimed earlier this week that Mourinho's move to Chelsea was "80 per cent done" and the Portuguese's time at Madrid now looks to be approaching a less-than-happy ending. Real's win on Saturday, however, means the capital club have picked up an impressive 40 points in 15 matches since ending the first half of the campaign (19 games) with only 37. The improvement has been tangible, yet it is too little, too late in the Primera Division.
The victory meant Barcelona cannot now win La Liga this weekend, even if the Catalans beat Betis on Sunday at Camp Nou. A win for Tito Vilanova's team will see the Blaugrana move 11 points clear, however, with four games to play. For Barca, the title is now imminent. For Mourinho, the exit door looms larger. And for Madrid, the future is now somewhat uncertain.
Key to that future, though, must be Ronaldo. Clearly not fully fit on Tuesday, the forward had been expected to miss the match against Valladolid or at least start on the bench, but he was in the line-up and netted two excellent headers to take his tally for the season to 53 and move to within one goal of 200 strikes for the Spanish side in less than four full seasons.
So whatever happens in the summer, Madrid must move quickly (as president Florentino Perez has said they will) to make sure Cristiano puts pen to paper on a new deal to be part of the club's next sporting project. Mourinho may soon be the past, but Ronaldo represents the future at the Bernabeu.
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