By Steve Graves
“Whenever you play against Barca, whenever you touch them they are on the floor crying like a baby….I have played three games against Barcelona and each time we have had to play with 10 men.”
Unfortunately Adebayor did not elaborate on his suggestion this straight red or this second yellow were anything other than perfectly justified. He stated he thought Pepe’s sending-off on the night was wrong. Some would agree, many would disagree. That’s football.
A hypocrite? Absolutely. The game is full of them. Fans of course are the worst. Trawl through twitter after any big game and the allegations of bias and cheating are rife. It’s all so much background noise, excused by many as a way for fans to let off steam rather than focusing on what’s really gone wrong for their side.
Players and managers have long been aware of the power of such smokescreens. It is understandably easier for Real to invent conspiracy theories than to question why a team costing 500 million euros, boasting the world’s most expensive player, can only manage 23 per cent of the possession at home.
At the centre of it all, as ever, is Jose Mourinho. Provocateur supreme, carnival barker and undoubtedly talented manager, Mourinho has plenty of form in this area. His accusations of bias date back years, and include the outrageous destruction of the career of Anders Frisk in 2005.
Many managers would seek to calm players like Adebayor, seemingly intent on bringing a disrepute charge upon themselves. It’s always worth an excuse to enjoy this clip of Christian Dailly’s ‘fucking cheats’ outburst in 2003, but the schoomasterly response of then-Scotland manager Bertie Vogts is the point worth considering here. One is tempted to wonder how Mourinho would react in similar circumstances, and to conclude he may well have joined in.
In terms of management style, it is clear Mourinho seeks to identify himself, his staff and players as a single unit. Rather than restraining some of his stars’ rhetorical excesses, he provokes them, leading the way himself with ever-more outlandish statements. Mourinho is in many ways closer to the tennis role of the non-playing captain, in charge but identified as part of the team rather than as a more traditionally autocratic figure.
He’ll always make for good copy, and will generally succeed in deflecting attention from the increasingly apparent deficiencies in his approach. Taking teams on, spending vast fortunes, winning instant trophies and leaving behind a legacy of waste, ageing squads and no foundations for long-term success cannot be a sustainable approach.
Uefa’s excellent, impending financial fair play rules will put a premium on managers who can build success organically over several seasons. Mourinho has never shown any inclination in this direction. It will be fascinating to see how he adapts to the changes.
Spanish journalist Fernando Carreno wrote this week: “To be forever complaining, and especially with complaints of this nature, doesn’t seem to be a credible or acceptable posture.
“Real Madrid, in my opinion, is a great club that deserves something better. If your approach is results-based and you don’t get the result, what’s left?”
In Mourinho, Adebayor and Real Madrid’s case, what’s left is the conspiracy theory.