José Mourinho “acted like an idiot” during his final year in charge of Real Madrid, according to Spain based football journalist Graham Hunter.
Hunter was very critical of Mourinho in the latter stages of his tenure at the helm of Los Blancos. He said Mourinho “let it all slip through his hands” and as a result his position became untenable. He was scathing in his assessment of Mourinho’s demeanour, his media relations, club relations, training ground relations and relationship with the fans.
He felt the divide went far beyond the public split with goalkeeper Iker Casillas and had far more deep reaching consequences within the squad. “More important was the division within the squad he (Mourinho) caused.”
However he viewed Carlo Ancelotti as the ideal choice to take over. “He’s a Francis of Assisi in terms of squad relations, that’s something that is a natural ability to him, he is a unifier, and he’s one of the most liked men in football anywhere.”
Although Ancelotti is Real’s 26th manager since 1989, Hunter feels that as a result of Mourihno’s conduct, the Madrid job won’t be as much of a treacherous proposition as it has been in the past and he expects Ancelotti to be at the Santiago Bernebeú club for the foreseeable future at least. “This is one of the times when I would not say poison chalice, I think conditions were right for Ancelotti, I also believe that Ancelotti was right for Real Madrid.”
Hunter also praised Ancelotti’s start as Real Madrid manager, despite being “cut out of transfers in the summer” with the sale of Mesut Ozil and signings of Gareth Bale and Isco.
He felt these were signings by Real president Florentino Perez who signs on the theory of “I’ve got to have every sticker in my book.” Hunter is not a fan of Perez and describes himself as a “critic and sceptic” and also said that Perez is “not the right president for Real Madrid.”
However he did praise Gareth Bale for choosing to join Real Madrid as Manchester United had the same offer on the table. “He turned down Manchester United, they would’ve spent exactly the same money as Real Madrid, I know that from Manchester United….he said ‘no, I want Real Madrid’ and I admire that, I like footballers who know their own mind.”
Although Hunter praised the job Ancelotti has done at Real Madrid so far this season he still feels that it is Barcelona who will go on to win the title in Spain this year. “I am convinced that Barcelona has enough energy, talent and are well enough managed that they will win it.”
However, Barcelona has also had their own off-field problems in the last 12 months and Hunter also spoke at length of these problems, particularly with regard the signing of Neymar, which is currently being investigated for transfer irregularities as a result of third party ownership of the player at Santos. He felt that they should have set up a pre-contract agreement with Neymar for summer 2014 when his deal at Santos would have been expired.
As a result Barcelona has been left “with an ongoing mess over a player that they didn’t have to have this season.” He continued that Neymar had become a “vanity signing” for Barcelona president Sandro Rossell and ultimately the deal had cost him his job as he was replaced by Josep María Bartomeu at the end of January.
Although backing Barcelona to win, Hunter still felt that Atlético Madrid can still have an impact on the title race and are “no flash in the pan” and their recent trophy record (5 trophies in 3 years) is testament to this. His main concern was that no Atlético Madrid player has been in the situation before of challenging on all three fronts before*. As a result he feels at the moment “they don’t have the depth or the brilliance to win the treble,” although they are realistic candidates to reach the latter stages of the Champions League.
He spoke glowingly of the Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone by labelling him an “extraordinary resource,” “exceptional” and a “perfect fit.” He feels that he has created a stable environment at Atlético that will result in other clubs looking to poach him. He expects that Simeone’s former club Inter Milan will come calling but expects him to stay for now at least. “Right now the conditions are proficuous for Simeone to stay, he was a great player at Inter, so I think he will answer the call at one stage, my risk assessment says just not yet.”
*Atlético Madrid have since been knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Real Madrid
Graham Hunter spoke to me while he was in Dublin before signing copies of his new book “Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble” which is available at all good book stores.
You can follow Graham Hunter on Twitter @BumperGraham