When Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez moved to install José Mourinho as head coach, it seemed to be something of a no brainer.

Transformation | Real Madrid head coach José Mourinho appears to have gone from "no brainer" to "no hoper". (Image | The Guardian)

Transformation | Real Madrid head coach José Mourinho appears to have gone from “no brainer” to “no hoper”. (Image | The Guardian)

Mourinho had just delivered an unprecedented treble for Inter Milan, with the coup de grâce being a third European Cup/Champions League title.

This was all the more significant as it was Inter’s first since 1965. Despite their worldwide renown, Inter had long been underachievers in Europe’s top tier competition.

While the Portuguese manager had brought ultimate success to the blue half of Milan, and was adored by his players, he did not have such a salubrious relationship with the Italian media and the authorities.

Pérez offered an enticing alternative: take charge of arguably the most famous club in the world, one which is already stocked with stellar names, and to paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson: “Knock Barcelona off their perch.”

The task was simple, but not easy. For the duration of his stay in Madrid, Mourinho had to restore Real to the pinnacle of club football. Incrementally, one could say that he is succeeding.

His first season brought the Copa Del Rey with an extra-time victory over Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

However, this was the apotheosis of that Barça side, and Los Culés retained the La Liga title, before putting on a footballing clinic at Wembley to trounce Manchester United to win the Champions League.

Mourinho’s men had been eliminated by Barcelona in an ill-tempered semi-final, which only increased the pressure on the former Chelsea boss in his second season.

While Madrid suffered another semi-final elimination in the Champions League, on penalties to Bayern Munich, they surpassed their bitter Catalan rivals to win La Liga with a record points haul.

Picking up the Spanish Cup in the first season before graduating to the league title in the second makes clear what the next triumph must be.

Expectation | Cristiano Ronaldo will know full well that success in the UEFA Champions League this year is essential. (Image | Daily Mail)

Expectation | Cristiano Ronaldo will know full well that success in the UEFA Champions League this year must be forthcoming. (Image | Daily Mail)

However, the Champions League is not desirable for Real, it is a necessity. It was in this competition that Madrid first made their name, and it constitutes an indelible part of their history.

A number of sides regard themselves as bedfellows with the famous trophy, such as seven-time winners AC Milan, as well as Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Ajax.

No side in Europe even comes close to matching Madrid’s nine tournament victories: but nine is not enough.

All associated with Los Merengues want La Décima, or number 10. This is what the club crave more than anything else.

It would be the watermark of footballing excellence, rather like Brazil’s fourth World Cup win in 1970, and an achievement that would echo through the ages.

This is why Mourinho was hired, because he is one of a handful of men to win the competition twice. To cement his legacy as a success at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, he must do it for a third time.

Yet all is not well in the capital, and the penchant Mourinho has for high drama, in the manner he deals with his players and the media, has not gone down well.

Rightly or wrongly, Real have always regarded themselves as bastions of class and tradition that do things with distinction.

The conduct of the boss has not only caused consternation with some club officials, but also senior players.

Benched | Iker Casillas looks on after being dropped for the game against Málaga. (Image | Zimbio)

Benched | Iker Casillas looks on after being dropped for the game against Málaga. (Image | Zimbio)

Mild conflict has now turned into open revolt, with Mourinho dropping goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas for Saturday’s defeat against Málaga. Real are having a rotten season, lying third in the league, a mammoth 16 points behind Barcelona.

Their defence of the Spanish title can be considered over before 2013 has even begun.

The togetherness that Mourinho had in his various his sides at Porto, Chelsea and Inter was easier to foster, as he was dealing with players who had been starved of success.

At Madrid he is in charge of footballers that have already won all the game has to offer, and do not appreciate Mourinho’s bellicose disposition.

Spanish journalist Guillem Balagué explained Mourinho’s dropping of Casillas, describing it as: “A man wanting to kill before dying.” If Mourinho intends to get the sack, he is going the right way about it.

There remains an opportunity for redemption, however, in La Décima, which Pérez continues to thirst for.

Although Mourinho’s off-pitch antics may not be commensurate with the way Real like to present themselves, the president was probably not ignorant of that prior to hiring him.

Pérez compromised the club’s principles to get what amounted to the closest to a “safe bet” for the Champions League.

With a difficult tie against Manchester United to come in February, it could be a folly to let Mourinho go now. Then again, this is Real Madrid, who have made acts of folly into an art form, a skill the likes of Chelsea can only dream of.

Have your say | Tweet the author | @TGEISH

Back to Football

Twitter | @armchairpundit2

Facebook | The Armchair Pundits


Interested in writing for The Armchair Pundits?

We’re always on the lookout for aspiring journalists, click here for details on how you can start contributing.