The real fear now is that Mourinho’s compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo could follow him out the Santiago Bernabeu door.
During Madrid’s 6-2 home stroll past Malaga last Wednesday the action centred around Ronaldo, as it often does. He terrorised opponents, missed a penalty, got two rival players sent off, and was booked for diving.
Most attention, however, focused on the celebration of his 200th goal in just 197 games for Madrid.
After expertly converting a close-range indirect free-kick he sprinted away shouting and gesturing wildly. For some his words were “I am here, I am here”, others “This is me, this is me.” Depending on your point of view this was Ronaldo either saying he was staying, or wanted to leave.
There was also debate over what Ronaldo said as he returned to half-way. Lip readers hired by Spanish tv claimed he had shouted “go f*** yourself” in Portuguese towards his own bench, apparently at Mourinho.
Many had previously assumed that the two were close, especially as they share an agent in Jorge Mendes, but their relationship appears to have unravelled this season. Ronaldo was noticeably short with a reporter who asked about Mourinho’s future on the night of Madrid’s recent Champions League exit to Borussia Dortmund.
“The future of other players, or other coaches, does not concern me,” was his message.
The two weeks since that night have seen Mourinho aim explosive missiles at goalkeeper Iker Casillas and defender Pepe. More subtle, but equally significant perhaps, was an explanation last week of Madrid’s disappointing La Liga season this year. “We began the season sad,” the Special One said. “And it was difficult from there.”
This was taken as an allusion to Ronaldo’s famous declaration that he was “sad” and “the club know why” last September. Speculation then was that the €10 million a year net [or so] salary agreed when he signed from Manchester United in 2009 was no longer enough.
More recently he has claimed to be happy again, and not in the slightest concerned about money. Still, the issue continues to drag on, especially as that contract now only has two more years to run and he turned 28 last February.
“There is no problem with Cristiano,” Madrid president Florentino Perez said last month at a meeting of the club’s senior members. “Of course he will stay with us. If necessary, we will put in money.”
Ronaldo’s future is now the biggest issue hanging over the Bernabeu, especially as Perez is up for re-election this summer. Mourinho was not mentioned by name at that members meeting, as many Madrid ‘socios’ have long lost patience with his volatile outbursts — and even more so failure to deliver the long sought for a decima 10th European Cup. The fear in the Spanish media this week was not that Mourinho would leave, but that Chelsea might choose someone else and they could be stuck with him for another season at least.
Perez is presumably well aware which way the wind is blowing. He has long been assumed a shoo-in for four more years, especially after he oversaw changes to the election statues last year. But well-connected Spanish radio host Jose Ramon de la Morena claimed last week that potentially serious challengers to Perez were waiting to see what happened with Mourinho — and in next Friday’s Copa del Rey final against Atletico Madrid — before deciding whether to run.
None of which does any harm to Ronaldo’s bargaining position. With his former club United, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco all potentially willing to double his current wages, Perez might have to get his cheque-book out. Or risk losing his job.