No other manager has proved quite so adept at provoking and manipulating hostility, and there tends to be a relish in the way he deploys unrest. In the self-declaration of his greatness, the sheer grandstanding of his ego, the Real Madrid coach presents himself as an inviolable figure.
The authority is essential, since Mourinho imposes his will on his teams. Real consider themselves aristocrats of European football and the haughtiness is an essential part of the club's sense of style, yet the Portuguese has made no concessions to history. He is a functional manager, in the sense that he strategises every aspect of a match and individual freedom of expression is encouraged only within certain constraints.
Defensive tactics against Barcelona in the past have prompted arch remarks from the likes of Alfredo di Stefano, but then Mourinho's team won La Liga last season and a compromise appeared to have been reached between the ideals that surround the club and his own deep pragmatism. This ought to have been a campaign that focused on the Champions League, since Real have not won the trophy for 10 years and Mourinho could become the first coach to win it with three different clubs, yet it has begun to a backdrop of dissent.
Sergio Ramos, the Spanish internationalist, was dropped for the opening group game against Manchester City, after Real had lost to Sevilla in La Liga and Mourinho said afterwards that he had "no team". When Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal in the last moments of the game against the English champions, Mourinho slid along the turf, while Iker Casillas, the Real goalkeeper and captain, watched on impassively. A close friend of Ramos, who is the vice-captain, Casillas also has a strained relationship with the manager, and told him last year that "here things are said to our face" when he overheard Mourinho referring to him during a heated exchange with Ramos.
Tensions are inevitable when Mourinho is such a domineering presence and the Real dressing room is full of its own self-regarding figures. When Mesut Oezil, who has been the target of much of the manager's blazing criticism this season, was substituted at half-time during Real's game against Deportivo La Coruna last weekend, Ramos wore his team-mate's No.10 jersey under his own shirt. The defender didn't score during the 5-1 victory, but newspaper photographs clearly showed Oezil's top beneath his own.
Ramos attempted to defuse the row on Twitter, but his relationship with Mourinho has long been fraught. Along with Casillas, the defender is acclaimed by the Madrid support and so is one of the dressing-room leaders. That kind of stature would rankle with Mourinho. He has ostracised players in the past – Ricardo Carvalho and Arjen Robben at Chelsea, Ivan Cordoba at Internazionale – but the tensions were never sustained or able to affect the performance of the team. This season, Real have already lost two La Liga matches, the same number they lost in the whole of the last campaign.
"My relationship with my wife is much better than that with Sergio Ramos, without doubt," Mourinho said. "But my relationship with Sergio Ramos is much better than with people who I don't know, who I don't work with and share the day-to-day, with whom I don't have shared ambitions and shared responsibilities. There is no problem." However, he was more pointed about replacing Oezil, saying: "The better the quality, the more playing time."
The tendency is to reduce Mourinho to a series of exaggerated traits when the reality is that he is a much more complex individual. There was sombre reflection when he talked about fatherhood in a recent interview. "I hate my social life," he said. "I hate not to be a normal father who goes to his son's football match and being there with the other fathers watching the game. I would love to be with my family in the street as a normal person and I can't, so I am a completely different person in my private life."
Sympathy is likely to be in scant supply for a manager who seeks to be both grandiose and sincere but the institution of Real Madrid can be vindictive to outsiders, which is what Mourinho represents to the club's support. In previous generations, it was Raul or Guti, two local Madristas, who could undermine managers.
Mourinho will not consider this a battle of wills, since that would be an acceptance that his own rule might be diminished, but a trip to Camp Nou on Sunday evening with a team that is fractured, at least in spirit, is a hindrance he needs to manage. There is little likelihood of that involving Mourinho compromising his own values.
He will not concede at Madrid, but he talks often of returning to England. The arch strategist will always have a plan.
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