Barcelona win 3-1 on aggregate
There are demanding jobs: pilot on a space shuttle, surgeon in a war zone, a comedian in a Glasgow theatre. Then there is the really demanding job: room service waiter in a Barcelona hotel last night.
The Special One was confined to a special suite. One pitied the reception when Jose Mourinho found he had tanked the mini-bar. The atmosphere in the Real Madrid coach’s room would not have been changed with a flick of the air-conditioning control. According to media reports, Mourinho chose not to attend the second leg of the Champions League semi-final. His mood would be set at simmer.
This 1-1 draw can be seen as a respectable result but this will mean nothing to the Portuguese coach and the Madrid board. Barcelona advance on Wembley where they will almost certainly play Manchester United.
Unless the Catalan collapse in La Liga, Real Madrid must content themselves with a continual polishing of the Copa del Rey. This is not why they hired Mourinho or signed Ronaldo for the sort of sums that would have provided substantial relief for a disaster-hit country.
It is not why Mourinho came to Madrid either. He has two Champions League titles: one with Porto, the other with Internazionale. His mission was to bring the first to Madrid since the triumph at Hampden in 2002.
The first leg in the Bernabeu made this a forlorn hope. The last remaining vestiges of optimism were washed away on a rainy night in the Camp Nou. Pedro’s goal put Barca three goals to the good. Marcelo’s equaliser spoke to a Madrid defiance but little else.
Mourinho did everything to apply pressure. His words before the game were calculated to inflame Barcelona. His selection decisions were designed to force Barcelona on to the back foot. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain all started the match. For a coach of Mourinho’s caution, this was the equivalent of the Portuguese putting a year’s salary on a single number on the roulette wheel.
The gamble, of course, failed. Ronaldo was intermittently threatening and unlucky to be penalised for a foul on Javier Mascherano in the second half in a move that could have led to the opening goal. But this was Barca’s night. Iker Casillas was forced to make excellent saves from Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro as Barcelona wove their pretty patterns and then inserted the needle into the Real Madrid defence.
It took them until the second half to score but it was a goal that was almost traditional in the Camp Nou. A laser-like pass from Andres Iniesta freed Pedro, who took one touch to push the ball into the area and then a second to clip it past the advancing Casillas. Madrid, to their credit, replied when Di Maria hit the post and then showed excellent composure to take the rebound and place it into the path of Marcelo, who smashed the ball home.
One could almost hear the roar of delight in a Barcelona hotel room. But Madrid could not inflict a debilitating anxiety on their hosts through a second goal. Pep Guardiola’s team almost strolled into the final. The Barcelona coach savoured the most satisfying of nights. Mourinho has disturbed the calm of the Catalan coach. He also outwitted his counterpart when Inter squeezed the very creativity out of Barca last year in the Champions League before going on to win the trophy.
It was a bad night for Mourinho. Departures from the semi-finals of the Champions League are always painful but his defeat to Barcelona -- and he will see it as personal loss -- will cause particular anguish.
His relationship with the club began in 1996 when he was appointed as a translator to Bobby Robson. The title of El Traductor, the translator, is now used to bait the Portuguese by the Barca fans. Their distaste for Mourinho is exacerbated by the coach’s verbal darts at their club but it is essentially concerned with his playing style. Mourinho preaches a vile heresy to the Barca religion of pass and move. He is a man who wins by playing on the faults of the opposition. His most revealing quote may be: “If you have a Ferrari and I have a small car, to beat you in a race I have to break your wheel or put sugar in your tank.”
This philosophy may have been understandable when he managed Porto. It has become less so as Mourinho has been at the wheel of the flashy machines of Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid.
His failure to win the Champions League cost him his job at Stamford Bridge when Roman Abramovich realised he was tolerating a super ego without the balm of the achieving the ultimate European success. His stay in Milan was routinely turbulent if ultimately successful with last season’s Champions League win.
However, the season in Madrid has been marked with spats with the press, rows with UEFA, this defeat to Barca and almost certainly a second prize in La Liga. Mourinho, with his emphasis on pragmatism, is all about winning. Losses make him vulnerable, even render him unnecessary and unwanted.
Somewhere in Barcelona last night a man in a hotel room might just have been on the phone to his agent.