Five weeks have passed since Jose Mourinho’s acrimonious departure from Real Madrid. In that time, Florentino Pérez has appointed Carlo Ancelotti as head coach, promoted Zinedine Zidane to being the Italian’s assistant and looked to conclude deals for Spanish under-21 stars such as Isco, Dani Carvajal and Asier Illarramendi.
Despite this, some will undoubtedly suggest that this has nothing to do at all with Mourinho leaving, and that each deal was a natural and obvious choice.
For example, it could be argued that Ancelotti deserved the chance to manage a club with the pedigree of Real Madrid based solely on his ability to bring silverware to the teams he manages. His successes in the Champions League with AC Milan made him a particular favourite of Perez, who covets Europe’s premier competition above all else.
Similarly, Zidane’s illustrious career as a player for Real Madrid should allow him to command immediate respect in a dressing room well known for its petulance. Also, it must be noted that Perez has previously attempted to integrate Zidane into the sporting aspects of the club, only for Mourinho to demand to be in sole charge of Madrid from top to bottom.
Finally, with Zidane also able to converse in both Spanish and Italian – Ancelotti’s native tongue – it would seem he would automatically be considered the natural appointment as assistant.
Then there is the players Madrid have recruited – and look likely to recruit – in Ancelotti’s short tenure at the club. Again, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate Isco as a very special talent. Also, with Alvaro Arbeloa looking increasingly fragile at right back and with Real Madrid possessing the option to buy back Dani Carvajal – a 21 year old who has recently been voted as the best right-back in Germany – for as little as €6.5 million, many will feel that Perez has simply made the obvious choice.
The imminent arrival of Illarramendi from Real Sociedad can also be explained purely in footballing reasons. With Xabi Alonso now 31 years old, Florentino Perez has made it his priority to bring in a ready made replacement, determined not to lose such a vital cog in Madrid’s system.
It is little wonder then, that Perez’s attention has been turned to Illarramendi, who has enjoyed a stellar campaign with both club and country, hailed by many as the ‘next Xabi Alonso’.
However, to consider each move made by Perez since Mourinho’s departure as that simplistic would be foolish.
For a start, although Ancelotti has a world-class CV, it is perhaps the style of his management that convinced Perez he is the right man for the job. Unlike the confrontational Mourinho, Ancelotti is happy for his players to do the talking on the pitch, whilst always looking to maintain an air of integrity and professionalism for both himself and his employers.
Also, whilst Mourinho wants to be in charge of all sporting matters, Carletto is happy to just coach his team, leaving his employers to pick who is bought and sold. In fact, in the way they like to manage their teams, Ancelotti and Mourinho are about as distant from one another as you could imagine – except for their guarantee of trophies.
Zinedine Zidane’s arrival also represents a shift away from Real Madrid’s approach with Mourinho in charge. For example, whilst he seems a natural choice for the job, the thought of someone of Zidane’s stature being so heavily involved would have been unthinkable during Mourinho’s tenure.
The possibility of Zidane eventually securing his place as head coach must now be very high, which would have almost certainly been viewed as a direct threat from the president himself by Mourinho.
However, it is the Bernabeu club’s signings that perhaps paint the clearest picture of Perez’s intention to embrace a totally new philosophy. For whilst they have still been linked with a number of ‘galactico’ signings – such as Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale – their recruitment until this point has centred around young, primarily Spanish, talent.
Isco, Dani Carvajal and Asier Illarramendi were all members of the Spanish team that claimed the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship. Whilst each deserve their chance to represent Real Madrid, it is unlikely that all three would have been signed if Mourinho was still in charge.
For a start, it is now well-known that Mourinho often endured a difficult relationship with the Spanish contingent during his time as manager of Madrid. Theoretically then, the last thing he would want is for Perez to enlarge the squad with more Spanish players – particularly ones who have grown up idolising Madrid icons (and Mourinho dissenters) such as Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos.
In fact, with Carvajal’s arrival, Real Madrid have effectively replaced the only Spaniard who was viewed as ‘pro’ Mourinho, in Alvaro Arbeloa.
In Carvajal, Illarramendi, Isco, Jesé Rodríguez and Alvaro Morata, Madrid have now secured the possible future ‘core’ of the national team of Spain. This is a clear signal of intent by Perez to improve the Madrid ‘brand’ as well as pleasing Madridistas, as opposed to his (and Mourinho’s) usual short-term approach.
Whilst Mourinho’s tenure cannot be seen as a resounding failure, it is obvious that Perez has opted to distance ‘his’ new-look Real Madrid team as far as possible from the one who represented the Portuguese. There is no telling how this experiment might turn out, but the possibility of a harmonious dressing room and the arrivals of Spanish stars for both now and the future will surely excite Madrid fans around the world.