José Mourinho raises stakes in his Real Madrid exit strategy
Portuguese threatens to stay at Real unless settlement is agreed
Jose Mourinho (left) and Rafael Benitez pictured together back in 2007. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
José Mourinho insisted that he is contemplating staying at Real Madrid but the message was delivered as a threat, not a promise. The Portuguese continues to prepare the ground for his departure from the club and is still likely return to Chelsea in the summer, regardless of where they finish in the Premier League, with Wednesday night’s game against Tottenham potentially being decisive for a top-four spot.
Mourinho also said he will not demand that his contract is paid up in full but will charge only for the days he has worked at Madrid “and not a euro more”. That still leaves the question of a penalty clause for unilaterally breaking the contract before its official end in 2016.
The Madrid manager knows that he will have to negotiate his exit from the Bernabéu at the end of the season and he took advantage of his appearance before the media ahead of the visit of Málaga on Wednesday night to strengthen his hand and issue a warning: if Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, does not agree a settlement that suits both parties he could yet torpedo the club’s plans by announcing that he is staying after all. Madrid intend to replace Mourinho with Carlo Ancelotti.
Mourinho’s contract includes a clause that lays down a penalty in the event of the contract being broken unilaterally by either party. Although the figure is not public, it is believed to be in the region of €20m (£16.9m). Should Mourinho walk away, the club signing him must pay Madrid that sum; should Madrid sack him, that fee would be due to Mourinho.
Pérez and Mourinho now know that the coach’s departure is virtually inevitable and indeed desirable but it is in their interests for it to be the other side that formally ends the relationship and publicly carries the blame.
A negotiated settlement in which manager and club waive any fee continues to be the most logical outcome but is not yet guaranteed. And it is in that context that Mourinho’s remarks make sense.
A return to Stamford Bridge looks certain, especially with Chelsea’s interim manager, Rafael Benítez, on Tuesday giving the strongest hint yet that it will be Mourinho who replaces him this summer. “You know that next year another manager will be here,” he said. “I think everybody knows who will be here. I have to concentrate on my job – it’s not my concern.”
Benítez, who is preparing his side for the crucial match against Tottenham, has always been expected to leave at the end of the campaign but the former Valencia, Liverpool and Internazionale manager will depart with his reputation intact if he secures a top-four finish for Chelsea and a Europa League title.
Following reports on Tuesday that John Terry, the club captain, is still in contact with Mourinho via text messages, Benítez insisted that he is concerned only about his players’ communication with him and is focused on ensuring André Villas-Boas’s return to Stamford Bridge ends in defeat.
“My concern is that they [the players] are in contact with me and that we talk every day,” the Spaniard said. “If I have to talk to players I don’t want to say it to the press. I just concentrate on my players and talk to them. I don’t need to use the phone to do that.”
On Wednesday night’s game, he said: “At this point it’s crucial. If we win then being in the top four is nearly guaranteed. In a season you have a lot of important games but at this stage this is the most important.”
Following Mourinho’s explosive press conference on Friday, in which he pointed the finger of blame at the media and at Iker Casillas, polls showed significant numbers of supporters believe he may be trying to provoke Madrid into sacking him.
Asked on Tuesday if he had considered resigning, Mourinho replied: “I have considered continuing.” He was then asked if he was trying to force his own sacking, to which he responded: “People believe what you lot write. I will work until my last day. And I will be paid up to the last day I work, not a euro more.”
He claimed that he did not feel isolated at the club, with a response that may have been aimed at Pérez, whom Mourinho had always insisted on calling not just his president but also his friend. “I feel normal,” he said. “In fact, I understand perfectly that the world is going in directions that I do not share and that football is no different. It’s normal for the world to be what it is: hypocritical.”
Mourinho also responded to Pepe, who had accused his coach of showing a lack of respect to Casillas, the captain, last Friday, describing the 50-year-old’s words as “inappropriate”.
Mourinho called the defender “frustrated” and noted sharply: “Pepe’s problem is easy to analyse: it’s called Varane. It’s hard to be a 31-year-old and be steamrollered by a 19-year-old kid [Raphaël Varane] but that’s the law of life.”