Certain figures at Real Madrid rather like the idea of Jose Mourinho returning
By Joe Harker
Player power in football is reaching new heights as clubs fork over more money for the biggest stars in the game. Players know how valuable they are and how dangerous the suggestion of moving to another club could be if they don't get their way.
As the authority of the players increases it chips away at the manager's influence. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Real Madrid, who are perhaps the team with the most player power in their squad. They loved former manager Zinedine Zidane, who used to be one of them and turned out to be an expert at massaging the egos in the squad. They didn't love his successor Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked earlier in the season with problems mounting.
Since then Santiago Solari has been in charge of the team, the interim signing a permanent contract due to La Liga rules on the length of time a club can go without having a permanent manager. While there was an initial upturn in performances and results things have fallen once again and look no better than when Lopetegui was in charge.
The club are fifth in La Liga and played in front of 30,000 empty seats at the Santiago Bernabeu during their recent defeat to Real Sociedad. The squad is plagued by injuries and poor form, particularly from the clubs older and more decorated players whose abilities appear to be on the decline. They don't want to spend too much money on players as they are planning to build a new stadium but it seems increasingly clear that the team needs an overhaul, and the right man to do it.
Step forward Jose Mourinho, the man who recently got fired by Manchester United after turgid football, sniping comments over unmet transfer targets and a generally poisonous atmosphere all stemming from the manager. Having managed at Real Madrid before, club president Florentino Perez believes the manager is the perfect candidate to sort out the club, turf out some of the underperforming stars and whip the rest into shape.
The manager has reportedly turned down the chance to return to Portugal and manage Benfica. Mourinho's first job in management was with Benfica but he wants to manage a bigger team in a more prestigious league.
When he was Real Madrid manager between 2010 and 2013 Mourinho identified that legendary goalkeeper and club captain Iker Casillas was declining in ability. Practically no other manager in football would have been able to drop Casillas and get away with it but Mourinho could because his reputation was just that big. He was the man with the trophy cabinet large enough to make big calls on players thought to be untouchable.
That is the sort of manager Perez wants to bring in to deal with players like Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, players who vetoed the appointment of Antonio Conte and claimed he wouldn't be able to manage the dressing room.
Real Madrid do have a problem in this area. Their players are so powerful that their influence over the club is becoming restrictive, if some of them are no longer at the top of their game then there are multiple reasons to move several squad members on. Until recently many of them were thought of as the best in the world in their positions but this season they have looked far from it.
Perez believes Mourinho is the man to rip things up and rebuild without the biggest influences but he should be careful to remember that after leaving Madrid, Mourinho has crashed and burned in his third seasons at Chelsea and United and everyone was happy to see the back of him. There's a job that needs doing at the Bernabeu but Mourinho is arguably not the man to do it.