Jose Mourinho is dismantling a half- century-old hierarchy at Real Madrid without saying how long he’ll stay at soccer’s biggest club by sales.
The 48-year-old coach reports directly to President Florentino Perez and rules on everything from player trades to the squad’s Adidas AG (ADS) apparel, said three people with knowledge of the situation. Traditionally, the coach of Real, which hosts Tottenham tonight in a Champions League quarterfinal match, reports to a sports executive.
Former Real President Ramon Calderon says it’s risky to give so much power to Mourinho because the coach isn’t concerned with long-term planning like the development of younger players. The best-paid manager in soccer hasn’t completed more than three seasons at any of his last five clubs.
“Mourinho is asking for all the power,” Calderon said. “The problem is Mourinho has a shelf life.”
Perez, who fired seven coaches in seven years, is banking on Mourinho’s expertise to help land the record nine-time European champion’s first Champions League title since 2002. It’s had more success boosting sales by signing marquee players like David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo than by winning titles. Mourinho won the elite continental competition with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan last year. A Mourinho-led team hadn’t lost a home league match in nine years until last weekend, when Sporting Gijon won 1-0 in Madrid.
Ronaldo, who injured a hamstring in a March 19 game with Atletico Madrid, was named in the squad for tonight’s match.
Since joining Real, Mourinho has made it known he doesn’t want directors to interfere with his work. He objected to General Director Jorge Valdano speaking to players in the locker room, the former World Cup winner told Cadena Ser radio station on March 31. Valdano, who has held roles at Real Madrid dating back to 1994, said he has willingly consented because he wants Mourinho to be comfortable.
Mourinho pushed to acquire Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor on loan in January against the wishes of Valdano, according to Calderon. He has reduced the number of press conferences for his players to keep them out of the spotlight and prohibited the media from filming training sessions, said two of the people, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
Mourinho has acquired power similar to Alex Ferguson, who has coached Manchester United since 1986, according to Eugene Martinez Bravo, a former candidate for Real’s presidency who leads a group of 1,000 members.
“We now have an English-style manager” for the first time, Martinez Bravo said. “If Mourinho stays a long time, it will work, but I’m worried that if he leaves, Real Madrid will have to start all over again.”
Perez, Real’s president, said Feb. 22 that Mourinho was “within his rights” to ask for more autonomy. “The world of soccer is more complicated” than running a business, said Perez, chief executive officer of Spanish construction company Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA.
Mourinho earns a salary of 10 million euros ($14.2 million) at Real, according to El Pais newspaper. Alfredo Saenz, the CEO of Banco Santander SA, received 10.24 million euros in fixed and variable pay in 2009, Spain’s biggest bank said on its website in April last year.
Mourinho said last month he couldn’t comment on how Real Madrid, which had sales of $620 million in fiscal 2010, functioned before he arrived. At an April 1 news conference, he rejected Calderon’s complaint that he isn’t making long-term plans for the team.
“This is surely one of the youngest teams in Europe,” Mourinho said, citing the team’s 32-year-old defender Ricardo Carvalho as the only player in the last phase of his career. “All the others are pretty much young men. This is a team of the future.”
While Mourinho holds sway in Madrid, he isn’t likely to spend time on nurturing less experienced players like Sergio Canales, 20, and Pedro Leon, 24, according to Calderon. They started one league game between them this season.
Real Madrid’s bet on Mourinho may be working. The team beat Lyon 3-0 March 17 to reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in seven years. Real fans chanted Mourinho’s name twice during the match. He told reporters he will stay at Real as long as he and club executives are content.
“If one day the directors and I aren’t happy,” Mourinho said, he will consider leaving. “I’m not one to be an obstacle, I want to be a solution.”
He left Porto after two years in charge, having led it to the UEFA Cup and Champions League. He quit Chelsea just over three years later after leading the London-based team to two Premier League titles and then spent two seasons at Inter Milan, also winning the league twice.
Mourinho, who told France Football magazine last year his “natural habitat” is English soccer, has said several times since that he intends to return there.
At Real, his influence extends to apparel. When last year he said players needed neck-warmers, team supplier Adidas, which didn’t have an appropriate range, made a batch for them and plans to put a branded team version on sale later in 2011, one of the people said. On March 5, soccer regulators banned the use of the items in games.
“A club like Real Madrid with its history and budget can’t be in the hands of just one person,” Calderon said. “Logic says Mourinho is not going to stay more than three years.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Duff in Madrid at firstname.lastname@example.org.