Mourinho talks up Real stay
Jose Mourinho has suggested he intends to stay on as Real Madrid manager, and that frustration at losing his place to Raphael Varane lead to Blancos defender Pepe's critical outburst last weekend.
The week since Madrid's Champions League semi-final exit to Borussia Dortmund on April 30 has been filled with speculation about Mourinho's future, with many sensing a return to former club Chelsea is on the cards, as former dressing-room allies including Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo take sides against their boss.
This has led to reports of a high-stakes games of bluff between the Portuguese coach and Madrid president Florentino Perez - with Mourinho hoping to be fired and get a big pay-off, and Perez demanding €10 million plus from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to agree to release his coach.
Tuesday's post-training press conference did little to put a stop to such rumours.
"I have decided to continue," Mourinho said, without elaborating further. "I want to be paid by Real Madrid right until the day that I stop, not one day further. I understand that the world of football, just like the modern society in general, can be a hypocritical place. Those are not my principles. I feel fine, normal, relaxed at the moment."
Reporters at Madrid's Valdebebas training facility spent more time exploring Mourinho's reaction to Pepe's claim after Saturday's 4-3 home win over Real Valladolid that club captain Iker Casillas had been mistreated by the Portuguese coach. They were told the Portuguese defender had spoken out of frustration at losing his place.
"It is very easy to analyse what he says," Mourinho said. "His problem has a name - Raphael Varane. He was talking from frustration. It is not easy for a man of 29 years to be blown away by a kid of 19. But the kid is fantastic. And who had the courage to put in the kid? Me. So the problem is very simple. Pepe was an undisputed first-choice, he is not any longer. It is one of the few decisions of mine, that has not been discussed in public. I have no problem with [Pepe]. I understand it is not an easy situation for him. There must be very few people who think that Varane and Sergio Ramos are not the future of Real Madrid."
One of Mourinho's selections which has been - often - discussed in Spain is the benching of long-serving first choice goalkeeper Casillas in favour of Diego Lopez, with many pundits suggesting the decision had been taken on personal, not sporting, grounds. Mourinho said his choice of keeper was purely down to what would help the team best.
"The coach decides who plays," he said. "I do not flip a coin to see if Marcelo or Fabio [Coentrao] plays, or if [Luka] Modric or Xabi Alonso plays. I think about it, discuss it, study things for many hours and try to make the best decision. For me, I like Diego Lopez more as a keeper than Iker Casillas. It is not a personal decision. I like a keeper who plays well with his feet, who dominates his area and comes for crosses. Iker makes great saves between the posts, but I prefer a different type of keeper. As long as I am Real Madrid coach, Diego Lopez will always play."
There was just about time, towards the end of the press conference, for Mourinho to discuss Wednesday night's La Liga game at home to Malaga, in which Madrid are defending their unbeaten home record this season and looking to ensure second place in the final Primera Division table.
He confirmed Lopez would start, and his back four would be Nacho, Raul Albiol, Varane and Coentrao, while saying they would need to be sharp against Manuel Pellegrini's tactically clever side.
"We want to finish second," he said. "I keep saying that second is not enough, but it is the only target we can have. Malaga are a very good team, good defensively, and especially good on the counter-attack. If we do not play seriously, at our best, we can lose the match. And it would be a pity to lose a match at home when we are unbeaten all season with just two games left. We have to find motivation in these issues, as we cannot be champions."