MADRID – Appearing angry and irritable, Jose Mourinho claimed all was well at Real Madrid on Tuesday despite reported divisions within his squad following the loss last week to Barcelona causing speculation to mount about his future.
Mourinho has come under criticism from his usually staunch allies — Madrid fans and the local media — for his tactics against Barcelona in the 2-1 home loss in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals last Wednesday.
During a tense news conference on Tuesday, the Portuguese coach was quick to dismiss all questions regarding his future and the mood among the players inside the changing room, answering “I don’t know” on each occasion.
Mourinho was similarly dismissive when asked if this is his most difficult period since joining Madrid in 2010 after having guided Inter Milan to the Champions League title.
“It’s a very nice moment,” countered Mourinho, whose team leads the league by five points from Barcelona.
Mourinho was hired by president Florentino Perez to not only win trophies but ensure Madrid beats Barcelona. Last season’s victory in the Copa del Rey final, however, is his lone win in nine games against the club where he once worked as an assistant coach.
“When I first arrived, this club’s (cup) tradition was elimination at the hands of smaller teams, and last year we won the Copa,” Mourinho said in one of his few lengthy answers. “When we got to Real Madrid we weren’t even a top seed (in the Champions League), and now we’ve managed a record number of victories in the first half of the season and we’re leading the championship.
“We’re not doing too bad.”
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported details Tuesday of discussions between Mourinho and his players after the 2-0 loss to Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals in which he reportedly said the series was over ahead of the return leg.
That follows sports daily Marca revealing a critical exchange between Mourinho and defender Sergio Ramos after last week’s loss to Barcelona.
“I’ve never lacked respect for a coach at any point of my career,” Ramos wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday. “With that, I deny these things said of me, that I never said. The coach and I are fighting for the same interests.”
Although stating that Pepe was available for Wednesday’s second leg if he escapes a ban for stomping on Lionel Messi, Mourinho was less forthcoming about whether he is ready to abandon his defensive game plan.
“I don’t have to reveal how we are going to play the game at the Camp Nou,” Mourinho said, adding: “Tomorrow’s game will not have an impact on my time at Real Madrid.”