MADRID, Spain, August 15 – What next for Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho? Last season he became the first coach to win Spanish, Italian and English titles leading him to suggest a change to the nickname given to him in Britain — “the special one”.
“They should call me ‘the only one’ after winning those titles,” he said in an interview on Portuguese television.
After breaking Barca’s run of three La Liga victories and seeing Pep Guardiola into retirement, conquering the Champions League is the main objective for Madrid in the coming season.
For a club with an almost unhealthy obsession for European football’s premier trophy, anything short of a 10th title will be considered failure, Mourinho admitted while addressing US coaches on the clubs recent tour.
“This season we’ll look for the Champions League and the League. We aspire to win the title and go a step further in the Champions, where we have fallen in two consecutive years in the semis,” he said.
“Los Blancos” set Spanish records with 100 points and 121 goals last season, beating Barca to the title by nine points.
But although Mourinho sees both his squad and Barca’s as the best in the world he believes La Liga will be more of a challenge this coming season.
“The league is a very strong, beautiful league, because the teams are very technical and that’s the reason I’m in Spain. I want to be where the best league is but I don’t think the champion will reach 100 points or score 120 goals,” he said.
“These are numbers to stay in history for a long time.”
Madrid, who play Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, will begin the season with almost the same squad that ended Barcelona’s run last term.
Those title celebrations were marginally overshadowed by news that Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain could be leaving for Paris Saint-Germain after six seasons in the Spanish capital.
Mourinho however convinced the striker, who contributed 26 goals last season, that he still has a part to play and once again he will compete with French international Karim Benzema for a place alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in the side.
No club in Europe can afford to leave goalscoring talent like Higuain or Benzema on the bench and Mourinho cleverly got the best from both players last season.
Add Ronaldo to the mix, who scored 60 goals in all competitions last term, and it is easy to see how Real can compete on all fronts.
To back that up that fire power midfielder Jose Callejon has been Mourinho’s top scorer in pre-season with five goals while Angel Di Maria added four.
In addition Alvaro Morata, a free scoring 20-year-old forward with two first team appearances, has been added to the squad.
With Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa and Di Maria all signing contract extensions Mourinho is achieving a stability at the club that has been rare to find in recent years.
Xabi Alonso is still performing at a high standard and with a defence built on the backbone of Sergio Ramos and Pepe it will interesting to see if Madrid’s strength will be too much for a Barca side coached for the first time by Tito Vilanova.
Mourinho’s only efforts to strengthen his squad appear to be the protracted attempts to sign Luka Modric from Tottenham to add to a midfield that could be without Nuri Sahin and the Brazilian Kaka as the club tries to balance the books.
Whatever happens before the end of August, “the special” or “the only one” has made it clear that standards have been set very high for the season ahead.