Toothless, inconsistent and down and out of the La Liga title race. Jose Mourinho’s decision to leave Iker Casillas out of Real Madrid’s 3-2 loss against Malaga was a message, a statement in a political war inside the Bernabeu. But if there were question marks remaining as to whether Mourinho would be at the club beyond this season, surely this is the final nail in the coffin.
It shouldn’t have made a difference even if Real Madrid won; the story will rumble on throughout the winter break that Mourinho made a colossal decision that could now be the deciding factor as to whether he even returns come January.
The blame lies with Mourinho for making such a call, unlike in the past where the manager has looked to shift the responsibility from himself and onto his players. Yes, the manager should be given license to choose who he starts, but the decision to bench Casillas was nothing to do with football reasons, it was purely another act in the power struggle at the club.
The squad is not united and they don’t look like they want to play for each other. The aim is Champions League glory and rounding out the 10 European Cups, but the team does not look like they can put together an assured and consistent run of form, let alone one that warrants a place in the Champions League final come May.
It’s difficult to say whether Real Madrid would have beaten Malaga had Casillas started the game—the team are missing something and have missed that vital ingredient throughout the season. But whatever that extra something is, Casillas is not necessarily the holder of that winning attitude, or at least not the only leader in the squad.
Maybe at least one goal could have been avoided had Mourinho not opted to start the hugely inferior Antonio Adan. Roque Santa Cruz’s second goal for Malaga may have been saved by a better goalkeeper, but that’s ifs and buts. It still doesn’t mask the fact that once again Mourinho targeted one of the senior Spanish players in the team, however unlike the first time with Sergio Ramos against Manchester City, this move did not pay off.
It was poor a Real Madrid performance by their standards: even Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t look a player who could turn the game around by himself. Kaka was thrown in, Angel Di Maria was poor, Mesut Ozil was almost nonexistent, and Jose Callejon is not good enough.
The league is gone for Madrid; there is simply no way they can come back from a 16-point deficit and peg back a Barcelona team who are yet to taste defeat in the league.
But unless there is a legitimate and until now unknown reason for dropping the club captain, Mourinho will be seen as doing little other than creating further conflict at a club who look more and more in danger as the weeks go by.