In a press conference ahead of Real Madrid’s match against Málaga on Wednesday night – with just over a week until the King’s Cup final against Atlético – José Mourinho defended his decision to bench club captain Iker Casillas, poked fun at Real defender Pepe, took a swipe at Barcelona and fueled speculation that he will leave the Bernabéu this summer.
“Casillas could come in here and say: ‘I prefer a coach like [Vicente] Del Bosque or [Manuel] Pellegrini, a coach who is easier to handle than whoever… What I say is legitimate! As coach I have the right to say: I prefer Diego López! And while I am coach of Real Madrid, Diego López will play. So that you understand me: I am a soccer coach. That is what I was hired for. I decide who plays. I don’t do it by flipping a coin. I do it by thinking, analyzing, discussing and studying my ideas for many hours. I prefer Diego López as a goalkeeper to Iker Casillas. It’s simple! I have no personal problem nor do I make decisions to harm anyone. I like him better! I like a keeper who plays well with the ball at his feet, who comes out well for crosses, who dominates the air… Iker is a great keeper between the posts; he makes fantastic saves. But I prefer a keeper with a different profile.”
When Mourinho first dropped Casillas, he insinuated that the Spain captain has become too comfortable, that he felt his position was his by decree and that he was a bad influence in the locker room. On Tuesday, for the first time, the Real coach added criticism of the World Cup-winner’s technical capabilities.
I don’t want a single euro beyond the day I come into work”
There is a growing sense that Mourinho is attempting to get himself released from his contract, as reflected in a fans’ poll in sports daily AS. It has been customary for Mourinho to send out assistant coach Aitor Karanka to bat away questions this season but in Tuesday’s appearance the mercurial Portuguese did not disappoint. When asked during the conference whether he had thought of quitting after the team’s recent Champions League semifinal loss, he answered with a smile: “I thought about carrying on.”
Mourinho added that should he leave in the summer, he will not seek compensation on a contract that runs until 2016. “The fans believe what you sell them,” he said. “So that there is no doubt, I don’t want a single euro beyond the day I come into work.”
Pepe, the Portuguese defender who is third captain at the club, also came under his compatriot’s microscope for suggesting that Mourinho had failed to show Casillas sufficient respect: “Pepe’s problem has a name, and that name is Raphaël Varane. You don’t have to be very bright to see we are talking about frustration here. It is not easy for a 31-year-old to be run over by a kid of 19 like Varane. But it is the law of life. The kid is amazing! And who had the courage to play him? Me. It’s very simple. Pepe’s life has changed. He has gone from being a first-choice starter to not being one.”
Responding to Barcelona midfielder Andrés Iniesta’s defense of international teammate Casillas, Mourinho noted drily: “He should worry about his club and why they play so differently without Messi to be able to do what they did in the Champions League [losing 7-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich.]”