FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Magical Lionel Messi and morose Jose Mourinho

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Lionel Messi got his season off to a goal-scoring start with a brace against Alaves. (AFP)
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Lionel Messi got his season off to a goal-scoring start with a brace against Alaves. (AFP)
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Lionel Messi got his season off to a goal-scoring start with a brace against Alaves. (AFP)
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Lionel Messi got his season off to a goal-scoring start with a brace against Alaves. (AFP)
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Updated 21 August 2018
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FOUR THINGS WE LEARNED: Magical Lionel Messi and morose Jose Mourinho

LONDON: After an action-packed weekend of football across Europe, here is what we learned from the top divisions of the football-mad continent.

REDS AND CITY LOOK A CLASS APART

Both Manchester City and Liverpool have two wins from two and both have barely broken sweat. Before the season kicked off it was predicted that this pair would battle it out for the title and so far neither has done anything for anyone to question that. City were simply devastating in their 6-1 demolition of Huddersfield — a victory so clinical and simplistic in its execution that it seems safe to say that Pep Guardiola’s team have got better over the summer. Benjamin Mendy back and fit is as good as a new signing, and a look at their subs bench — Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane — is enough to make anyone wince. It is much the same story for Liverpool. The Reds barely got out of third gear in their 2-0 win at Crystal Palace, a place where good sides will go and leave with nothing this season. It was an ominous result and one that bodes well for Jurgen Klopp’s men.



SERIE A IS NOT LA LIGA

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus debut was not what the Portuguese star would have wished for. The Old Lady may have won, but that fact it was a very tight game — the Bianconeri were forced to come from behind before a last-minute winner gifted them a tense 3-2 win against Chievo — and he did not score would have doubtless left Ronaldo less than ecstatic. The match was perhaps a little taster of what the 33-year-old can expect. Serie A has far more tighter matches than in Spain and defenses are harder to breach. Clearly Ronaldo has the talent to shine in Italy, and in Juve he is at the best club. But if he is expecting to find it as easy as he made it look for Real Madrid he had better think again.



NEW SEASON, SAME MESSI

There is very much a changing of the guard feel to Barcelona this campaign. Andres Iniesta has gone and the side has a different feel to it than the ones that have dominated the domestic scene of the past 10 years. But newly installed as captain Lionel Messi did more than enough to suggest that he will pick up any slack left by club legend Iniesta. Harshly criticized at the World Cup, the Argentine ace got back to doing what he does best: Scoring goals. Messi got a brace in Barca’s 3-0 win over Alaves and in doing so netted the Catalan giants’ 6,000 top-flight goal — he also got their 5,000th eight years ago.



MOURINHO NEEDS TO LIVEN UP

If you have spent your entire managerial career squeezing the life out of football, is it any surprise when football then squeezes the life out of you? Ever since he arrived at Old Trafford the Portuguese boss has looked miserable. He always sees himself as the victim, a mentality that is as telling as it is perverse. Just two games into the season and United are a club in crisis and a lot of that has to do with Mourinho’s mentality. While he did not get the central defender he craved in the summer, he would do well to remember that he signed the two center-backs that played in the 3-2 defeat at Brighton. More moaning and being morose will neither help him nor United. It is time for Jose to smile.

 


Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

Updated 18 December 2018
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Jose Mourinho’s sacking leaves the ‘Special One’ at a career crossroads

  • Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad
  • A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides

LONDON: Five years after being snubbed for the Manchester United job immediately after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho has once again been unceremoniously rejected by the club after two-and-a-half fractious and tumultuous years at the helm.
And the truth is, it was an inevitable divorce.
Since the middle of last season, Mourinho had been involved in a power struggle with senior members of the playing squad, openly criticized board members for a lack of backing in the transfer window and the majority of fans had started to turn on the so-called “Special One” and his tactics.
And while they would never do so publicly, no doubt several of the players who had fallen foul of Mourinho’s wrath were privately breathing a sigh of relief when the club announced that Mourinho had left the club with “immediate effect” on Tuesday.
Indeed, the player Mourinho clashed with the most — £89 million ($112 million) midfielder Paul Pogba — deleted a controversial social media post of himself smiling after the news broke.
That controversy was a microcosm of the French World Cup winner’s stormy relationship with Mourinho.
But the former Juventus player, who retuned to Manchester United having already been with the club during the Ferguson era, was repeatedly criticized by Mourinho during his reign and Pogba was stripped of the United vice-captaincy earlier this season.
The pair were captured having a frosty exchange on the training ground as Mourinho grew angry with his key midfielder’s lethargic performances, dropping him on several occasions to spark talk he would be sold by the end of the season.
And even on the pitch, the writing has been on the wall for a while.
A string of uninspiring performances since the season started saw Mourinho come in for criticism from all sides, as the Portuguese became more and more embittered and paranoid in his dealings with the media.
The final straw for the club was Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, who United usurped as the biggest club in England under Ferguson’s 27-year reign. And the Scot was seen shaking his head as he watched his dynasty unravel in front of his eyes at the hands of United’s bitterest of rivals.
While the Merseyside club battle it out for the Premier League title with Manchester City and Tottenham — all playing a refreshing, exciting brand of football — United find themselves 19 points adrift of the summit and struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Mourinho’s stagnant, defensive approach jarred with supporters, some of whom have only known the rampant attack-minded approach the club used to such devastating efficacy under Ferguson.
Mourinho was brought in to bring back those glory days after David Moyes and then Dutchman Louis van Gaal struggled to step out of Ferguson’s shadow.
And despite first-season League Cup and Europa League titles, he has failed miserably since. And he has bought himself little good grace with fans and officials, finding new excuses and ways to blame each latest defeat on his players, while ungraciously reminding critics of previous successes at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
But this ignominious end for Mourinho in what he called his “dream job” leaves him at a crossroads in his career. Few clubs will have been inspired by his playing style with a highly-talented team, even fewer will want to deal with the off-field tantrums and constant bickering.
Having arrived in English football as a breath of fresh air, he leaves it (for now) like a foul odor. With the prospect of no club to manage, no trophies to win and no teams to build, Mourinho is now much less the “Special One,” and more and more likely to be the “Tainted One.”