Real Madrid's 10th European Cup will have to wait and so will José Mourinho's third. Next season they will continue their quest for the trophy but they will almost certainly do so apart. Real Madrid reached a third successive semifinal under the Portuguese coach but they could not reach the club's 13th final. Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Borussia Dortmund have halted them at the gates. And afterwards Mourinho gave the clearest indication yet that he will leave in the summer.
The very fact that he did so was significant. For many in Spain, this was neither the time nor the place; for those who criticise him, and their numbers and intensity grow, this was another reflection of his ego. Just like the fact that he talks of a third European Cup and not a 10th; about "me", not about "we". For Mourinho, their response may be explained as another indication that their treatment of him has been unjust. "Here some people hate me," he said, "and many of you are in this room."
He was right, of course. Some of them do hate him. At times, the campaign against him has been vicious and some of the criticism absurd. But much of the opprobrium has been earned. The "hypocrisy" he decries – and his definition of hypocrisy is a loose one – has on occasion served mostly to highlight the hypocritical nature of much of his own words and deeds, projecting on to others the very traits he exhibits himself. Meanwhile, it is not true that they were out to get him from the start: no coach was greeted as the galáctico like Mourinho. He was welcomed when he arrived. When he leaves, though, many will bid him good riddance.
Mourinho had rather bitterly insisted before the game that, in the eyes of some, success would be the team's but failure would always be his. Yet his discourse is usually the opposite, hung on a simple premise: I win. When he does not, the void must be filled by something else, the blame carried by someone else, from referees to conspiracies, from bad luck to his players. The latter has at times caused tension within the Madrid dressing room, not least because some have felt that the blame is not evenly or justly distributed among the squad.
The beginning of a division has opened up between fans. Some define themselves almost more as Mourinhista than Madridista, but they argue that that is because they can see, as others can't, that he is what the club need. That some of the supposed central tenets of Madridismo are nothing of the sort and he best represents the true values of the club: intense competitiveness, the relentless drive to win, a rejection of the media and what they insist are the hidden interests that lie within.
The question for those who identify wholly with their manager is of course: After Mou, what? And for a coach who was once at Barcelona and will leave at the end of the season, a professional with a career path that would inevitably take him elsewhere, to hand down lessons in Madridismo was striking.
His fraught relationship with Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas, the latter the club's captain, saw them rejected by some supporters and championed by others, deepening divisions. Each side chose its symbols, apparently irreconcilable ones, even though they're supposed to be on the same side.
Mourinho invented the term "pseudo-Madridistas" to dismiss those that claim to have the best interests of the club at heart but who do not: in practice, a pseudo-Madridista is simply someone who does not agree with him. Even if he has played for the club or supported it from birth. Vicente Del Bosque, for instance.
On Tuesday night, Mourinho's opponents saw his priorities come to the surface. He talked about his achievement in Madrid reaching three semifinals in three years, when they had previously lost their status as a seed and failed to progress to the quarters five years in a row.
But, Mourinho admitted: "Almost is not enough for me or for Madrid." This is the most expensive squad in history and some expect more. Asked about his future he initially responded: "It is not important. Madrid is important", but soon he was drawn on it. The agenda became about him.
EL País, one of the papers most critical of the coach, wrote: "Whether Mourinho understands it or not, the fans are disappointed because semi-finals are not enough. That's why it is a special club. No one is more special than Madrid. A tenth will always be more important than a third."
AS's cover was stark, the juxtaposition deliberate, confrontation in the design. It showed Casillas and Ramos embracing, tears in the defender's eyes. Symbols of Madridismo at odds with Mourinho, hurt by the club's elimination. Underneath was a small picture of the coach and the headline: "Mourinho and his navel."
"Mou, why?" asked the paper's most volatile columnist, Tomás Roncero, always projected as the voice of the Madrid fan, even as he is rejected by others. "I saw Ramos crying, hugging Casillas and that's when I understood that Madrid is eternal. That's why it hurt me that Mourinho, on the night when we suffered a terrible dagger in the heart, announced that he might go. Then why did he renew his contract until 2016? He complains about a lack of love. In three years he has never understood the greatness of this club."
Mourinho would surely argue that many of them never understood him. "I want to be somewhere where I am loved unreservedly," he said. – © Guardian News & Media 2013