Without his favourite playmate and wrestle-buddy Pep Guardiola, JosÃÂ© Mourinho has cut a bit of a gloomy figure this season. OK, even gloomier than usual.
Bickering with the press no longer gives the Portuguese the same spacedust-in-the-mouth buzz, UEFA donÃ¢ÂÂt answer back to his name-calling and an ongoing sulky feud with Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos is always going to be a bruising battle the Madrid manager will lose with the fans.
Happily, Mourinho has found a new arch-nemesis to spar with Ã¢ÂÂ and to find him, he only had to stick his neck out of his training ground office door. Alberto Toril Ã¢ÂÂ the fearsome figure of the manager of MadridÃ¢ÂÂs second side, Castilla Ã¢ÂÂ is a bit of a rising star at the club's Valdebebas training complex: he recently guided Castilla out of Spanish football's third tier, the realm of small clubs' second strings, and into the second alongside clubs the size of Sporting Gijon, Villarreal and Racing Santander.
However, tension has been developing between the two managers over MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs continuing habit of overlooking the youth team for options Ã¢ÂÂ most recently evident in the selection of Michael Essien at left-back during an injury crisis which cost Madrid the services of Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao and Alvaro Arbeloa.
There had been talk of elevating a Castilla centre-back called Nacho who can also play full-back, but Mourinho clearly disagreed with the concept in matches against Celta Vigo and Borussia Dortmund, sniffing that it is impossible to play two roles when developing as a player. Toril responded by claiming that Nacho is perfectly fine in both spots.
Mou considers deploying the "left back on the training ground" joke
This simmering cauldron sort of spurted in TuesdayÃ¢ÂÂs press conference ahead of the Copa Del Rey match against Alcoyano, with Mourinho unceremoniously predicting that most of the current Castilla side wonÃ¢ÂÂt brave the bright lights at the Bernabeu, unless they come back playing for Getafe: Ã¢ÂÂIf a footballer who is 23, 24 or 25 has not reached a high enough level to be in MadridÃ¢ÂÂs first team, heÃ¢ÂÂs not going to get there at 26, 27 or 28.Ã¢ÂÂ
The topic covers a common and heated theme in Madrid on why more youth team players donÃ¢ÂÂt make it to the first team and are forced to leave the club. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a topic too titanic to cover here, but Mourinho partly blames Toril's tactics. Ã¢ÂÂThere are footballers with Castilla who play in positions that donÃ¢ÂÂt exist in the first team. We have no Ã¢ÂÂnine-and-a-half' where JesÃÂ© plays. We have the seven, the eight, the nine, the 10 and the 11.Ã¢ÂÂ
For good measure, Mourinho then went on to list a long line of failures in the recent history of MadridÃ¢ÂÂs youth system by reeling off players such as Francisco PavÃÂ³n and RaÃÂºl Bravo. Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂve not broken a fixed dynamic,Ã¢ÂÂ he said, not unreasonably.
This story has now become the main event ahead of WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs cup game, with MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs front cover yelling about Ã¢ÂÂdynamite against the canteraÃ¢ÂÂ and AS fretting over Ã¢ÂÂMou-Toril, an asymmetric war,Ã¢ÂÂ with the paperÃ¢ÂÂs editor writing of Ã¢ÂÂMourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs obscene search for total controlÃ¢ÂÂ of Real Madrid in picking a fight with one of the clubÃ¢ÂÂs coaching team, and an important one at that.
A couple of those footballers not yet at MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs age cut-off point will be expected to play alongside Karim Benzema and KakÃÂ¡ against Alcoyano, a third-tier side based not far from Alicante. Barcelona brought out their big guns in TuesdayÃ¢ÂÂs clash against AlavÃÂ©s, ensuring one-way traffic and goals from David Villa, AndrÃÂ©s Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in a 3-0 win. Valencia came away with a very healing 2-0 win at the rain-swept training pitch that Llagoste call home, giving Mauricio Pellegrino just a tiny bit of breathing space ahead of SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs visit of AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid.
WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs Copa del Rey Fixtures
AlmerÃÂa v Celta Vigo
Alcoyano v Real Madrid
CacereÃÂ±o v MÃÂ¡laga
JaÃÂ©n v AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid
Las Palmas v Rayo Vallecano
Zaragoza v Granada
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