Real Madrid are invoking memories of historic comebacks as they seek to overturn a 4-1 deficit in the Champions League
All the talk has been of the spirit of Juanito but José Mourinho was avoiding the ghosts of Real Madrid's past. Madrid go into their Champions League semi-final second leg against Borussia Dortmund needing to overcome a 4-1 deficit amid a sea of motivational videos and lessons in history, the discourse centred on courage, heart and atmosphere, but Madrid's manager preferred to focus on the thing that has been largely forgotten: the football.
Mourinho has stayed out of the club campaigns intended to heat up the atmosphere and although he attacked his team for playing the first leg "as if it was a friendly", effectively demanding that they commit fouls at the Bernabéu, he shied away from the emotional storyline that has characterised the buildup to this game.
They call it a remontada – comeback – and it holds a special place in Madrid's hearts. The words of the forward Juanito in April 1986 are now the stuff of legend. Madrid had been beaten 3-1 by Internazionale in the first leg of a Uefa Cup tie and afterwards Juanito warned Madrid's opponents in cod Italian: "Noventi minuti en el Bernabéu son molto longo." Ninety minutes in the Bernabéu are a very long time. Whenever Madrid are up against it they invoke the spirit of a player whose words are given added symbolism because he died in a car crash in 1992.
Madrid won the second leg 4-1. There have been other examples too: Madrid beat Anderlecht 6-1 after a 3-0 first-leg defeat in 1984, and in 1985 they beat both Inter – 3-0, having lost the first leg 2-0 – and Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-0, after a 5-1 defeat. The tradition went all the way back to 1976 and a 5-1 win over Derby County having lost 4-1 in the first leg. Opponents came to the Bernabéu and panicked; an ambush awaited them, and it was loud and aggressive. Jorge Valdano called it "stage fright". The flaw is that none came in the European Cup and it is almost three decades since the last remontada.
Real Madrid have prepared a video in the buildup to this game in which players appear telling the fans that they have a role to play, a point that might have been easier to drive home if the cheapest seats did not cost more than €100. Players utter phrases such as "Your heart will be our heart", and "Your strength is our strength", but Mourinho does not appear. He seemed unimpressed with the initiative.
"I did not want to do the video because I think the best way to motivate the fans is with football," he said. "You motivate them by playing well, being serious. I know who Juanito is and I respect that. People work in other areas at the club and they think [a video] is good. I am a football coach, that is how I motivate them. They do videos, I do football. The best way to motivate the fans [would have been] to get a better result in Dortmund."
That moment, of course, has passed, although much of what the manager said hung on his analysis of the first leg – an analysis in which he was extremely critical of his players. Now Madrid have one more chance and so does the coach: if he is to depart at the end of the season, as is increasingly likely, this is a final opportunity to win the European Cup with Madrid. He however insisted that he still had "10 years" to try to win the trophy for a third time, and said that his future did not depend on the result. If Real get knocked out there will be more questions posed.
"I know that when we win we all win but when we lose it is the coach's fault," he said, bitterly. Asked about reports that Madrid are negotiating with Carlo Ancelotti, he replied: "You have to ask Madrid and Ancelotti."
"I cannot put a percentage chance on it," Mourinho said, "especially when the score is so imbalanced: when it's like that, it is hard to use mathematics to justify claiming that you have a chance. It is only football and we're 4-1 down. It is possible. [But] if we play like we did in Dortmund, forget it. I was not worried about how they felt after the game, I was worried about analysing that game.
"I named my team before the first leg because it was obvious. This time we might try different players and a different system so I won't say. But I can tell you that Cristiano Ronaldo is fine. We will try to win and then see from there. We will go goal by goal and minute by minute, until the last minute. If we are 1-0 up we need two and if we are 2-1 up we need two as well."
Franz Beckenbauer had alerted Bayern Munich to the fact that Barcelona would do all they could to turn round the other semi-final, "whether licit or illicit", and Mourinho used that to have another dig at his rivals and to bemoan his team's attitude in the first leg.
"I read someone say there are teams who use licit ways and illicit ways of winning," he said. "I spoke about similar things two years ago and the world came crashing down on top of me. My team only does licit things. We're so pure, so innocent, so naive that [Robert] Lewandowski scored four and we didn't commit a single foul on him. We have to try to win the game. I want intensity and aggression."
Asked to clarify that point, Mourinho said: "In five minutes Ronaldo has [normally] been fouled four times. I'm not saying I want to foul him but I want concentration, intensity, aggression. We played like it was a friendly. But none of the players abandoned ship and that gives me hope that we can turn it round."