From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Paulo Bento was officially unveiled as the National team manager this past week, but, as is often the way in Portuguese football, it wasn’t without some late drama.
In a move to divert attentions away from the Carlos Queiroz face, Portuguese federation president Gilberto Madaíl went to Madrid for a ‘smash-and-grab’ job. The target? José Mourinho.
If you’re wondering why the hell he would want to do that, it is simple to explain, if not as easy to understand. Madail intended to appoint The Special One for the crucial upcoming matches against Denmark and Iceland, with a view to inspiring an instant turnaround in the national team’s fortunes.
Had the deal gone forward – and as you already know, thanks to Florentino Perez, it didn’t – it could actually have done more harm than good in the longer term, regardless of what happened in those matches.
Assuming Mourinho was given green light to lead the Selecção temporarily, there could have been two possible outcomes:
• Scenario A: Mourinho wins both matches.• Scenario B: Mourinho somehow drops important points in one or both matches.
In Scenario A, Portugal get their qualifying campaign back on track and the disappointing results against Cyprus and Norway are little more than a bitter memory. Of course, that would also mean the expectation would be on Bento to perform at “special” levels once he was at the helm.
In Scenario B, Portugal are in an even worse situation and their prospects of qualifying Euro 2012 would be all the more grim.
Yes, the whole idea of bringing Mourinho for 180 minutes assumes he can get six points, but just like in the Real Madrid match against
Levante strange things happen. Bento would then enter as some sort of lame duck manager who can do little to achieve his targets.Either way, Bento’s position would have been undermined.
There’s no question the vast majority of people here in Portugal would want Mourinho as their manager, but now is not the moment and many see Bento as a very capable option.
He’s young, qualified and unafraid of injecting young talent into a team. He can also have a tough hand, which is always a good thing when you’re dealing with big egos such as the ones that coexist in the national team.
Having received the backing of high-profile figures such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Pauleta, André Villas-Boas and Jorge Costa, he has all the conditions to make a good job and steer the team to Eastern Europe (that is, Poland and Ukraine!).
Let’s not forget that not long ago – two years to be precise – Queiroz made a sluggish start to the World Cup campaign; after defeating minnows Malta in the initial match, Portugal lost at home to Denmark, drew away to Sweden and were held at home by Albania.
In those first five matches, Portugal accrued six points, and we can realistically do that in four matches this time round. So, to say the campaign is already compromised is quite a hyperbole.
Unlike the ‘autopilot’ matches against Cyprus and Norway, the Portuguese team will have at last a manager that will instill them a renewed sense of confidence. And the Portugeezer is willing to bet they’ll beat Denmark at home.
(Quick note: The Portugeezer has been on a week-long vacation and that is why you may have noticed a lack of updates about the league. Chill out, they are on their way…)
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