Jose Mourinho’s first El Clasico as Real Madrid boss was a catastrophe. The Portuguese was whacked 5-0 in the Nou Camp back in 2010, but as humiliating as that result was, his job security was never questioned.
Rafael Benitez lost his first El Clasico as Real Madrid boss 4-0 at home at the weekend. Only this time the sack looms over him like a storm cloud.
The difference between the two results, despite Mourinho’s being one goal worse, is that the now Chelsea boss had made a far better start to life as Los Blancos’ boss than Benitez has.
Five years ago, when David Villa notched twice and Stoke’s Bojan was still around to lay on an assist, Mourinho had made the best start to the season of any Real Madrid coach in history. The Barcelona defeat was shocking, but it was just a blip.
Benitez doesn’t have the luxury of such a plump cushion propping him up. His tenure on the Madrid sidelines has not gone to plan. Accused of being too defensive, living in the shadows of Carlo Ancelotti’s success, the Spaniard has struggled to stamp his own ideals on a team of stars.
Real and their 24 points are now six adrift of Barcelona in the race to win La Liga, with Atletico Madrid sandwiching the two in second on 26. After the loss, Sky Sports’ resident expert Guillem Balague suggested Benitez will be sacked.
The problem with swinging the axe on the former Liverpool manager, which is 1/1 to happen before the end of 2015, is: who is the obvious candidate to replace him?
Ancelotti is the only high-calibre manager that is unemployed. He is unlikely to be asked back. Of the rest, Jose Mourinho, an 8/1 replacement option, isn’t in the greatest form, Jurgen Klopp, 12/1, has just gone to Liverpool and Pep Guardiola is completely out of the question.
The long-term plan was for Zinedine Zidane, currently managing Madrid’s reserve Castilla side and the 2/1 fav to replace Benitez, to step into the top job, but rushing him in ahead of schedule may not be the best idea in the world.
Fans and players are uneasy with Benitez in charge and Real are the kind of club that are unwilling to let those issues iron out. Except in this instance, with no obvious path forward, they may be better off matching their manager’s pragmatism.
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