London: From Spain comes a stark warning of what lies ahead. After Jose Mourinho was appointed manager of Chelsea, according to one leading figure in La Liga, we can anticipate nothing but turmoil and disorder.
“It is not good for English football. Chelsea maybe think they had a good time from him in the past. But you will see the real Mourinho now. If he behaves like he did in Spain, it will only be an unhappy relationship. A disaster. And at his age he is not going to change.”
It is fair to say when Mourinho made his final appearance as coach of Real Madrid in the game against Osasuna last Saturday, Carles Vilarrubi was not shuffling into line to participate in any guard of honour. The vice-president of Barcelona last month described the Portuguese’s departure as “a scourge being lifted from the face of Spanish football”.
And his view had not softened during a short trip to England last week. “My position is not because he was the coach of a rival,” Vilarrubi said of Mourinho. “But because of who he is and what he did. His three years in Spain he only creates disagreements, arguments. There is nothing positive he brings.
“You can learn good things about life from watching people in football, or the circus, or the opera. There was nothing he brought that was good. There was no positive balance. I cannot see anything good about him. Not one thing. In sporting terms, maybe I am not the person to ask. But in cultural terms, he was a disaster.
“Apart from his aggression to the coach of Barca, the ambience he creates everywhere he goes, the relations with the players, with the press are absolutely terrible. I am happy that he is leaving. And so is everyone in Spanish football.”
Vilarrubi was voted on to the Catalan club’s board in 2010, part of the campaign which installed Sandro Rossell as president. The 59-year-old banker’s brief is to smooth the club’s relations with the world beyond the Nou Camp; he is its official voice. And his job became a lot more complicated when Mourinho was appointed at the Bernabeu soon after his successful election campaign.
“It seems we play Real Madrid eight times a year when he was in charge, we draw them in every cup,” he said. “I normally like to play Madrid, I have a good relation with the president. But Mourinho made it very hard work. There was always a crisis. It was exhausting. My responsibility is for external relations. Always we had problems. Mourinho would say something and there would be war declared in the papers.”
But then perhaps Vilarrubi should not have been surprised by Mourinho’s attitude to his club. The Portuguese has always felt slighted by Barcelona, always smarted at what he perceived as the great Catalan institution’s condescension, the manner in which, as a former assistant to Bobby Robson there, he was sneeringly dismissed as “the translator”.
Maybe Vilarrubi and his colleagues should not be surprised that he acted at Madrid as if on a personal mission of vengeance. “No, it is not just this,” he said. “He has always been like this. What kind of coach wins the Champions League twice and does not fly home on the same aeroplane as his players? A coach you would think wants to celebrate with his players, enjoy the moment. Not him. He is thinking of himself. I don’t know what is wrong with him. In his mind there is something wrong.”
So we can take it Mourinho’s chances of becoming coach of Barcelona in the future are not exactly substantial, then? “Ha!” said Vilarrubi, not even dignifying such a proposition with an answer. “I am just glad he has gone. I am not interested in him. Go, leave, goodbye.”
Vilarrubi was in England to deliver a speech at the Salisbury International Festival. To a rapt audience in Salisbury’s arts centre, he talked passionately about how Barcelona represented the best of Catalan culture and how they had a responsibility to behave to the highest of standards.
And before he spoke, the personable, engaging vice-president offered the Daily Telegraph his thoughts on a range of subjects, from Manuel Pelligrini (“now this is a good man, a proper gentleman, Manchester City have made a wise choice”) to the relentless rise of German football and the threat it posed to Barcelona’s hegemony.
“Yes, absolutely, the Germans are in charge,” he said. “We are coming from a period where we were recognised as the best team in the world. Now it is someone else’s turn. I think this is good for football. We need to learn from them.”
And he sees things — at least temporarily — only getting better for the Germans. “It bothers me Bayern Munich winning the league, the cup, the Champions League without [Pep] Guardiola [as manager]. Now they have him, it will be very tough for us. He is one of the best coaches in the world. A great person, a very intelligent man, I’m very proud to have worked with him.”
Vilarrubi believes Guardiola has been working hard in his sabbatical to prepare for his new job. “I do not know this for sure, but I bet you when he makes his first press conference in Munich he speaks in perfect German,” he said. “I had lunch with him in New York in March and I asked him what he was doing with his time. He tells me he is playing a lot of golf and having a few German lessons. I know what a few means. With Guardiola, he will have been studying.”
Vilarrubi, however, said Barcelona were well placed to respond to the threat, even one bolstered by the input of their former employee. Not least in the recent purchase of the Brazilian Neymar from Santos. “We try to be the exact balance between the base of the team being produced from our own, educated in the ways of Barcelona, and the magicians we will also bring in.
“We need always to bring in the best. If you go to La Masia [Barcelona’s academy], if you see what’s going on with the young guys, you can see these guys playing like Xavi... You will see in the next five years, we will overtake the Germans.”
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2013