Despite winning the Supercopa, reaching the semifinals of the Champions League and being the runners up in both La Liga and the Copa del Rey, Real Madrid’s season has been described by many as a failure.
However, their bastekball-playing counterparts have had their most prolific year in decades, winning the league, the Supercopa and reaching the final of the Euroleague for the first time in almost 20 years.
Playing for the same club, presided over by the same man – Florentino Perez – some may wonder how the two teams can be so different; one being so criticised and the other being so praised. There are a few crucial disparities that can explain the situation.
- The squad. Pablo Laso’s team is built around an immense sense of solidarity and team spirit. Unlike the football team, in Real’s basketball section there is no star that shines above the rest. Although Rudy Fernandez is highly above his team-mates in terms of salary, he is just one of the team on the court, where everybody sacrifices for the team to work as a perfect machine. Proof of that is the fact that the MVP of the league final was Felipe Reyes, who has started from the bench almost every game this season. Rudy and Nikola Mirotic, possibly the two men of the season, did not have their best performances in the final, but very cleverly and efficiently looked for a new role to help the team reach its objectives.
- An unassuming manager. Being Real Madrid’s manager is not an easy job, neither in football nor in basketball. Ettore Messina, one of the greatest basketball coaches at the moment, resigned from Real’s job because he couldn’t stand “the obligation of living with the anachronistic need for victory”. However, Jose Mourinho and Pablo Laso have faced that pressure in very different ways. The Portuguese took it as something personal and started a war with the press and with a number of his own players. Laso, however, could not care less when everybody suggested he was not prepared for the job. He treated the press kindly and always protected his players to create the perfect atmosphere for success to come.
- An excellent technical team. Juan Carlos Sanchez and Alberto Herreros have completed a brilliant job as sports directors of the basketball section. They have proved that rather than signing every possible world class star, sometimes it’s enough with just bringing in a bunch of hard workers who add spirit and sacrifice. No big names were added to Real’s basketball squad last summer, but Slaughter, Draper and Hettsheimeir gave the team exactly what they needed to go a step farther and become the best in Spain and top-2 in Europe. Mourinho’s project possibly lacked the figure of a sports director who would take some pressure off him around squad planning and the scouting jobs.
Of course analysing the problems of Mourinho’s era would need a deeper article, and the choice of calling it a failure depends on the subjective view of the person who judges. But there are certainly a few obvious aspects that Florentino Perez could correct in the football team to obtain better results in the upcoming seasons. In basketball, he has nailed it.