El Centrocampista

Mourinho has things to think about as Madrid jet off to the States

There were smiles aplenty at Barajas airport this morning as a relaxed Real Madrid squad left for their money-spinning tour of North America.

Jose Mourinho’s side play four games in the US, starting with a high-profile encounter against a David Beckham-less LA Galaxy on Thursday before ending on the east-coast  with matches against Milan and Glasgow Celtic. It’s a busy schedule for the Spanish champions and one which sees them travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic, via a stop over in Las Vega where they face Brazilian side Santos.

If Mourinho and his players have any trepidation about the gruelling flight, they didn’t show it as the strolled across the tarmac towards to waiting plane.

It is hard to imagine then, that Mourinho watched his side succumb to a slightly humiliating 5-2 thumping at the hands of Portuguese side Benfica on Friday evening.

True, it was a team shorn of the majority of its stars, yet the manner of defeat will surely have not pleased the Portuguese coach. There was no Cristiano Ronaldo, no Sergio Ramos and no Xabi Alonso, nonetheless, the side still included a number of experienced, and hugely-talented players.

Gonzalo Higuain, Angel di Maria and Jose Maria Callejon provided a potent looking frontline and with Esteban Granero, Lass Diarra and former World Player of the Year, Kaka sitting behind them – Mourinho’s selection could hardly be classed as a youth side. However the former Chelsea boss did include some youngsters, and it ultimately proved his downfall.

The centre-back pairing of 22-year-old Nacho and the gifted French teenager Rafael Varane, looked hugely uncomfortable at times and this lack of defensive discipline visibly irritated the demanding and increasingly-frustrated coach on the touchline.

It was in the air that Madrid predominantly floundered, and were ultimately beaten. Goalkeeper Antonio Adan struggled throughout the game and looked  inept when faced with aerial deliveries. Worringly for Mourinho, this indecision seemed to permeate throughout his inexperienced defence.

In some ways it was a puzzling selection from the coach as the lack of experience in defence undid some impressive work from his midfield and forward line – especially in the first half.

Somewhat conversely, chief tormentor on the night was former Barcelona protege, Nolito. The winger gave the young Madrid defence a torrid time and continues to impress following his Camp Nou departure last summer.

Despite these criticisms, there were some positives and it has to be noted that this was only a friendly – albeit in the impressive surroundings of a packed Estadio da Luz.

Di Maria and Callejon both looked sharp and Mourinho will be pleased with the great swathes of possession enjoyed by his side during the encounter. It also has to be said that Benfica looked in slightly better condition and are obviously more advanced in their preparations for the new campaign.

The Portuguese tactician will probably lose little sleep over the reverse, although it may have hurt a little more as it came at the club where he began his coaching career 12 years ago.

Of more concern will be the ongoing sagas surrounding Luka Modric and the search for a new full back. There seems to have been little headway made in efforts to secure the services of the Croatian star, with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy still resolute in his demand that the English club’s valuation of Modric is met.

The pursuit of a new right back is also still ongoing with Mourinho’s prime target, Maicon, reported to be increasing his efforts to force a move to the Bernabeu from Italian side Inter.

And then there is the future of Kaka, rumoured to be on his way out yet part of the 23-man squad that left Barajas for the US on Saturday morning. Reports in Italy claim his number 22 shirt has been left vacant at Milan – prompting more speculation that he is heading for a return to la Rossoneri.

This is all supposition of course and is nothing less than is to be expected during the summer months – especially at a club such as Real Madrid where Jose Mourinho has seen it all before.

That’s why he still looks relaxed.



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