Well, bloggers and blogettes, I reckon this is it – match-by-match, point-by-point combat in as many as three competitions with the Evil Empire. Now, I ain’t much at makin’ speeches, but I reckon you wouldn’t even be readin’ this if you didn’t have some pretty strong personal feelin’s about it. I tell you somethin’ else, if this thing turns out to be half as intense as I figure, I’d say that some culés are gonna be in line for some cup o’ trophies and some baloneys de oro. Now we got some playin’ to do.
Scene I: A training session at the Bernabeu. José Mourinho addresses the players, gathered in a loose circle. Iker Casillas rolls his eyes towards the sky. Cristiano Ronaldo stands behind the captain, making ‘bunny ears’ with his fingers while Marcelo giggles. Benzema bites his fingernails. Mourinho speaks:
Men, the culé has no regard for human limits. He may dribble up the midfield, cross from the sidelines or attack in numbers. He may even appear in the form of a short, swarthy person. But we must stop him. So I give you three simple rules. First, ignore everyone on the sidelines except me, and this includes the officials. Second, kick anyone approaching 20 yards of goal. Third, dive first and complain later. Any variation will come from me, via Jerzy and then Iker, who will whisper it to Sergio.
[A cell phone rings; Mourinho answers] Hello? Fifi, I told you not to call me here, baby, we’re in training … Mr. President, you need me? All right, sug, I’ll be right over.
[Mourinho strolls off the field. The players wander away. Cristiano and Marcelo try to give Xabi Alonso a ‘wedgie’.]
Scene II: The Board Room at the Bernabeu. Mourinho walks in, followed by Madrid minion Mehmut Oezil. Fiorentino Pérez sits at the head of a large mahogany table; Jorge Valdano sits on his right. Behind Pérez and Valdano is a large white board with a PowerPoint slide featuring thumbnails of well-known strikers.
Valdano: Mr. President, if you’ll forgive my saying so, it’s a rather odd way of looking at the situation. You see, we have a healthy, talented nine for our wingmen. He sits on the bench. So to bring in another striker, oh, I would surely disagree.
Mourinho: Mr. Director, the offer will not be rescinded. A check has been issued, and Mr. Adebayor will arrive in Barajas within 25 minutes.
Valdano [ignoring Mourinho]: Mr. President, I must ask you to rescind. I hate to judge before all the facts are in, but it’s beginning to look like your coach has exceeded his authority.
Pérez: Well … I’d like to hold off judgement before all the facts are in, yes, MouMou?
Valdano: There’s nothing to judge, Mr. President. The man is obviously a psychotic.
Pérez: Well, I don’t think it’s fair to condemn a whole season because of a seven-point difference and a single manita, Jojo.
Valdano: A Ferrari 599. A 9.5 million-euro salary. A say-so on hires and fires. Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Ibiza with all that stuff. So who’s really the problem here?
Mourinho: Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth both as a team and as men who have become accostumed to an outrageous standard of living. Now it is necessary to make a choice: one, you get no trophies and it costs you 20 million euros; or two, you get maybe one trophy and it costs you 120 million euros. That 100 million euros will buy you a striker … a striker to strike at the heart of culés everyewhere!
Valdano: Mr. President, Michel Platini will never allow this, with his public talk about financial caps and fiscal responsibility and all.
Pérez (picks up phone, speed-dials, waits): Hello, Platini, is that you? Are you fine? Yes, I’m fine. We’re all just fine.Yes, c’est magnifique to be fine … Now, Platini, you know we’ve always talked about the money issues … money, Michel, the shiny little coins? Yes, that’s right … well, Platini, it seems that one of my boys has done a very rash thing. Of course this is a friendly call, Michel. Of course I like to say allô! Now, it appears that we are going to break the Bundesbank here, Michel, by hiring another striker. He won’t be here for another hour or so, Platini, so there’s plenty of time for you to extend our credit line. Merci, mon Michel. Thank you for your condolences, but the season isn’t over yet. Ah, I’m sorry too, Michel. Of course I’m as sorry as you are, it’s my team, you dimwitted old bat !
[Pérez slams down the receiver as Valdano and Mourinho stare at him in surprise.]
Valdano: Good afternoon, Andoni.
Zubi [nods]: Jorge.
Mourinho: Am I to understand that the Barcelona sports chief is to be admitted entrance to the Board Room? He will see … the big white board!
Valdano [gestures to the board]: Who do you like, Andoni? Who can beat your Doomsday Machine?
Mourinho: I’ve won a Coppa, a Champions and a Serie, but this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Doomsday Machine? I don’t understand, this Doomsday Machine.
Zubi: Shall I translate for you? There were doubters, but in the end we could not keep up with Kaká’s pace, Cristiano’s brace and Di María’s face. At the same time our President grumbled for less cash, more flash. La Masia – our ‘Doomsday Machine’, as you call it – cost us just a small fraction of what we would have spent on international defenders in a single season. The deciding factor was hearing you were replacing Higuaín. We don’t mind a spread, but risk a gap, no.
Mourinho: This is preposterous! Who told you we were replacing Higuaín?
Zubi: Our source was … Marca. [Exits.]
Oezil [walks towards board, face illuminated by PowerPoint glare]: If I may, sirs … I myself once considered the advantages of joining this Doomsday Machine. But I declined to pursue it for reasons which to me are no longer obvious.
Pérez: How is it possible to create a fully-functioning Doomsday Machine without spending billions of euros on international stars?
Oezil: Mr. President, it is not only possible, it is essential. That is the whole idea, to increase the rival club’s spending through deterrence. Deterrence produces fear in the mind of the enemy — no matter how small of stature is the deterrent, no matter how small the mind of the enemy. After years of cultivating and training and practicing, its inner workings become automatic: pass, request, receive … At once terrifying, and yet so simple to understand.
Mourinho [slams fist on table]: Mr. President, I insist that we destroy this Doomsday Machine! That twit of a coach, that Pep peon … I say we poison his Vichy Catalan with massive amounts of flouride and thus corrupt his precious bodily fluids!
Valdano: Oh, sir, this is ridiculous.
Mourinho: Have you ever seen that man drink anything but bottled water?
Valdano: Well, no, I can’t say I have …
Mourinho: Or we could lock them all in an underground discotheque with Ronaldinho Gaucho! We’ll select their dancing partners according to their sexual characteristics: Shakira, Malena Costa … hell, we can save Iker a world of trouble and toss Sara Carbonero down there, too!
Pérez: You mean we’d lock the whole team down there for the entire season?
Oezil: It would not be difficult, Mr. President. I myself would volunteer to ensure proper interactions between players and their disco partners.
Valdano: You are mad as a March hare, Mourinho! [Rips plank from mahogany table.]
Mourinho: You are a corrupt politician, not a technician! [Rips another plank; the men stand facing each other, holding the pieces of wood like samurai swords.]
Oezil: Gentlemen! You cannot swing planks around in here! This is the Board Room!
Pérez [sighs]: I wish I had me one of those Doomsday Machines.