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Seriously, you've got to admire José Mourinho sometimes. The Real Madrid manager is capable of causing chaos and division even when the Portuguese provoker takes time away from the circus ring that's the Santiago Bernabéu.
For the past few weeks, Mourinho has been noticeable by his absence, largely choosing to send players and his assistant, Aitor Karanka, to press conferences before and after matches. It was a strategy that worked reasonably well to help cool the cauldron of a tempestuous end to 2012 which saw Iker Casillas being dropped for a league match against Málaga that was subsequently lost, which left Madrid 16 points off Barça at the top of the table.
That's not to say that Mourinho still didn't make the headlines in this relative downtime with stories in the two capital city papers fuming over how the Madrid manager missed the Ballon d'Or presentation, left training early to watch his son play football and had given dressing-room rollickings to Angel di María and even Cristiano Ronaldo.
On the whole, it was a lot of unsubstantiated tittle-tattle but relatively harmless with the media needing something to chew on with the league title done and dusted. Indeed, over in the Catalan capital the Barça press have been getting their own panties in a bunch over the apparent evil of Víctor Valdés, who is set to leave the club at the end of next season.
However, Thursday's Marca reported that Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas had told Florentino Pérez two days previously that either José Mourinho had to go or footballers would leave over the summer, such was the general feeling of malcontent towards the coach. 'Presi, in June, Mourinho or us' read the attention-grabbing headline.
Just a few hours after the paper hit the streets and the Spanish Twitter-verse went ballistic, a press conference by Florentino Pérez was announced and rumours swirled over whether it would be a stern rebuttal from the club president who rarely talks in public or the announcement of José Mourinho's immediate removal. A fake Twitter account, pretending to be that of newspaper ABC, said that former Getafe and Sevilla coach and Madrid player, Míchel, would be taking over with immediate effect. It was not so hard to believe, bringing back memories of December 2008 when the announcement of Bernd Schuster's removal was made at the same time as Juande Ramos was presented, it was an admittedly brilliant bit of news management.
In the end, it was the former of the two scenarios with a grumpy Pérez denying any kind of ultimatum had taken place last Tuesday - an expression that Marca pointed out was never used in its story. The reporting of the meeting itself was valid but it was a routine chat between himself, Director General José Angel Sánchez, and the the two captains to discuss player bonuses for the season. "Quite simply, what was published was a lie," said Pérez who said the objective of the story was to 'destabilise for personal reasons an institution of 110 years that is the most prestigious in the world'. Later the same afternoon, a statement from Casillas and Ramos also denied that any such conversation had taken place as reported by Marca.
Friday saw the newspaper in the centre of the affair, that was not mentioned by Pérez interestingly enough, sticking to its guns with the headline 'Marca doesn't lie'. The implication being that someone else is. Friday's edition has an image of the phone messages between a journalist and one of its sources that the paper say it will not be revealing. "Everything was spoken about. The dressing room, the boss, the bonuses, and more."
Who is telling the truth lies at the heart of the matter in what is a civil war within the gargantuan and complex Real Madrid world. The pro-Florentino camp will argue that an awful lot of similar stories are ignored by the club president but the fact that Pérez chose to speak so swiftly and so forcefully signifies that a paper that will do anything to shift copies in difficult economic ties has crossed a line in terms of truth.
Marca's editorial on Friday states that 'Marca neither puts in nor takes away coaches nor does it have an interventionist vocation in the activity of clubs'. This is not exactly true, judging by the vitriolic campaign to oust Manuel Pellegrini from his job. Ironically, it's a campaign that is thought to have been given the green light by the Real Madrid leadership, knowing that the much-coveted José Mourinho was going to be the replacement.
It is often said that Marca is the mouthpiece of Real Madrid but the relationship is not as simple as that, which makes the current battle so intriguing. The paper still needs to reflect the views of its readers to make a living, so if those customers feel that Mourinho is the wrong man for the job, then, as the headline for Friday's editorial states, the role of the paper is 'to inform and not to destabilise'.
For this reason, the pro-Marca argument follows that a paper with such a close relationship to the club would not want to print something that was completely false. It would not be good for business in the long term. Curiously, there was no talk of legal action during the rebuttal by Pérez that can be interpreted as an act of desperation by a very rattled man rather than someone who has been pushed to the limit by lies and more lies.
Stories that the footballers are tired of their manager are hardly the sole domain of Marca. They have been a constant throughout the Spanish media during a season that has been a troubling one for Madrid in football terms with the club 15 points behind Barcelona in the league table.
As is the case with Barcelona, peace is hard to maintain at institutions this complex and downright political when the going is good on the field. Pre-existing cracks become more prominent when those good times turn bad. That appears to be a case at the Santiago Bernabéu with José Mourinho causing divisions and rancour even without opening his mouth.
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter