REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: Mourinho return talk galvanises Zidane's men

Both times that defeat has led to rumours of José Mourinho's return in place of Zinedine Zidane, the Real Madrid players have produced a reaction.

Real Madrid: Mourinho talk has galvanising effect

José Mourinho is a figure who has a galvanising effect on the Real Madrid squad.

Each of Madrid's two defeats this season has led the spectre of the Portuguese to hang over the Bernabéu: after September's thumping by Paris Saint-Germain and last weekend's defeat to Real Mallorca, speculation that he could replace Zinedine Zidane has been rife. Judging by their on-field displays, however, Mourinho does not inspire the same enthusiasm in the players as he does in more than one club chief.

Zidane sack talk twice averted with hard-fought wins

After each moment of crisis so far, the team has responded by running itself into the ground to ensure Zidane keeps his job - or avoid Mourinho's return. In the wake of their 3-0 reverse in Paris, Madrid bounced back with a fine performance to win 1-0 away at Sevilla. A month later, defeat to Mallorca was also followed by a tough trip that yielded a hard-fought, single-goal victory, as Los Blancos took all three points against Galatasaray and got their Champions League campaign back on track.

This is despite only seven players remaining from Mourinho's turbulent, three-year spell in charge: Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Karim Benzema, Raphaël Varane and Luka Modric, plus two men, Nacho Fernández and Casemiro, who made their first-team breakthroughs under the coach. Not only that, but Modric and Varane were signings that he championed. They are all now senior figures in a squad that clearly has little appetite for a change of coach - one that would be the third in under a year and would fuel fan discontent with the players.

Mourinho seemingly waiting for Real Madrid vacancy

All the while, Mourinho looks to be biding his time. Currently working as a Premier League pundit, he is learning German amid rumours linking him with Borussia Dortmund, and has not been short on offers to return to coaching. However, he remains in direct contact with Madrid president Florentino Pérez and the club's general manager, José Ángel Sánchez, and is seemingly waiting for a vacancy at the Bernabéu.

Earlier in October, indeed, Lyon chief Jean-Michel Aulas was moved to tell reporters: "We got in touch with Mourinho, but he has already chosen his team." The Real Madrid players have quite evidently chosen Zidane, though.