BARCELONA, Spain – Grabbing an opposing coach by the face and placing a finger near his eye, making inappropriate gestures to rival players and attacking ball boys for time-wasting — Jose Mourinho has taken his abrasive tactics to a new level.
The Real Madrid coach's antics during a mass brawl near the end of the Spanish Supercup against Barcelona on Wednesday is threatening to taint his club's image and detract from the thrilling soccer two of the world's best teams are capable of producing.
Mourinho strolled through a cluster of fighting players and brusquely flicked a finger near Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova's eye. Vilanova, who had his back to Mourinho, turned and reciprocated with a push.
Players left both benches to join the fight at Camp Nou, resulting in three players being sent off to overshadow what had been an attractive game of soccer decided by Lionel Messi's 87th-minute winner that gave Barcelona a record 10th Supercup and third straight.
El Pais newspaper described the match, which Barcelona won 3-2 for a 5-4 aggregate victory, as "Football from Another Planet."
But while El Mundo Deportivo echoed those sentiments, the Barcelona-based sports newspaper then took a stab at the Madrid coach by saying "Mourinho dirties football further; (Madrid) don't know how to lose nor win."
Barcelona's players labeled Madrid's soccer a "disgrace" while Gerard Pique said "Mourinho is destroying Spanish football."
The question is what are Mourinho's tactics doing to Madrid's reputation at a time when it can't find a way to beat its biggest rival.
"The images speak for themselves," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "There are certain things that shouldn't be done. This will all end badly if it doesn't stop."
Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart said on Catalan radio that soccer had given Mourinho a "double personality."
"This is not his way of being, he's a normal person. I don't ever remember one coach attacking another. I hope this all ends with Mourinho apologizing to Vilanova," said Gaspart, who headed the club when Mourinho worked there as an assistant, although fans continue to refer to him as "the translator."
"Madrid adores him, but the truth is this isn't the Mourinho I know."
Mourinho was also seen making inappropriate gestures toward Messi and Daniel Alves. He later made a derogatory remark about Vilanova in the postgame news conference and accused Barcelona's ball boys of time wasting, saying the tactic was something a "small-time" club such as Barcelona did.
"I am very happy for my team after what happened in the end. What happened is somebody provoked the situation, and it certainly wasn't a player from Real Madrid," the Portuguese coach said.
But even former Madrid general director Jorge Valdano was distressed by the end of the match.
"Without a doubt that was the worst way to end the Spanish Supercup," he said.
The two teams played four matches in 18 days in April which were characterized by fights, diving and accusations of feigned injuries. That eventually led to Mourinho being banned for five matches for alleging referees and UEFA favored Barcelona.
Referee David Fernandez Borbalan's failure to include details of Mourinho's incident in his match report means he and Vilanova are likely to escape punishment when the disciplinary committee meets next week.
Madrid pair Marcelo and Mesut Oezil and Barcelona striker David Villa could also avoid a ban despite being sent off, since the Supercup is considered a one-off competition and sanctions don't necessarily carry over to other domestic competitions.
Still, Messi again showed his brilliance as he set up Andres Iniesta for the opener before scoring the other goals to become the competition's all-time leading scorer by two from former Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez.
While the Spanish league season remains under threat of delay due to a strike, for Madrid the message was clear: any success this season will have to be at Barcelona's expense.
"We have won a Supercup against Real Madrid during a very intense game during which they've put us under a lot of pressure," Guardiola said. "And we have learned a lot from these two games that we will use when we meet them again the future."