I should start by saying that I've never been a big fan of Álvaro Arbeloa. Whether that's due to his connections with Liverpool and Rafael Benítez or just a bit of personal jealousy stemming from the notion that if somebody like him could make a career of it at the top level, perhaps I could've been a contender, too, had my circumstances (and my levels of desire and motivation, of course) been different. Alas...
Arbeloa came up through the ranks of Real Madrid, was deemed surplus to requirements, fell to Deportivo who then cashed in on him after six months. He stayed at Liverpool - "doing a Bosingwa" on Lionel Messi in his first start for the club - until they signed Glen Johnson, at which point he decided to return to the Spanish capital where he's made almost 200 appearances in the five years since.
He's played for three different managers in those five years: Manuel Pellegrini, Jose Mourinho, and Carlo Ancelotti. Three contrasting styles, to be sure.
"We realised who Mou was one day in the preseason. The Spaniards were just coming off their World Cup win and we met up in Los Angeles. There we played a game against the Galaxy and at half-time we were losing 2-0. The screams that came from that mouth! At everyone, no one was spared. We learned very quickly who Mou really was," Arbeloa said.
"You could've never imagined Pellegrini yelling like that at Cristiano. We remember that chat vividly. He said: 'You don't want to run? It's not a problem for me: to the bench. You neither? It's not a problem for me: out. Whoever it was: a World Cup champion, I'll put in Kaka or a youth player.
For all the talk of Mourinho favorites and untouchables, here's yet another confirmation that Mourinho does treat players equally when the situation calls for such equal treatment. Eden Hazard, clearly the new Project Cristiano, has experienced this first hand with both the passport incident and the latest war of words in the media, hopefully all of which are serving to motivate young Eden to Cristiano's levels of dedication and drive towards perfection (Arbeloa calls it an "obsession"). Ramires, too, was called out to be less stupid in the future after his recent disciplinary issues. More is expected from Oscar, Salah, Matic, and of course our current and future strikers. Jose may develop some very close relationships with certain players, but one thing's for sure, he will suffer no fools.
There is of course the danger of such management tactics misfiring. Rumors of discord between Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo persist, for example. What is Arbeloa's take on that?
"Mourinho's relationship with some of the players had deteriorated quite a bit [by the time Real lost 4-1 to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last season]."
"But we were professional enough to not allow it to affect us on the pitch. We lost La Liga first, then the Copa del Rey and then the semi-finals of the Champions League. The 4-1 loss was the straw that broke the camel's back, that was it. There was no coming back from that, good or bad."
In the original interview, Arbeloa even goes as far as to claim that there were no real divisions in the locker room and that even Iker Casillas acted professionally. Whether he's telling the whole truth with any of this or he's just a company man who will protect the image of Real Madrid at all cost could be up for interpretation. We probably won't ever find out the complete, unbiased truth. And that's fine.
What is important is that Mourinho is in the business of winning, while managing not just his favorites but his entire squad of players from superstarts on down through the squad players to the academy hopefuls. We may not always agree with his methods, but the fact that so much has been made of Jose failing to win a trophy for the second straight year shows just how consistently successful he's been over the last twelve seasons.