MADRID: Jose Mourinho's future as Real Madrid coach looked virtually untenable on Sunday as press and players alike took aim at him especially over his dropping of iconic goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas.
The self-anointed 'Special One', winner of the Champions League twice with Porto and Inter Milan, had already been under pressure after a poor first half to the title race which had seen their bitter rivals Barcelona take a firm grip on the championship.
His position was under even more scrutiny on Sunday after his dropping of Casillas, the first time the Spain captain had been dropped in 10 years, backfired spectacularly as they lost 3-2 to Malaga to fall an astonishing 16 points behind Barcelona and, almost worse for some, seven points adrift of city rivals Atletico.
While Mourinho was unapologetic and insisted after the defeat he was not going anywhere, the press, never on good terms with the Portuguese coach, bayed for blood.
“'Mou' is making a laughing stock of himself,” opined Madrid sports daily Marca while displaying on its front page a photo of Casillas with his head bowed during the match.
“Another act of defiance by the coach, this time against the saint of saints of the club.”
Another sports daily As, who like Marca slated Casillas's replacement Antonio Adan for Malaga's third goal, was even less forgiving.
“Mourinho has become an unsupportable problem,” it blasted.
Another of the club's discontented stars, Sergio Ramos - like Casillas part of the Spain side that has collected two European Championships and the World Cup in the past four years - weighed in on Canal Plus Spain.
“We were all taken aback by the dropping of Casillas, I mean he is the captain,” said the defender, who himself fell foul of Mourinho earlier in the season and was dropped and trained on his own.
“It is him who plays and he will continue to play because he is a truly great goalkeeper.”
Mourinho, who is used to winning his internal battles and only coming off second best when he took on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, has, according to some, overreached himself this time.
Despite succeeding in having long-time Real sporting director Jorge Valdano sacked, his combative nature since he took over in May 2010 has rarely targeted the players until this season.
However, since January he has been at war with both Ramos and Casillas and he had to deny last week that he was deploying one of his backroom staff as a spy to report back to him what the players were saying.
While the Barcelona daily Mundo Deportivo agreed that Casillas's poor form this season had been a cause for concern, it added Mourinho's decision was not solely based on sporting reasons.
“He (Mourinho) was right, but it is also a political decision.
“Mou was not just relegating to the bench one of the best goalkeepers in the world or the team captain, but also the ringleader of the malcontents in the dressing room.”
While Mourinho has received the support of club president Florentino Perez, although he didn't appreciate Mourinho admitting defeat in the title race even before the Malaga match, Spanish news daily El Mundo said Perez was considering all options with regard to the coach.
However, the club may find the financial compensation prohibitive as Mourinho extended his contract last May to 2016 after adding the Liga crown to the Spanish Cup he won in his first season.
“If Florentino sacks Mou now, he will have to pay him compensation of 20 million euros and only five million euros if he does it next June,” revealed Mundo Deportivo.
However, in a poll conducted by the Marca website of Real fans, it was crystal clear what they wanted the outcome to be with 80% of the 80,000 respondents saying yes to the question 'Should Real sack Mourinho?’