By Kevin Koczwara
Ray Hudson is a legend in the broadcast booth. His passion for soccer is unmeasured. On a scale, his passion rises above Mt. Everest. And right now, his passion runs at it’s peak when Real Madrid and Barcelona face off. Tomorrow (today, depending on when you read this), those two epic clubs in Spain will face-off in round two of their combative Copa del Rey clash, and Ray Hudson will be doing back-flips in the GolTV studio while Phil Scheon tries to wrangle him in (or really let him loose) and provide the play-by-play. I got to talk with ‘Rockin’ Ray Hudson today on the phone about the game, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guidola, Real Madrid, and Barcelona.
[For context, Barcelona leads the two game series, 2-1, and hosts Real Madrid in the second leg tomorrow, Wednesday, January 25, 2012.]
The Soccer Guys: What is your feeling of Jose Mourinho and his side right now with all the stuff coming out of Madrid? Might he be losing track of his team?
Ray Hudson: This has been brewing for a long time. I think he’s [Mourinho’s] an incredible coach. He’s certainly a unique motivator, and he does it in such a knowledgeable way. We’ll have to wait to cast stones until the end of the season because he’s going to be judged as he always has: by his results.
But there’s certainly no question that he’s created an atmosphere there [Real Madrid] that doesn’t seem to be too conducive to harmony. You know what, I’ve been in this game long enough to know that sometimes that edge between even teammates can provide a different type of element in a competitive arena — believe it or not, it sometimes happens. We’re just going to wait and see.
I’m certain, though, that he wouldn’t have wished this, you would expect, but no one knows the workings of this guys mind. He’s such a unique individual. Whether you love him or hate him, he produces incredible results. Look where he’s standing now: on top of the table away to Barcelona and destiny in his hands. Is he going to be able to bring the horse home? We’ll have to wait and see. It makes absolutely intriguing watching, though.
Soccer Guys: How do you view Pep Guardiola and Mourinho’s relationship since he’s come to Spain?
Ray Hudson: They go back a long time. A lot of people forget that those two were very, very good friends during the time at Barcelona together when Mourinho was basically the translator. And yet, they’ve gone on to have such great phenomenal success.
They share a lot of the great philosophies, but there’s almost been that feeling that Mourinho was slighted that Pep Guardiola got offered the job [to manage Barcelona]. If you believe what you read and what you’ve seen, that Mourinho desperately wanted to take charge of Barcelona, but that, with the history that’s gone on since then, probably will never ever happen. He would probably be vilified by the Barcelona fans. I wouldn’t image that they’d welcome him and it will never happen now. And that just adds more angst to this poisonous challis.
They seem to have a begrudging respect for one another, now, if you like. We’ve seen it before and after games. There have been so many episodes where its boiled over, and none more so than last season when Pep Guardiola basically erupted himself in front of the press in his own controlled way and then went back to the Barcelona locker room where he received a standing ovation from his Barcelona players because they were fighting words from Guardiola. He does always take the moral high road more often than not and leaves Jose Mourinho to boil and spill things his way. It’s a different way the Barcelona way. And Guirdola and Mourinho are chalk and cheese in many ways and yet are so alike in so many other ways.
It’s a spectacular sports melodrama, as long as it remains that way and doesn’t get carried away anymore, because we’ve all seen it reached the point last season where it had more edge than a broken toilet. It was really, really bad and that was the limit and the Real Madrid higher-ups have drawn the horses in a bit now.
The Soccer Guys: What do you think Madrid will do in this match-up to get the edge on Barcelona, if it can? What do you think Mourinho can do with this squad?
Ray Hudson: He’s lost some key players now for this next leg in defense, so it’s going to be even more headaches for Real Madrid. And yes, their backs are against the wall. Nobody expects them to win. Mourinho loves this situation, more often than not, than being the favorite. I can only imagine that he’ll do what he did on the weekend and go with a completely all-out-attacking mentality, playing attacking players, especially Ozil — not bringing home off the bench. If he can play his most attacking players it’s his only hope.
It seems simplistic and suicidal that you’re going to fight fire with fire because everybody that does that against Barcelona gets killed. Well, Real Madrid isn’t just anybody and their mindset now is so primed to go out and not just play this combative, nasty type of edgy tackling and suffocating defense, these players now have their attacking head and ready to release the hounds.
The two goals that Barcelona scored away are huge, and they basically schooled them [Real Madrid]. I think that was a game that Mourinho drew it up in a very tight way — defensively, and hoping to grab the lead and build on that. But when they did grab the lead, I think I was more disappointed in Mourinho than ever before because when Real Madrid took the lead in that first leg and played extremely well up to that point, they seemed to alter things. Yes, Barcelona came back into with fire in their belly, but it seemed like Real Madrid played it too cagey and backed off, in the second half especially.
The Soccer Guys: Who will come out on top in the game and in the Copa del Rey?
Ray Hudson: It would be crazy to bet against Barcelona now — the way they’ve been playing, the tune up game in the weekend, Messi’s back to the top of footballing again, everything is going pointing to Barcelona: they’re at home, they got the lead, Real Madrid is weakened and wounded, there are all these problems in the Real Madrid camp. I’ll take Real Madrid, how about that. I’ll take Real Madrid to go into the Camp Nou and shock the world.
Will it happen? It’s against all odds, but this Mourinho man brings out things in players in intense parts of pressure like nobody else. I think he’ll have a real good chance of creating the most unlikely of upsets.
The Soccer Guys: If Real Madrid doesn’t win this game and move on in the Copa del Rey, does Mourinho find himself in trouble?
Ray Hudson: Yeah, but it doesn’t matter to him. He doesn’t care. He’s probably going to be gone at the end of the season from what we’re all reading now. And he’s also stated that this is his least important tournament. He’s got his team, his players and his devoted fans all focused on taking back the crown in the Primera Spain away from Barcelona. That’s his number one priority and a baby’s breath behind is the European Champions League. That is going to be a huge task, but again, they have the horses and the technician.
I understand it flies in the face of convention, what I’m saying, but it could be that Barcelona put on one of those incredible, breath-taking performances, but I’m not so sure. I think Mourinho has had it with this whole situation. I picked Real Madrid to win the league before the ball was kicked and they’ve got their noses in front, their head in front, and I think they’ll maintain that edge over Barcelona and then I think Mourinho will say, “thank you, I’ve provided you with your championship,” and he’ll exit.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com.