Barcelona's vision has been a problem for José Mourinho ever since he took the Real Madrid job, so gouging the eye of a Barça coach in the latest melee between the two clubs was a Shakespearian act of desperation by a manager now working outside the laws and spirit of the game.
In the chaos that followed Marcelo's scissor-chop on Barcelona's prodigal son, Cesc Fábregas, Mourinho hunted around the fringes of the rumpus before advancing on one of Pep Guardiola's assistants, Tito Vilanova, and hooking a finger in his eye from behind: an offence that even rugby front-row forwards consider beyond the pale. The potential to cause blindness is obvious even to the most cauliflower-eared prop.
Initial TV images suggested Mourinho had tweaked Vilanova's lug but close-up pictures suggest a gouge. Vilanova responds by turning and shoving Mourinho, who retreats and smirks. This, after Marcelo had been sent off for his hack at Fábregas and Mesut Ozil (Madrid) and David Villa (Barcelona) were also dismissed. Both had already been substituted but were caught up in the scuffle as the two sides extended the tradition of histrionics in recent El Clásico fixtures.
With David de Gea's troubled arrival from Spain in goal for Manchester United, much was made of the phrase "welcome to England". It was "welcome back to Spain" for Fábregas when Marcelo cut him down. This was his introduction to what Real-Barcelona matches have become as Mourinho gropes for a formula to nullify the brilliance of the best side in the world.
Like the British tourist who believes the non-comprehending foreigner will understand English in the end if the sentence is simply repeated louder and louder, Mourinho appears to think more of the same intimidation is bound to cause Barcelona to crack. The pity is that many observers thought Real looked closer to Guardiola's radiant ensemble than they were last season, when Mourinho's XI were crushed in La Liga and the Champions League but beat the enemy in the Copa del Rey final.
"This team is better than it was last year. The longer you work with people, the better the conditions are to have a better year," Mourinho said. "I'm happy with the progress my men have made." But that claim was obscured by Marcelo's tackle and the kerfuffle on the touchline.
This Super Cup second leg at the Camp Nou was settled by the current El Clásico default mode: a winning goal three minutes from time by Lionel Messi, to whom there is no answer, either for Mourinho or the rest of football. The nail of Messi's talent was again banged into Real's spirits.
Mourinho's loss of self-control, then, was proof of an emotional inability to accept a subservient role for another year. For all the millions of words written about his machiavellian cunning, this latest caper exposes a measure of stupidity, as well as nastiness, because he seemed to forget that every sneaky act is now recorded and pinged around the world on digital pathways. In a rational state he could not have thought that gouging the eye of a fellow professional who was in no position to see the attacker approach would enhance his already frayed reputation.
Hook this up with the racist chanting directed at Marcelo and all the virtuosity on the field retreats into insignificance. Barcelona and Real Madrid are so powerful in Spain that the Spanish FA assumes the look of a mute bystander as the most alluring fixture in club football lurches into parody.
Mourinho has developed a deep paranoia about the only club to so far halt him on his grand tour of Europe. In Portugal, England and Italy, all opposition was subdued after a bit of grappling. But Barcelona are implacable.
Last spring he convinced himself that Catalan play-acting had caused Pepe to be sent off in the Champions League semi-final first leg and was dispatched to the stands before incurring a five-match ban (reduced to three) for disparaging Barcelona, whose website's report on the Super Cup describes "the touch and elegance of Barcelona against the rough and physical Madrid".
His best soundbite from those volcanic semi-final legs was: "It's clear that against Barcelona you have no chance. Sometimes I am disgusted to live in this world."
In the fallout the respected Ottmar Hitzfeld described him as "arrogant, haughty, chewing gum and somewhat of a boor", an epithet to sit alongside the "enemy of football" label bestowed by Uefa's head of refereeing back in his Chelsea days.
Mourinho's main beefs are that Barça are politically manipulative and that they roll around when touched by foot or hand. "I'm not going to say we're happy because we didn't win the Spanish Super Cup, that would be hypocritical of me," he said. "But we intended to play like men and not fall on the ground at the slightest touch."
The counter-claim is that Mourinho has resorted to violence to mask his failure to deal with Barcelona's lustrous passing. The whereabouts of the ball was certainly on his mind when he accused the Camp Nou fetchers of disappearing after the interval: "What I'm about to say is not a criticism, I'm just stating a fact: there were no ball boys in the second half, which is something typical of small teams when experiencing difficulties."
The idea that Barcelona sent their ball boys home so the "small team" could keep it off the field will bring mirth to players whose possession rate is sometimes 70%. Seasoned observers in this country made a note of Real's aggression in the first leg and were unsurprised to see Marcelo take out Barça's new star signing in the second.
Under this kind of provocation Guardiola likes to play the statesman: "The images speak for themselves. We must be careful, because one day we will cause harm, not on the field but off, and we're all a little responsible for this." That was another jab in the eye for Mourinho, who has rather lost control of his own anti-hero act.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010