Print Sports Editor, Ellen McLaughlin, tackles the curious case of Jose Mourinho exploring the Special One’s past, present and future in football management
Consider the fact that Jose Mourinho was voted the inaugural FIFA World Coach of the Year in 2010, one of five coaches who have won the Champions League with two different clubs and secured league titles in four different countries, in addition to numerous domestic cups. Mourinho is without question one of the world most successful managers.
Born in Setubal in 1963 to a large family, Mourinho was considered an average second division player in the Portuguese league. He graduated himself as a coach through a joint role at Porto and then as a translator to the late great Sir Bobby Robson in number of roles at Barcelona, where he worked alongside Pep Guardiola and developed a fierce rivalry with the Spaniard after the Catalan giants opted for Pep in preference to Jose. Eventually he proved himself with a return to Porto securing a league title in Portugal and his defining success a 2004 victory over Monaco to win the European Champions league.
Chelsea came calling and the world heard for the first time one of world football’s most infamous quotes “…I think I am the special one”. This was a manager who could deliver on this statement, league titles and domestic honours followed, whilst domestic rivalries with Wenger, Ferguson and Benitez identified Jose as a personality that could charm, enhance distract, irritate and write his own headlines. Totally committed to a strong team ethic and an early proponent of the high pressing game Mourinho was able to set and drive the agenda both on and off the pitch. This siege mentality forged his players with a sense of purpose and the momentum created by success created a potent cocktail.
It seemed almost inevitable that “the special one” would clash with the “wealthy one”, Roman Abramovich. In a showdown about a minor infraction with a Chelsea director Mourinho was sacked in September 2007. Despite the claims of his departure being “by mutual consent”, those in the know reported of constant frictions with the footballing hierarchy at Chelsea who had become clearly disillusioned with the growing demands from Mourinho for greater independence. Speculation that the source of Mourinho’s disillusion was exacerbated by the positions of managers such as Wenger and Ferguson who both enjoyed greater involvement in the running of the clubs, whilst he felt restricted to dealing with footballing matters. Mourinho felt he delivered the success whilst others made decisions the should involve him.
After taking time out of the game he returned with a bang at Inter Milan, delivering not only domestic success but another Champions League. In the fickle world of sport any misgivings about Mourinho were quickly displaced. The almost inevitable call from Spain in the form of Real Madrid came and the opportunity to address what had lingered with him for more than a decade arrived in a multi-million-pound package. The years at Madrid proved to foretaste of Mourinho’s darker side. The confrontations with Pep Guardiola culminated with a physical confrontation following an El Clasico defeat, disciplinary action followed and Pep was quoted at a press conference as calling Jose “el puto jefe’ (the f***ing boss)” It was clear that Mourinho was not a good loser, but what was perhaps just as important was creating controversy through confrontation, criticizing other managers, referees, football administrators, the press (a particular favourite). No one was beyond the reach of his increasingly sharp tongue. Indeed, one year after signing a four-year contract Madrid sacked Mourinho for reasons that drew close parallels to his departure from Chelsea. Yet is was to Chelsea that the Portuguese returned. His return was characterised as a return home, all past sins had been forgotten, both sides knew each other good and bad and the future looked bright. However the EPL had changed, the largest inflow of money through new television deals had blunted the spending power of Chelsea. Other clubs had new richer patron; Manchester City under the stewardship of the Abu Dhabi royal family could frankly buy anyone and so the Chelsea of Mourinho’s first tenure was not the same as this new era.
Confrontation with old foes such as Wenger soon re-emerged, the petulance with the press referees and the football governing bodies resulted in a testy period for “the special one”. Ultimately his time at Chelsea came to an abrupt end after a disastrous season which started with the infamous Doctor-gate. Mourinho effectively sacked Eva Carneiro for tending to Eden Hazard during a match at the beginning of the 2014/15 season. It became clear very quickly that Mourinho had lost the confidence of the players and his departure was inevitable.
The most recent chapter has been his arrival at Manchester United. Despite all the various confrontations with other managers, Mourinho’s has maintained a cordial and respectful relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson. The feelings are mutual and after a couple of rocky years it seemed that Mourinho was the perfect answer. A sum of vast spending followed with the notable addition of Paul Pogba for €100m, yet the 2016/17 season seems to be slipping from his grasp and the likelihood even at this early stage of securing a a record setting 20th title looks unlikely. So even at these early stages we are seeing the dark side of Mourinho.
So has Jose lost his Mojo? Well the short answer is yes, however the reality is more complex. Two versions of Jose exist; the successful, urbane and charming man who is intelligent eloquent and an excellent ambassador for himself and his club, the alternate is the difficult, confrontational, almost vindictive individual who has become confused by success and at times loses a grip on reality. His treatment of Eva Carneiro was an insight into someone who clearly lost touch with reality, he seemed totally bemused by the reaction to his win-at-all-cost attitude. Players, fellow managers and the general public, not to say a couple of courts found him wanting. His reputation and perhaps more worryingly his attitude was exposed even the short period out of the game before he replaced van Gaal at Manchester United does not seem to have tempered his attitude.
Jose needs to remember that the world is full of pretty normal people and once upon a time he was also ‘pretty normal’ and not “special” to anyone outside of his immediate family. He possesses unquestionable skills and abilities, but needs to focus on was is important and stop trying to play everyone as if they are stupid and he is clever. At the end of the day Jose offers some refreshing views and his strong personality creates interest and excitement. If he is able to accept failure with grace and acknowledge when others are simply better than him then his energies can be focused on his job, and not on defending his sometimes idiotic outbursts.