Source: Imago Images
Source: Imago Images

The past, the present, and the future of Jose Mourinho

Football OlyBet 29.02.2024

In 2004, an outspoken young prodigy led FC Porto to the most unanticipated Champions League triumph in recent history. That man went on to manage six top clubs in three different countries. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find him … maybe you can hire Jose Mourinho.

Only he would not be that hard to find. Soon after Roma sacked him in the middle of January, he made it clear he wanted another gig as soon as possible. Not just any gig, though. He turned down Saudi Arabian club Al-Shabab, which indicates he still sees himself at a top club in Europe. But do the clubs see it like that?

In the five years since joining Tottenham in 2019, he has won just the one Conference League (with Roma in 2021/22). To achieve that, they had to beat the mighty Trabzonspor, Bodø/Glimt (twice), Zorya Luhansk, CSKA Sofia, Vitesse, Leicester City, and Feyenoord … Respectable clubs, sure, but Roma would be expected to do that.

Next summer, it will be ten years since his last league title. That was before Leicester, before Covid, before Donald Trump. Before Kylian Mbappe, who has now played in two World Cup finals, had made his senior debut. He has not reached expectations at Manchester United, Tottenham, and Roma.

And it is just not that. In an era where people are rather sensitive and most try to avoid conflict at all costs, his bigger-than-life personality does not quite fit in. He can be unbearable at times. There is a reason why Mourinho’s longest stint is still his first one at Chelsea – three years and three months.

What makes Mourinho tick?

To truly understand Mourinho, we have to go back. He was born into a middle-class family, his father a professional footballer, his mother a teacher. Jose followed in the footsteps of both, first trying out as a player before turning his attention to coaching (and working as a PE teacher for a period of time).

He started building his coaching career in the 1990s in what was a vastly different landscape. After becoming Bobby Robson’s sidekick/translator at Porto, the manager took Mourinho with him to Barcelona in 1996. At that time in football, Barcelona was the place to be; Johan Cruyff had instilled a Barca-esque version of Total Football and built up La Masia, the fabled youth academy now synonymous with success.

Think of the players and coaches who were around Barcelona at that time, and it could be easy to conclude that modern football was invented there. Everyone learnt to play the Barcelona way, from Pep Guardiola to Louis van Gaal to Luis Enrique to Ronald Koeman to Mikel Arteta. Sure, everyone created their own adaption, but the basic principles have remained the same.

And then there was Mourinho, assistant to Robson and later van Gaal in the late 1990s. It is almost as if his game plan was built to counter the Barcelona way from the very beginning. Did he know all those years ago? Why did he develop a style so different from the others? And to think, he was supposedly considered for the Barcelona job in 2008, just before it was given to Guardiola …

What is it like?

For Mourinho, everything is about winning. And to win, one has to control the circumstances. But when most want to control the ball, Mourinho wants to control the opposition, and most of all, control his own players. He made it his mission to mix old-school coaching with motivational and psychological techniques.

“He created a culture. If Mourinho called a meeting at 10.30 am, I’d be there at 10.15 because I never wanted to be late under Mourinho. Never,” explained John Terry, one of Mourinho’s favourites from Chelsea, to The Athletic.

“But all of a sudden, everyone was there at 10.15. So, if you arrived at 10.20, you felt like you were late even though you were actually 10 minutes early. He knew how to press buttons. As an individual, it made you think you had to impress him every single day.”

Seeing Mourinho deal with the press or the officials, one would think he goes hard on the players too. But most of the players he has coached praise his methods – a testament to the man. From an angle, everything was meticulous and planned. From another, his wild mood swings made it seem like no two days were the same.

Is this it?

But why, then, did something work for more than a decade – be honest, Mourinho did accomplish a lot going from Porto to Chelsea to Inter to Real and back to Chelsea – and then suddenly stopped working? Has the man changed? Well, he might be a little less arrogant, but should that not be a positive? Times have changed indeed.

For some reason, Mourinho’s methods always seemed to work better on veteran players who had a developed personality. For the younger lads still searching for their place under the sun … With each passing generation, the younglings are more reserved and hesitant. They know more and more about how their head works, and are interested in keeping it in order. They do not want to be toyed with. But Mourinho does not know any better.

“When you are men, give it back to me.”

Mourinho supposedly left a note – and a celebratory ring – in the locker of Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini. He felt betrayed and hurt by the players. But maybe the players did too. Maybe Mourinho is now the issue, not the solution.

Roma replaced him with Daniele De Rossi and have played six league games since. Five wins and a single loss. This is not a different squad, this is a team freed of Mourinho’s shenanigans and mentality.

Should he get another chance at a top club? Probably not.

Will he get another chance at a top club? We would love to see that.

On to the next one …


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