José: A decade of dominance

by Sam Bowden

In almost ten years of management at the highest level, ‘The Special One’ has gone from a relatively unknown Portuguese coach, too arguably one of the games all time great managers. The man from Setúbal has achieved and experienced some of the greatest heights imaginable in football management already at the mere age of 49. However one moment stands out from the rest, the moment that shaped the rest of Mourinho’s illustrious career, that night at Old Trafford on 9 March, 2004.

With Mourinho’s Porto side leading 2-1 from the first leg against Manchester United in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, the Primeira Liga winners knew they needed to avoid defeat to progress to the Quarter finals. After 31 minutes United were leading 1-0 thanks to Paul Scholes’s goal and subsequently heading towards the last 8. However in the 90th minute Phil Neville conceded a soft free kick just outside the box, up stepped Benni McCarthy, his effort was fumbled by Tim Howard and the ball kindly fell to Porto’s defensive midfielder Costinha who tucked the ball home. Porto, beyond their wildest dreams were through. Mourinho had not only sent a statement out to the footballing world over the result, but the manner of how he celebrated it, by running fifty yards down the Old Trafford touchline in front of thousands of stunned United fans to celebrate with his players. It has been said that Costinha’s goal kick started Mourinho’s journey to becoming one of the greatest managers the game has witnessed.

“I understand why he [Ferguson] is a bit emotional. He has some top players in the world and they should be doing a lot better than that… You would be sad if your team gets as clearly dominated by opponents who have been built on 10% of the budget.”
Mourinho After Porto’s remarkable late win over Manchester United

The beginning

Prior to the Portuguese’s managerial breakthrough, Mourinho had been working with Sir Bobby Robson, mainly as an interpreter. Their partnership began in 1992 when Robson was appointed manager of Sporting Clube de Portugal. Mourinho (who was already fluent in English) was appointed as a translator to Robson.

Sir Bobby on Jose:

I needed him, on the pitch everyday, Jose stood behind me, he listened, learnt, looked, wrote and remembered.

In December 1993, Robson was dismissed as Sporting manager, nevertheless soon after his sacking rivals FC Porto hired him as manager with Mourinho instated in the same role as interpreter and coach from his Sporting days. Their move to the Estádio das Antas was deemed a success as Porto won two consecutive league titles in 1994-95 and 1995-96. They also defeated their previous club Sporting in the 1994 Portuguese cup final.

In July 1996, Mourinho’s and Sir Bobby’s tenure at Azuis e Brancos came to an end. A new chapter was about to be written as both of them headed to Spain and Catalan giants FC Barcelona. Robson had made it clear that he wanted Mourinho by his side in the same role as he had at Sporting and Porto. However Robson only spent a year at Barca and was subsequently replaced by Dutchman Louis van Gaal in the summer of 1997. This time Mourinho wasn’t on the move and prolonged his career at Camp Nou by working as a coach under van Gaal which culminated in two La Liga titles in successive years.

It wasn’t until September 2000 when Mourinho finally stepped up to a coaching role at a professional Football club, that club being Benfica, when he replaced Jupp Heynckes. Nonetheless Mourinho’s tenure at the Lisbon side would only last 9 matches and by December he had resigned due to being refused a contract extension by newly elected club president Manuel Vilarinho.

Jose’s breakthrough

Jose’s coaching career started to take shape when he arrived at FC Porto in January 2002. By the end of the 2001-02 campaign Porto finished in third position. Jose set his sights on the Portuguese Championship the in the forthcoming season. He was a man of his word and a year on from his arrival the Dragões were crowned Primeira Liga champions by eleven points, beating former club Benfica to the title. Perhaps his greater achievement that year was his success not only domestically but on a European front. Mourinho’s Porto side had reached the UEFA Cup Final to face Martin O’Neil’s Celtic who had overcome Boavista to play at Estadio De Olympico in Seville.  In the Spanish humidity Mourinho’s men defeated the Scottish side in extra time with five minutes remaining after 28 year old Brazilian striker Derlei netted the winner, the match ended 3-2 after extra time, Mourinho – in just 3 years of management,  had conquered Europe’s second string competition.

A new season followed, but the Portuguese title remained at the then new Estádio do Dragão, which was completed in November 2003. Porto retained the Primeira Liga by 8 points which meant Mourinho had collected two titles in as many years as manager. His managerial honours were starting to grow and his biggest yet was about to follow his domestic success.

After Porto’s extraordinary last gasp aggregate win over Manchester United, Mourinho’s route to more European glory edged a step closer, his side were just four games from the final. Ligue 1 champions Lyon an Spanish side Deportivo La Curuna stood in the way of the Portuguese manager and an unprecedented feat. The French champions were brushed aside 4-2 on aggregate by the Portuguese title winners in the Quarter Finals and despite La Curuna’s valiant efforts in the Semi’s, Mourinho’s defensive style helped his team scrape through the final after a 1-0 win in the Estadio Riazor. Mourinho and his Porto side were just 90 minutes away from history.

The 2004 UEFA Champions League final was held in Germany, and the dynamic  Arena AufSchalke, home of Schalke 04. It was Porto’s second taste of a Champions League final after Juary scored the winner for the club in the 1987 European Cup final against Bayern Munich. Many pundits expected the final to be a close encounter between Porto and Monaco, however after Carlos Alberto’s 39th minute strike, there was only going to be one outcome. Mourinho had bagged his second successive European honour after a convincing 3-0 win. The honour of claiming Europes most sought after competition is the pinnacle any manager dreams of achieving, Jose had achieved it in just four years of professional management and with a squad that was deemed outsiders from the start of the competition.

The footballing world had turned its head after Mourinho’s latest achievement. One man who was watching closely was Russian billionaire Roman Ambramovich, who had become owner of Chelsea in June of the previous year. It was clear that Mourinho was looking towards the future after his Champions League victory by claiming it was ‘almost certain’ that Porto’s 3-0 triumph over Monaco in Germany was his final match as manager.

In June 2004, Speculation was put to bed, Mourinho was appointed manager of Premier League runners up and mega rich Chelsea. His first press conference was eye catching to say the least, and the famous quote was used by the Portuguese that has now attached him with the nickname ‘The Special One’.

Please don’t call me arrogant, but im European Champion and I think I’m a special one.

As soon as Mourinho put pen to paper and joined the West London side, the squad was being strengthened. Mourinho spent over £70 million on new signings in the 2004 summer window. Intriguingly two Porto players in Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho joined Jose at the Bridge, along with Marseille striker Didier Drogba and Benfica midfielder Tiago. Mourinho’s new challenge was to conquer English football.

He was to happen upon Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United on the opening day of the 2004-05 season. The pair had a eventful previous encounter in the previous Champions League campaign where the Portuguese came out on top. Mourinho was successor again as his Chelsea side took all 3 points in a 1-0 win over the Red Devils, it was the beginning of a potential new rivalry in the Premier League.

Over the course of the season Mourinho’s Chelsea were breathtakingly powerful. The Blues only lost once in the whole campaign (1-0 to Manchester City) and conceded only 15 league goals in 38 games which still stands as a Premier League record. After the final whistle blew on 15th May, 2005 at St James Park, already crowned champions Chelsea had ended the season in record breaking fashion, claiming an unprecedented 95 points after 38 matches. Mourinho’s Chelsea had claimed their first league title since 1955.

A second successive Champions League final was on the horizon in Istanbul for Mourinho if he could overcome Rafeal Benitez’s Liverpool in the semi final. A controversial Luis Garcia goal in the second leg at Anfield was enough to put the reds through. Regardless of this, Mourinho’s first crusade in English Football was quite distinguished, he and his Chelsea side were now a force to be reckoned with.

Chelsea went into the 2005/06 campaign as overwhelming favourites for the Premier League title. Mourinho once again dipped into the transfer market and strengthened his side with the acquisition of Lyon’s 22 year old defensive midfielder Michael Essien for a reported fee of £25million, despite interest from rivals Manchester United.

The season as a whole wasn’t too dissimilar to the preceding campaign, with Mourinho’s men spending most of the season at the summit of the Premier League table. In the first half of the season, the blues racked up a dazzling 15 wins in 16. They only lost once in the latter half of 2005, coming at Old Trafford in November due to Darren Fletcher’s wonderful looping header.

At one point in the season Mourinho’s side were 18 points ahead of second place Manchester United, despite this lead, United clawed their way back into the title race and by April had cut the gap to just 7 points. For the first time in two seasons, Chelsea were under pressure at the top. United couldn’t keep their momentum going though, after a 0-0 draw against Sunderland at Old Trafford, Mourinho was once again handed the initiative. The season’s climax boiled down to 1st against 2nd at Stamford Bridge on 29th April, 2006. Chelsea only needed a point to clinch their second straight league title and after five minutes the prospect of more domestic silverware for the Portuguese coach looked increasingly likely after William Gallas’s close range header. In the end United were hammered, Jose had won his second title in a row in some style, beating Sir Alex’s side 3-0 to lift the trophy. Mourinho paid his fans back after during the post match celebrations by throwing his winners medal into he crowd, a gesture which illustrated  his connection to the blues faithful.

Jose whilst managing Chelsea:

If they made a film of my life, I think they should get George Clooney to play me. He’s a fantastic actor and my wife thinks he would be ideal.

The 2006/07 Premier League journey was up and running, Chelsea and Mourinho started the season with intentions of retaining their championship which would mean claiming a third straight Premier League title, matching Sir Alex Ferguson’s achievement when Manchester United captured three straight titles from 1998-2001. By the time the new season started, a new striker had arrived, Mourinho signed Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko for £30.8m from AC Milan in the 2006 summer window.

Speculation was growing over the course of the season about Mourinho’s future due to a frosty relationship with owner Roman Abramovich. Various reports also suggested the appointment of sporting director Frank Arnesen had inflicted a power struggle between him and Mourinho. Despite the reported issues behind the scenes, Mourinho’s side claimed his second League Cup triumph in February 2007 after a 2-1 victory over Arsenal. The Match itself was overshadowed by two incidents, one being the brawl in injury time when three players were dismissed (Adebayor, Mikel, Kolo Toure) the other being John Terry’s horrific head injury which lead to the Chelsea skipper swallowing his tongue and subsequently being stretchered off. Didier Drogba was the eventual match winner with his two goals that brought Mourinho’s side from behind to win the game.

Chelsea were finally toppled at the top of the Premier League table by Sir Alex Ferguson’s persistent Manchester United, the gap being six points. Europe’s elite competition also evaded Mourinho as for the second time in three seasons, Rafael Benitez got the better of The Special one as Liverpool defeated the Blues in a enthralling penalty shootout at Anfield in the 2007 UEFA Champions League semi finals. It was Mourinho’s most challenging time as Chelsea boss in 3 years of management in West London.

At the start of the 07-08 season Mourinho’s uncertain future was still high up on the agenda of many reports. Chelsea’s curtain raiser encounter against Manchester United in the Community shield ended in more penalty shootout failure, this defeat didn’t help Chelsea’s league form either. In Mourinho’s first five league games, his team only collected two victories, and draws to Liverpool and Blackburn combined with a 2-0 defeat at Villa park only made matters worse at the beginning of Chelsea’s season.

On 20th September, 2007, Mourinho dropped a bombshell on Chelsea and its fans. The club confirmed the Portuguese managers reign at Stamford Bridge was over after it was revealed he had left the club by ‘mutual consent’. Mourinho was immediately replaced by Chelsea’s director of Football Avram Grant who would remain at the Stamford Bridge helm for the rest of the season.

It was almost a year since Jose returned to management, his next challenge was waiting for him in Italy. Mourinho was appointed manager of Internazionale in June 2008. The Portuguese was succeeding the current Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini at the Giuseppe Meazza and his challenge was to dominate Italian football in similar fashion to what he achieved in England and Portugal. In Mourinho’s first season in Italy, the Nerazzurri won Serie A by ten points over Juventus. Inter also captured the Italian Super Cup by overcoming Roma 6-5 on penalties after the match ended in a 2–2 draw. However Mourinho’s Champions League journey faltered at the hands of Manchester United, bowing out 2-0 on aggregate in the round of 16 thanks too goals from Nemanja Vidic and  Cristiano Ronaldo. Mourinho’s first season was deemed a success from the Internazionale faithful, he was already looking towards the following season, with Champions League glory that had slipped through his hands for the last five years, at the top of his wishlist. Mourinho’s trust in youth over the course of the 08/09 campaign paid off, with 18 year old Mario Balotelli playing a  part alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Inter’s title winning season. The young Italian started 22 times for Mourinho in Serie A netting 8 goals, a decent return for a youngster playing at the top level.

When the 2009/10 season finally came along, Mourinho had been very active in the summer transfer window when signings such as Diego Milito, Thiago Motta and Real Madrid playmaker Wesley Sneijder headed to the San Siro. Perhaps the most extraordinary transfer that summer was the swap deal between Mourinho’s Internazionale and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona where strikers Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic exchanged clubs, Barca were also reported to have paid around £35m to Inter as well for the deal to be agreed.

Mourinho had sent out a statement in the 2009 transfer window, he wanted to win it all. After a nail biting title race which went to the wire, Mourinho’s Inter pipped second place Roma to the title by two points on the final day of the season, it was Inter’s fifth consecutive Serie A title and Mourinho’s second, once more Mourinho’s mission of the unprecedented treble was still on the cards.

For the treble to happen Mourinho would have to overcome current Champions League winners FC Barcelona. Pep Guardiola’s men had outclassed Manchester United in Rome the previous season and had scooped every trophy that was on offer. Whilst the Catalan giants had been tipped as overwhelming favourites to knock Inter out of the Semi finals and reach a second successive final, Mourinho had a game plan, which paid off in incredible fashion in the 2010 Champions League semi Final first leg at the San Siro.

Mourinho’s men needed to take a lead back to the Nou Camp if they were to have any chance of making the final in the Santiago Bernabéu. After 19 minutes Barcelona’s Pedro had given them a vital away goal, but the next 70 minutes of football pretty much decided the tie and Inter turned the game on its head with goals from Sneijder, Maicon and Milito to take a crucial 3-1 lead to Spain. It was arguably Mourinho’s most impressive result in management, tactically perfect in terms of containing Barca’s attacking threat which included the current Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.

A week after Inter’s heroics, Mourinho’s team were expecting an attacking onslaught inside the Nou Camp as the Italian champions looked to hold out on their 3-1 advantage to progress to the final. After the first 30 minutes Mourinho suffered a hammer blow as Thiago Motta saw red for an outstretched hand which collided with the face of Sergio Busquets, Mourinho’s task was for his side to contain the current holders for just over an hour. Barca still needed two clear goals and despite Gerard Pique’s classy 84th minute strike, Mourinho’s side held on. Jose had done the near impossible, to somehow topple the side that won everything in the previous season.

The Portuguese coach didn’t hide his emotions as the final whistle blew, by energetically running onto the pitch pointing towards the Internazionale faithful who were situated in the heavens of a silent Nou Camp, Mourinho knew the heights of his latest achievement and displayed his joyful emotions in front of the watching football world.

The 2010 UEFA Champions League final was held at the enormous Santiago Bernabéu, a stadium that Jose is familiar with nowadays. Inter had defied the odds to reach the final and were hoping to win the competition for the first time since 1965. German giants Bayern Munich and Mourinho’s former colleague Louis van Gaal stood in the way of The Portuguese’s second Champions League triumph.

Inter’s game plan on the night was to contain Bayern and to use the counter attack as a weapon. Mourinho’s forward firepower proved the difference as UEFA man of the match Diego Milito bagged two superbly taken goals. The fans man of the match Wesley Sneijder was also pivotal on the night which he provided an assist for the opener. Inter swept Bayern aside 2-0 and once again, the Portuguese manager had masterminded another remarkable achievement, to win two Champions League titles with two different clubs.

Jose’s emotions were clearly running high after this latest accomplishment, he was quoted on Sky confirming that he was ready to embark on a new challenge, another incredible chapter was about to be written.

Mourinho after the Champions League final victory in 2010:

I’m so happy, I’m so proud, but at the same time I’m so sad as almost for sure it’s my last game with Inter.

The Special One agreed and signed a 4 year contract at The Santiago Bernabéu on 31 May, 2010. Mourinho faced his greatest challenge to date, to overcome rivals FC Barcelona in both La Liga and in Europe. He already had got the better of Pep Guardiola in the last Champions League campaign.

This season however, the sheer size of Mourinho’s challenge was illustrated as Barca and Guardiola got the better of Los Bloncos, both in the league and in Europe. The lowest point for the Portuguese manager was in November 2010 when Guardiola’s Barca humiliated Madrid 5-0 inside the Nou Camp. In the end  Barcelona won La Liga by 4 points and outclassed Mourinho’s Madrid in the 2011 Champions League semi finals. Lionel Messi proved why he was the best player on the planet after an astonishing brace in the first leg at the Bernabéu.

Mourinho however didn’t end the season empty handed, something that is relatively unheard of in his mind. Real rose above Barca in the Copa del Rey final, in Valencia’s Mestalla stadium. The match winner was Cristiano Ronaldo who’s towering header was the only goal of the game.

FC Porto was a very big ship in Portugal, Chelsea was also a big ship in England and Inter was a great ship in Italy. Now I’m at Real Madrid, which is considered the biggest ship on the planet.

The latest season that has just passed had proven why ‘The Special One’ is regarded as one of the finest managers of his generation. The Portuguese’s challenge was to win his first and Real’s 32nd La Liga title. Mourinho and his side delivered the results, which included an impressive 2-1 win over rivals Barcelona in the Nou Camp on 21 April, 2012. Mourinho’s and Madrid’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo yet again netted the winning goal. The Special One’s side ended the campaign with an astonishing points tally of 100 and a goal difference of +89. A third Champions League final  and a potential encounter against former side Chelsea was on the cards but Bayern had other ideas and defeated the Spanish giants in a penalty shootout in the Champions League semi finals.

Mourinho had set the benchmark in terms of managerial achievements. He had been management for just over a decade but had won almost everything in four different countries. Claiming two UEFA Champions League titles with two different clubs underlines the managerial ability Mourinho displays. The Special One is known to always thinking about the future. He has claimed in different interviews his managerial style belongs back in England and claimed Chelsea was his ‘house’. He has repeatedly stated that once he leaves Madrid it will be for the Premier League. One job that he has been quoted as being interested in is being Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor, when that day eventually comes Jose would be on that list to succeed the great man. His immense respect for Ferguson has been clear for some time, Mourinho paid tribute to Sir Alex when he was awarded the 2012 FIFA Presidential award. Many pundits and fans think he will be the Scots successor at Old Trafford, after reports of Mourinho replacing Mancini at Manchester City were put to bed as the Italian signed a new long term contract, Mourinho in many peoples minds will be heading to the red half of Manchester when that time comes.

Mourinho on Ferguson:

I don’t call him Alex, or Sir, or Mr, I call him boss.

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