The title of this article may be viewed as a bit too much, and people may point out that I am a Chelsea fan, and thus I am likely to be biased towards my own club.
However, I do believe that many other football fans can look at Jose Mourinho and say that he is one of football’s greatest managers.
After all, he has won as many Champions League finals as Sir Alex Ferguson and Mourinho still has a chance to win a third Champions League trophy. He introduced one of football’s clichés, “parking the bus,” which he himself has done many times over the course of his career.
During his first spell in the 2004/5 season at Chelsea he arrived as a young, promising manager, filled to the brim with confidence. He will forever be remembered for when he called himself, “a Special One,” in his first press conference in England.
He would go on to back up this claim, winning the Premier League for Chelsea, their first title in 50 years and did so by building a team that will forever be remembered as one of the greatest teams in the last decade.
He masterminded FC Porto and Internazionale to famous Champions League victories. His confidence and arrogance was unseen in Premier League managers before, but it is specifically this kind of attitude that gave the Chelsea side the winning ethos.
He helped them believe that they were the best and compelled them to prove it.
This is all good and well, but what does all of this have to do with Jose Mourinho being a revolutionary? It all starts with his managerial debut at FC Porto.
As Michael Cox of zonalmarking.net put it:
…looking across this side and seeing names such as Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Maniche and Costinha, the first reaction is to think, ‘Ah, it was a team packed full of good players’.
He later goes on to say that before Mourinho, the FC Porto team was a team of nobodies before he took charge. Before Mourinho led FC Porto to a Champions League victory, he had already won the UEFA Cup the previous season and the Portuguese League twice.
The team Mourinho built at Porto was flexible. During the famous Champions League run his team outscored Lyon 4-2 on aggregate and then they put in an excellent defensive performance over two legs against Deportiva La Coruna to win by a single goal, coming from a penalty.
FC Porto’s triumph in the Champions League is one of the few times one of Europe’s “big teams” had not won the Champions League. He later won the Champions League again with Inter. The latter also shows why Mourinho is a revolutionary.
Jose Mourinho is not afraid to win “ugly”. Mourinho’s defensive qualities were never hidden from the world and everyone knew that the FC Porto team he managed had been one of the best defensively drilled sides of the last 15 years but when Mourinho won the Champions League with Inter, two major performances stood out.
The second-leg tie against Barcelona at the Camp Nou and the final against Bayern Munich. Firstly, we must address the semi-final second-leg against Barcelona. Mourinho had already masterminded Inter to a 3-1 home win over Barcelona by exposing the weakness of Barcelona’s left hand side.
Mourinho went to the Camp Nou with one objective – to defend diligently, and he did so. Thiago Motta got sent off, and instead of turning to the bench like most managers would, Mourinho thought on his feet and placed Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o on the flanks, with defensive duties.
Inter sat extremely deep, and every time Barcelona got the ball they had to get past 10 men. Barcelona had 86% possession and completed 555 passes to Inter Milan’s 67. Jose’s Inter side got accused of being anti-football and for not playing “the beautiful game”.
He is still accused of doing so, as recently as last season’s 2-0 win away at Anfield, where Chelsea wasted time from the very beginning and were ultra-defensive. (Brendan Rodgers would say after the match that Mourinho chose the easy way out because it is, “easy to defend” according to him).
As far as Mourinho was concerned, he had won. He went to Madrid and beat Bayern Munich in an excellent counter-attacking display. Their solid defending in their own area ensured the victory.
He may not have had the best times at Real Madrid for the next few seasons, but he is one of the few managers that dismantled and suppressed Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
Very few managers would be willing to play “ugly football” and risk being seen as an irritating manager. The question that needs to be asked however, is how does an irritating manager make his players cry on his departure?
Video footage shows various Inter players crying and hugging Mourinho before his departure to Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho makes it a point to ensure that he maintains the best relationship with his players.
He is also a big inspiration to his players. He told Frank Lampard that he was, “one of the best in the world”. Later that season Lampard finished runner-up to Ronaldinho in the Ballon D’or and FIFA World Player of the Year.
He was not afraid to make the difficult decision of criticising or dropping big name players. All one needs to do is to look at the Iker Casillas saga during his time at Real Madrid, or the comments he made about Eden Hazard after he failed to track back for two of Atletico Madrid’s goals in the second-leg of the semi-final.
Juan Mata was sold because he was not willing to defend and as of now, Chelsea’s three attacking midfielders, Oscar, Willian and Hazard track back and attempt to recover the ball completing Mourinho’s idea of a perfect unit. He also takes the pressure off his players all the time, by toying with the media and press.
Earlier this season, Chelsea had given up an eight point lead they had over Manchester City. Instead of the newspapers and media blaming and focusing on the performances of the players, they had focused on Mourinho’s claim that there was a “campaign” against Chelsea.
No one talked about how Chelsea only managed one shot on target against Southampton, or how they had capitulated completely against Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Instead, the press talked about Mourinho’s comments after the match and the spotlight was on Mourinho’s absurdity instead of the players’ performances. This type of “sacrificial lamb” leadership is unique and different.
The comment about the “campaign” against Chelsea links into the siege mentality that Mourinho creates. This idea of “them against us”, unites a squad and motivates everyone to one common goal.
An example of this can be seen in Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea. After a first leg loss at the Camp Nou, Jose Mourinho criticised the refereeing performance and UEFA in the build-up to the second leg.
This criticism gave the impression that UEFA were against Chelsea and that the fans and the players didn’t only have to beat Barcelona, but they had to beat the organisation that didn’t want them too.
In short, I believe that Jose Mourinho is a revolutionary because of his radical leadership techniques, his willingness to make the more difficult choices on and off the pitch and how his arrogance oozes a winning ethos into the team he takes over.
Hopefully, I have convinced you of the same.