Jose Mourinho – From Bobby Robson’s wingman to Premier League swingman

Jose Mourinho has won a total of 25 trophies in his career, including domestic titles in England, Spain, Italy, and Portugal and two European cups, he has never left a club without delivering them some silverware.

But before the fame, the success, the touchline sprints and the press conference rants, it was a humble beginning for the Portuguese manager – his father was a professional goalkeeper and Mourinho always had a keen interest in football. When his father moved on to coaching, Mourinho followed his lead, beginning to study opposing teams and tactics.

His coaching career started as an interpreter for Sir Bobby Robson at Sporting CP, FC Porto and Barcelona.

Today, in continuation with my managerial series, I have broken down his career:

FC Porto (2002-2004)
Major Honours: 1x UEFA Champions League 2003-04), 1x UEFA Cup (2002-03), 2x Primeira Liga (2002-03, 2003-04)

It was at Porto were Mourinho first made the headlines, taking over when they were in fifth place in the league, winning back to back Portuguese titles and the European Cup in his first two seasons, transforming the club back to the top of Portuguese soccer.

The highlight of his tenure was winning the treble in the 2003-04 season. The most memorable moment came in the Champions League quarterfinals against Manchester United, where Mourinho ran down the Old Trafford touchline to celebrate with his players, as his Porto side ousted Sir Alex Ferguson’s with a 90th minute equalizer meaning Porto went through to the semi-finals 3-2 on aggregate.

It was the 2004 UEFA Champions League final win over Monaco and their talented young coach Didier Deschamps that convinced Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to hire Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea (2004-2007)
Major Honours: 2x Premier League (2004-05, 2005-06), 1x FA Cup (2006-07), 2x League Cup (2004-05, 2006-07), 1x FA Community Shield (2004-05)

It was the first press conference that set the tone; where Jose anointed himself “The special one”:

We have top players and, sorry if I’m arrogant, we have a top manager. Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m a European champion and I think I’m a special one.

Taking over Chelsea after Arsenal, under Arsène Wenger, had just become the Invincibles becoming the first side in Premier League history to go undefeated all season.

Mourinho’s Chelsea won back-to-back league titles in 2004 and 2005. Mourinho himself had now won four league titles in a row (Two in Portugal, followed by two in England).

The 2004-05 season was historic for the vast number of records set during the season. The list of achievements includes:

  • Set the record for most Premier League points (95) and wins (29)
  • Most away wins in a season (15)
  • Most clean sheets kept in a season (25)
  • Fewest goals conceded in a season (15)
  • Fewest goals conceded away in a season (9)

Tactically, the main innovation was the implementation of extra men in midfield. At a time when most English top sides were still playing 4-4-2, Jose set up with a 4-3-3, playing Claude Makélélé in the holding midfield role.

Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makélélé behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side. That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makélélé, who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him, he can see the whole pitch and has time.

The Chelsea manager continued: “If he gets closed-down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. If they are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help, it means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs. There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop thing”.

In 2006-07 Mourinho won the domestic cup double, but finished runners-up to Manchester United in the league.

Mourinho unexpectedly left Chelsea on 20 September 2007 “by mutual consent”, although there had been rumors in the press about a series of disagreements with owner Roman Abramovich.

Mourinho left as the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history, having won six trophies for the club in three years. He was also undefeated in all home league games.

Inter Milan (2008-2010)
Major Honours: 1x UEFA Champions League (2009-10), 2x Serie A (2008-09, 2009-10), 1x Coppa Italia (2009-10), 1x Supercopa Italiana (2008)

After interviewing for the Barcelona job in the summer of 2008 only to lose out to Barcelona B coach – Pep Guradiola – Mourinho instead took a job at the San Siro, becoming Inter Milan’s head coach.

In Mourinho’s second season in charge, Inter won their first European cup in 45 years and became the first Italian team in history to win the treble.

Tactically, Jose set-up in a 4-3-2-1 diamond, more often in Serie A against inferior opponents, while setting up with a 4-2-3-1 defensive set up in the big European games. The two-legged Champions League semi-final victory over Barcelona being the highlight of the season, after Inter reached the Champions League final with a 1-0 loss at the Camp Nou (going through to the final on aggregate 3-2), after Jose’s Inter side survived with ten men for more than 60 minutes.

At full time Mourinho ran onto the pitch and celebrated wildly, prompting Barcelona to turn their sprinklers on. After the match Mourinho called the result, – “the most beautiful defeat of his career.”

His parting image as Inter Milan’s coach was an emotional hug with Marco Matterzi, filmed outside the Bernebau stadium, after Inter had beaten Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Champions League final.

Real Madrid (2010-2013)
Major Honours: 1x La Liga (2011-12), 1x Copa Del Rey (2010-11), 1x Supercopa de Espana (2012)

After ousting Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the 2009-10 Champions League, Real Madrid president – Florentino Perez – hired Mourinho to restore the ‘Los Blancos’ as the dominant side in Spain.

Much of Jose’s time at Madrid was centered around Pep Guardiola and Barcelona. In the 2010-11 season, four Classicos in eighteen days took centre stage, as Mourinho engaged Guardiola in a physiological warfare, ending in Real Madrid winning the Copa Del Rey final and Barcelona knocking Real out the Champions League semifinals.

In 2012 Mourinho’s Madrid won La Liga, with a record breaking 100 points, scoring 121 goals, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring an absurd 46 goals in La Liga and 60 in all competitions.

Chelsea (2013-2015)
Major Honours: 1x Premier League (2014-15), 1x League Cup (2014-15)

Reunited with Roman Abramovich at Chelsea seven years on, the prior marriage too successful to ignore, Jose and Chelsea locked ties again.

In season two Mourinho combined with Belgium superstar Eden Hazard to win Chelsea their third Premier League title in the 2014-2015 season. Winning the league with 87 points, eight points ahead of second place Manchester City. Mourinho was voted LMA manager of the season, with Eden Hazard PFA player of the year, Chelsea also had 6 other players named into the PFA team of the year – Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.

The following year the third-season syndrome struck for Jose, as his Chelsea side picked up just 11 points from their first 12 games and on 17 December 2015, after losing nince out of 16 Premier League matches, Chelsea announced that they had parted company with Mourinho again “by mutual consent”.

Manchester United (2016-2018)
Major Honours: 1x Europa League (2016-17), 1x League Cup (2016-17), 1x FA Community Shield (2016)

A super club chasing the glory days, Jose had arguably his worst ever spell in management, that’s despite winning the FA Community Shield, the League cup and the Europa League, while finishing second behind Pep Guardiola’s 100 point Manchester City side in 2017-18, an achievement Mourinho described as “one of the best of his career.”

After starting the 2018–19 season with just seven wins in the first 17 Premier League games, Mourinho had a major fall out with club record signing, Paul Pogba. He delivered a withering attack on Pogba in front of his fellow Manchester United players after the 2-2 draw with Southampton. It is understood that the United manager compared Pogba to a “virus” and claimed he had shown a complete lack of “respect” to his team-mates and the club’s supporters.

He was sacked by the club on 18 December 2018.

Tottenham (2019-)

Eleven months out of management and his stock at an all-time low, Tottenham chairman David Levy played his cards, replacing Mauricio Pochetino with Jose Mourinho in November 2019. The Portuguese manager now in his first full season in charge, is tasked with bringing the North London club their first trophy since the 2008 League Cup.

It is almost as if, collectively, the press has written Jose off as past-it, his best days behind him, an ageing manager stuck in the dog days of football. I am not so sure though. If you look at Mourinho’s career, he had his most of his successful spells managing Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan – big clubs, but not super clubs, teams with homegrown talent, who grew into stars, much like Mourinho himself – self-made. This Tottenham side resembles many of those attributes, and maybe, just maybe, Jose has one more miracle left.

What’s next?

Impossible to predict, ‘What’s left?’ rather than ‘What’s next?’ seems a more apt title for this segment.

Bundesliga? Borussia Dortmund on paper seems a bad fit and clash of philosophies. Bayern Munich once upon a time would have made sense, but with Bayern’s success under Hansi Flick, the club is now more intent on playing high-defensive line, with a ferocious pressing game.

Ligue 1? Only PSG would make sense for Mourinho. Neymar and Mbappe being asked to track back, chase shadows and forget their egos… don’t do it Jose!

La Liga? A long-time admiration from President Florentine’s Pérez leaves the possible return to Real Madrid an intriguing future option.

Another Premier League job? Surely not, but I would not foreclose the idea entirely. It is a league Jose knows very well. But with relations seemingly burnt and bitter – with Chelsea and Manchester United – and currently in charge of Tottenham, only Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City remain from the league’s ‘big six’, none of which feel particularly realistic.

It seems likely Jose would have to look at a job outside the big-six. Newcastle, should they ever get their act together, present an interesting option as the place where Mourinho’s mentor, the late great Sir Bobby Robson was from.

In conclusion, Jose Mourinho is one of the greatest managers of all time. The trophies, statistics, and records are sealed. The special one has a special place in football history.

Author Details

Sam Stobbart

I tend to focus my writing on big picture analysis, looking at iconic players, managers and teams. I will be predominantly writing about the Premier League and the Champions League, but follow closely all of Europe's top five leagues. I support Newcastle United, I know ... but it could be worse ... I could support Sunderland.

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