José Mourinho: Unsavoury but undoubted (Part 2)

by Ciaran Kelly

Following on from yesterday’s look at José Mourinho’s career up to 2006, Ciaran Kelly concludes the Portuguese’s rollercoaster journey up to this point.

A Worrying Precedent

As one of the world’s most prolific strikers and with Didier Drogba beginning to settle as one of the best lone marksmen in world football, following a string of controversies in England over his play-acting, Andriy Shevchenko’s arrival seemed merely to illustrate that Roman Abramovich would stop at nothing to win the Champions League. Mourinho had hoped to have sold Hernán Crespo the previous summer and Shevchenko was an option on his wishlist, but the Portugese had eventually grown fond of the Argentine after his determined showing in 2005/2006. Now, however, a two-year loan deal was agreed with Internazionale for Crespo, once Shevchenko signed, and Eidur Gudjohnsen was sold to Barcelona too. A dangerous Galáctico-like policy and pressure was beginning to grip Chelsea, with Kenyon speaking of Chelsea becoming the biggest club in the world and winning at least two Champions League titles by 2014, and Mourinho’s team mentality was gradually being taken apart. While he certainly sanctioned the signings of Ashley Cole and Michael Ballack, Mourinho’s influence was waning, even if he would quip:

If Roman Abramovich helped me out in training we would be bottom of the league and if I had to work in his world of big business, we would be bankrupt!

The arrival of Frank Arnesen, as head of youth development, from Tottenham for an astonishing £8 million in the summer of 2005 and the influence of Piet de Visser, the one-time legendary scout who brought the likes of Ronaldo and Romário to Europe with PSV, irked Mourinho but as long as Abramovich did not disrupt the coaching set-up the Portuguese had carefully assembled, Mourinho pursued with his ambitions for an unprecedented quadruple. Unfortunately for Mourinho, though, it was not that straightforward. Shevchenko badly struggled: scoring just 14 goals in 51 games; being criticised for his attitude, with Mourinho claiming he “was treated like a prince at Milan”; and being effectively (unnecessary groin surgery was brought forward) dropped from the matchday squad altogether for the crucial, and insipid (Jorge Valdano infamously referred to it as a “s*** on a stick”), Champions League semi-final second-leg match against Liverpool on 1 May, 2007.

Chelsea did win the FA and League Cups, against Manchester United and Arsenal respectively, but Mourinho’s ‘chin-up’ (Salomon Kalou was prevented from collapsing to the ground in anguish by Steve Clarke and Rui Faria) gesture to the crowd after a battling (summer signing, Khalid Boulahrouz, had been sent-off on 43’) 1-1 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates on 6 May, which confirmed Manchester United as champions and saw Mourinho fail to win a league title (key psychological blow was not being top on New Years Day) for the first time in five years, could not hide what was a worrying precedent for Chelsea under Abramovich: inconsistency, egos and behind the scenes strive. Mourinho, whose inner stress was epitomised in him accusing the South Central ambulance crew of arriving late after Petr Čech suffered a fractured skull against Reading on 16 October, 2006 and receiving a bizarre police caution for preventing the quarantine of his uninoculated Yorkshire Terrier, would later describe his decision not to leave Chelsea after that FA Cup triumph as the “biggest regret of his career” (Béla Guttmann’s theory). However, this was not simply, as it had seemed, down to Mourinho’s transfer activity being limited:

The style of how we play is very important. But it is omelettes and eggs. No eggs – no omelettes! It depends on the quality of the eggs. In the supermarket you have class one, two or class three eggs and some are more expensive than others, and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go there, you have a problem.

Abramovich had already indirectly disrupted the dressing-room and Mourinho’s tactical dynamics (pursued with a 4-4-2 diamond for much of the early part of the 2006/2007 campaign) with Shevchenko’s signing, but when Abramovich planned to replace Steve Clarke with Avram Grant, a little-known technical director at Portsmouth, the Russian had crossed the line. Although it was eventually ‘resolved’, with Grant instead arriving as director of football after Mourinho vowed to resign if Clarke was replaced, the damage had been done. Even with de Visser and Arnesen already on the staff, Grant’s appointment signalled not only that Abramovich had an in-house confidant but also that Mourinho’s managerial power was rapidly diminishing. Chelsea’s only notable summer signing would be that of Florent Malouda from Lyon and from this, remarkably, Abramovich believed that Mourinho could deliver the attractive football that he so badly craved with the squad that the Portguese had previously assembled. This was never going to work and the figure of John Terry epitomised the turmoil inside the Chelsea dressing-room.

Abramovich's disgust was clearly evident, after Gabriel Agbonlahor secured the three points for Villa on 88', amid Doug Ellis' handshake

Terry, who had suffered back, ankle and head injuries in the 2006/2007 season, had just signed a then Premier League record £135,000 per week contract extension until 2013. However, having missed much of pre-season through injury, Terry only returned to action when Chelsea played Liverpool in the third league match of the season on 19 August, 2007. Chelsea had won their previous two games without Terry, but upon his return, they drew with Liverpool, narrowly beat Portsmouth, lost to Aston Villa and drew with Rosenberg in a half-empty Stamford Bridge. From this, Mourinho questioned Terry’s fitness, commitment and form, which deeply hurt Terry and he refused to warm-up against Rosenberg.

Even if Claude Makélelé’s claims in his auto-biography, Tout Simplement, that Terry actively played a role in Mourinho’s departure are sensationalist, the fact that Mourinho had even criticised the man he had handed the captaincy to showed just how chaotic and suspicious the final weeks of Mourinho’s reign were. This was also reflected in Mourinho’s appearance: uncharacteristically slicking back his hair before the 2-0 defeat against Aston Villa on 2 September and wearing a tracksuit (has since been echoed at Madrid, but only when things seemed to be falling apart, and was a farcry from when he prepared himself for the deluge of champagne against Bolton in 2004/2005) for the match against Rosenberg on 18 September, 2007.

Mourinho left Chelsea by “mutual consent” on 27 September. Having established himself as the club’s most successful manager, with six trophies in three seasons, and setting an English league record of 64 home games unbeaten after the 3-2 win over Birmingham on 12 August, 2007, Mourinho could hold his head high – even without claiming the elusive Champions League, following agonising exits to Liverpool (‘ghost goal’) in 2004/2005, Barcelona (is aggrieved about Asier del Horno’s double-booking to this day) in 2005/2006 and Liverpool (penalties) in 2006/2007. While Abramovich did buy Mourinho a rare £2 million 612 Scaglietti Ferrari just days after their parting, it was clear that their footballing relationship was over.

 Unexpected Openings

As part of the mutual termination, Mourinho was prohibited from working for an English club as his next move, but, in leaving at such an awkward time in the season, where Mourinho would go next was still up for debate. The inevitable managerial merry-go-round in Continental Europe in the summer of 2008 seemed his best bet, but Mourinho was offered a job that had its personal attractions before then: England. With Steve McClaren being sacked after England’s desperate 3-2 defeat to Croatia at Wembley on 21 November, 2007, the FA planned to make a strong appointment in December. Fabio Capello emerged as the frontrunner, when he declared his interest, but this was only after Mourinho admitted that he came “hours” from taking the England job but would not like “just one match a month..the office..and overseeing matches {in the stand}.”

While the FA’s offer may have seemed something of a surprise, given Mourinho’s boisterous reputation and the fact that they did not appoint Brian Clough in 1977 for similar reasons, there was an even greater shock on the cards: Mourinho was interviewed for the soon to be vacant Barcelona job in February, 2008. Barcelona’s vice-president, Marc Ingla, and their director of football, Txiki Begiristain, met Mourinho and his representatives, namely Jorge Mendes, in Lisbon – with The Special One delivering one of his trademark 27-page Powerpoint presentations. In the three-hour meeting, Mourinho spoke about shifting Barcelona’s identity with the use of an all-action 4-3-3, the dangers of the Gaucho clique (Ronaldinho, Deco, Juliano Belletti and Sylvinho) and how he feared Messi could follow suit without the influence of a hard-line manager or assistant (Henk ten Cate was sighted as a positive influence, but had left in 2006), and his plans to use one of Luis Enrique, Josep Guardiola, Sergi Barjuán or Albert Ferrer as an assistant – with Rui Faria, Silvino Louro and André Villas-Boas being the other additions to his backroom staff. Ingla planned to invite Mourinho to meet Joan Laporta, Barcelona’s president, and Johan Cruyff, Laporta’s adviser, but Mourinho complained about Cruyff’s presence (fresh from his experience with a confidant-filled hierarchy at Chelsea) and Laporta was already convinced of Guardiola’s ambitions, philosophy and crucial mix of a placcid public persona with in-house discipline.

 His Greatest Achievement?

Just under four months later on 2 June, though, Mourinho was appointed as manager of Internazionale on a three-year contract. Faria, Louro and Villas-Boas, who had departed Chelsea alongside Mourinho, again joined him on his latest venture. Giuseppe Baresi took the ‘Clarke role’ as the in-club assistant and such was Mourinho’s confidence and aptitude in his opening press conference, he spoke in Italian (a language he had never learnt as a translator and which he crammed for for three weeks). Mancini, Ricardo Quaresma and Sulley Muntari (Mourinho would go on to controversially question Muntari’s compliance with Ramadan) were all signed as Mourinho looked to replicate the dynamic and wide 4-3-3 he had used at Porto and Chelsea. Frank Lampard had been chased and the pair agreed on an informal agreement, which would lead to Lampard following Mourinho in the summer of 2009, but following the death of his mother, Pat, in April and Chelsea’s admirable support of Lampard, the Englishman instead decided to stay.

To put into context the environment that Mourinho entered, Internazionale, from the end of Helenio Herrera’s reign in 1968 to the Portuguese’s arrival in the summer of 2008, won just eight league titles in 43 years and failed to replicate the ‘Golden Age’ under president Angelo Moratti from 1955-1968. Herrera – with his confrontational style, revolutionary psychology, incredibly disciplined methods (bed checks), rapport with the club’s fans and deflection of media attention from his players to himself – was the key figure behind Inter’s three titles and two European Cups during his reign. Also, the Argentine’s legacy lived on with much of the same squad and the catenaccio tactic under his replacement, Giovanni Invernizzi, who won the Scudetto in 1971 and made the European Cup final in 1972. 43 years on, the parallels were stark. Mourinho had strikingly similar methods to Herrera, generating unprecedented controversy in Italian football for his brutal and unprecedented disrespect towards fellow Serie A managers (namely Claudio Ranieri, Luciano Spalletti and Carlo Ancelotti), referees (handcuffs gesture against Sampdoria on 22 February, 2010) and journalists (accused them of “intellectual prostitution” in writing on Roma’s and Milan’s hunt for the title in 2008/2009).

Nonetheless, regardless of Inter’s five Serie A wins between 1995 and 2011 under the presidency of Massimo Moratti, which edges Milan’s four titles and matches Juventus’ five, a lack of Champions League success, just one semi-final appearance (2003) before Mourinho’s arrival in comparison to Milan’s two tournament victories in 2003 and 2007, left Moratti restless. This lack of a meaningful impact on the Champions League led to record-breaking amounts of money being spent on the likes of Christian Vieri (£31 million in 1999), Ronaldo (£19 million in 1997), Francesco Toldo (£17 million in 2001) and Hernán Crespo (£17 million in 2002), and, ultimately, was one of the main reasons behind the rash and somewhat harsh sackings of managerial names such as Giampiero Marini, Luigi Simoni and Roberto Mancini.

Even though Mourinho had assembled a side centred on the multi-million pound signings of Lúcio, Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o (despite Mourinho lauding Zlatan Ibrahimović as the best player in the world, the £40m plus Eto’o deal was one of football’s all-time coups) and Diego Milito, Inter’s psychological failure to ever consistently impose themselves on the Champions League made the Portuguese’s 2010/2011 continental achievement all the more impressive – particularly when one considers Inter’s mentality, consistency and performances since Mourinho left. Mourinho’s style of football did not appear that different to Mancini’s pragmatic philosophy, initially, but his man management and tactical organisation of Inter were of a different class. From this, a number of players who had seen their stock fall before Mourinho’s arrival had their careers revived and dramatically improved under The Special One’s tutelage.

Maicon overtook Javier Zanetti as Inter’s undisputed first-choice right back and his surge in performances saw him become one of the world’s best right backs. Javier Zanetti was re-energised and re-invented as a consistent central midfielder under Mourinho. Walter Samuel had seen his career dogged by injury and poor form, but the Argentine revived the ‘brick-wall’ brilliance that he displayed at Roma between 2001 and 2004. With Sneijder, even though he was unquestionably talented, doubts remained about his temperament and mentality, and Madrid’s willingness to offload the Dutchman left him incredibly low in self-confidence but he was Europe’s most influential midfielder in 2009/2010. Eto’o was once a self-centred hothead, but the Cameroonian showed remarkable maturity and tactical discipline on the right wing of Mourinho’s 4-3-3. Milito had proved his domestic credentials in his one season at Genoa, yet was under huge pressure with his hefty transfer fee, but proved himself as one of the world’s most potent, pivotal and consistent finishers in the 2009/2010 season.

However, it must be noted that Mourinho did need a bedding-in season (a damp squib 0-2 Champions League second round defeat to Manchester United in 2008/2009 for example), before his philosophy and signings really took off. After all, the transition from Mancini’s double training sessions and 4-4-2/4-3-1-2 – which was so unashamedly reliant on the mood and performances of talisman Ibrahimović, the zonal defensive system, narrow width, counter-attacking and the long ball to achieve and maintain narrow advantages – naturally took time for Mourinho to tweak and perfect. By 2009/2010, the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 improved Mancini’s narrowness but, admittedly, also lacked wholly natural width due the unnatural (despite their disciplined Mourinho trait of tracking back) use of strikers Eto’o and Goran Pandev on the wings. Mourinho’s 2009/2010 style saw a lot more ground ball, which was certainly down to Ibrahimović’s departure to Barcelona, and the defensive discipline and creative spark that Lúcio, Samuel and Sneijder respectively provided were pivotal to Inter’s treble success.

After all, only a Mourinho side could have 24% possession in the Camp Nou and have a man sent-off, yet still come out 3-2 winners on aggregate or could withstand, and better, a heavy ‘kitchen sink’ barrage from Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (Mourinho’s popularity was undying at the Bridge, where he hugged every single Chelsea player before the warm-up and had his image cheered by a capacity crowd on the big screen) in the second round. It was testament to Mourinho’s achievement that he got so much out of one of the oldest average aged winners of a club competition in history, with the Champions League final XI at 30.36 years and the seven substitutes plus the suspended Thiago Motta averaging 29.875 years. Again, though, it was clear that Mourinho had other matters on his mind, amid the euphoric celebrations of Inter’s 2-0 truimph over FC Bayern at the Santiago Bernabéu, and that was the vacancy at Real Madrid. Like at Chelsea, it was an emotional goodbye for players and staff (although Villas-Boas had already left for Académica against Mourinho’s wishes, which was echoed when Villas-Boas took the Chelsea job “a year too soon” in Mourinho’s eyes in the summer of 2011) and after a tearful exchange with his coach, Marco Materaazi remarked:

What am I to do? Retire? After you, I can’t have another coach.

Emerging from the Shadow of Barcelona

Before the Portguese’s unveiling to the press, Florentino Pérez, Real Madrid’s president, showed Mourinho Madrid’s eight European Cups and told Mourinho how much he craved re-living the ecstasy of the 2002 victory, to which Mourinho remarked:

I only won my last one ten days ago and I already miss it!

By appointing Mourinho in June, 2010, Pérez finally realised that in order for Madrid to regain their mantle as the world’s biggest club, patience, stability, teamwork and an emphasis on defence as much as attack were going to have to be necessities. After all, in his first presidency from 2000-2006, Pérez employed six different managers and there was the unjustified and unforgivable sacking of one of the club’s most successful managers of all time: Vicente del Bosque. Added to this was Pérez’s meddling in transfers, which led to brilliant yet seemingly ‘unmarketable’ talents like Makélelé, Eto’o and Esteban Cambiasso leaving the club. From this, the predominantly flawed Galáctico policy and the insistence that players were selected based on reputations rather than form – such as an out-of-form Raúl being picked ahead of Michael Owen in 2004/2005 – led to an unstable and inconsistent first presidency for Pérez with a paltry return of two league titles and one Champions League in six seasons.

Pérez‘s return in the summer of 2010, amid the fanfare at the arrival of the second era of Galácticos and the appointment of what seemed a weak and short-term managerial appointment in Manuel Pellegrini, suggested that the Spaniard had learnt little from his previous mistakes. The nature of modern day football meant that it was very unlikely a successful team could be moulded on the back of selected spending. Coupled with this was the chaotic and overcrowded structure of egos with outspoken former player and manager, Jorge Valdano, being kept on as sporting director. Blinkered, Pérez’s spending resulted in the unnecessary glamour purchases of Karim Benzema and Káka – despite the fact that Madrid already had a hungry, consistent and proven goalscorer in Gonzalo Higuain and established creative outlets in Rafael van der Vaart and Sneijder. Pérez’s signings led to van der Vaart being used as a squad player, while Sneijder was sold to Inter that summer.

While Xabi Alonso was signed as a direct replacement for Sneijder, Madrid’s defence badly needed the investment that was afforded to their attacking areas. A defence comprising of Alvaro Arbeloa (one of Mourinho’s favourite players, who always gives him “between a seven and nine out of ten”), Pepe, Raúl Albiol and Sergio Ramos, without the defensive marshalling that Mourinho is famed for, lacked the collective discipline, maturity and leadership to be the successful foundations of a title-winning team. Added to this was the pressure imposed upon Pellegrini to win in style, while also controlling a dressing room full of dominant personalities. Pellegrini had never dealt with so many stars and the reality was that Barcelona, who were reinvigorated under Pep Guardiola, had the tactical balance, work ethic and united pride in the shirt that Madrid, under Pellegrini, lacked. While Madrid did score an incredible 102 goals and finished just three points off Barça in 2009/2010, they were embarrassed by both Lyon and Alcoron in the Champions League and Copa del Rey respectively. Pellegrini was sacked.

Mourinho spent €75 million in the summer of 2010 but unlike Pellegrini’s regime, where Pérez and Valdano handled transfers and sanctioned the signings of commercial assets, the money was more wisely spent and the signings clearly had Mourinho’s signature. Ricardo Carvalho finally gave Madrid the defensive maturity and solidity that they had been missing since Fabio Cannavaro left the club in 2009. An emphasis was placed on youth too: Sami Khedira (24), who gives the midfield balance and energy; Ángel di María (24), who lessens the dependence on the right flank and on Cristiano Ronaldo; and Mesut Özil (23), who provides an unrivalled creative outlet in the final third. Pedro León (25), who Mourinho later fell-out with, and Sergio Canales (21), who is on loan at Valencia, were brought it on smaller fees and it remains to be seen whether they will be given the chance to fulfil their potential in the long run as there are a host of internationals ahead of them in the pecking order.

While on paper 2010/2011 may have seemed disappointing and distasteful for Madrid, epitomised in the purposeful yellow cards of Sergio Ramos and Alonso against Ajax on 23 November, there has been obvious progression. Remarkably, this has come in spite of the brutal 5-0 defeat by Barcelona in November, which finally confirmed that Madrid could not match Barça with an attacking style of football. It was the moment that Mourinho clearly realised the task ahead of him:

This is the first time I have ever been beaten 5-0. It is a historically bad result for us. It is not a humiliation but I am very disappointed. It is sad for us.

 

But it is not difficult for me to swallow. What’s difficult to swallow is when you lose a game because you have hit the post or the referee has been bad. I have left here in that state before with Chelsea and Inter Milan but that was not the case tonight. It is easy for me to take because it is fair.

 

We played very, very badly and they were fantastic. We gifted them two goals that were bordering on the ridiculous. It is our own fault.

However, Madrid have not looked back – even if Mourinho lost his incredible nine-year 150 league home match unbeaten run against Gijón (a sweet victory for Manolo Preciado, who infamously called Mourinho a canalla after the Portuguese criticised Gijón’s weak team selection against Barcelona on 24 September) on 2 April. The 2011 Copa del Rey victory, which saw Mourinho prevent Guardiola winning a full set of trophies for the second time in three seasons, over Barcelona proved that Barça were not invincible and that Mourinho’s style of football would continue to pay dividends. Remarkably, this occurred despite the influential Alfredo Di Stéfano criticising Madrid’s similar tactics in the 1-1 La Liga draw against Barcelona on 19 April, where Madrid completed just 179 passes to Barcelona’s 740 and the contest was likened to a “lion” against a “mouse” by Di Stéfano. Mourinho, though, pushed this and his mind-games (criticised Guardiola for lamenting correct refereeing decisions) too far in the Champions League El Clasicos against Barça, which backfired and clearly rallied Guardiola and his troops before the first-leg at the Bernabéu:

 In this room [Real Madrid’s press room], he is the chief, the f****** man. In here he is the f******man and I can’t compete with him. If Barcelona want someone who competes with that, then they should look for another manager. But we, as a person and an institution, don’t do that.

Lessons were learnt, though, just like they were in the 5-0 defeat in November. It is clear that Madrid cannot replicate the intensely defence driven tactics (Madrid had just 28% possession in the first-leg against Barcelona) Mourinho used with Internazionale, as the team is filled with ‘one-way’ players like Pepe (D), Arbeloa (D), Özil (A), Khedira (D), Ronaldo (A) and Benzema (A). Still, Mourinho was aggrieved with Barcelona’s play-acting and cried fowl:

If I tell Uefa what I really think and feel, my career would end now. Instead, I will just ask a question to which I hope one day to get a response: Why? Why? Why Ovrebo? {three possible penalties, for Chelsea against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on 6 May 2009, but Abidal wrongly sent off} Why Busacca? {Robin van Persie’s second yellow after the Dutchman shot after the whitstle on 8 March, 2011} Why De Bleeckere? {Thiago Motta’s harsh sending off, after an ‘altercation’ with Sergio Busquets, on 28 April, 2010 } Why Stark? {Pepe sent off for a high tackle on Daniel Alves on 61′ and Mourinho followed suit minutes later on 27 April, 2011} Why? Because every semi-final the same things happen.

Still, solidity has become a hallmark of Madrid under Mourinho, with the surprisingly reliable central defensive partnership of Pepe and Ramos. This brilliantly compliments the defensive midfield pairing of Alonso and Khedira, who retain vital possession, start most of Madrid’s phased attacks and provide the ammunition for Ronaldo et al. By starting Marcelo/Fábio Coentrão on the left, on the opposite flank to Arbeloa on the right, Madrid now have two natural-footed threats on the overlap to compliment the natural width that di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo give them. This is a huge contrast to Pellegrini’s unnatural use of Esteban Granero/Kaká on the left flank in 2009/2010, who rarely had the aid and overlap of the unnaturally sided Arbeloa.

In putting his faith in Özil and Higuain, Mourinho has shown he will not be pressured into picking players based purely on reputation. After all, the one-time unmotivated Benzema’s (a clear example, with dramatically improved consistency, of adhering to Mourinho’s strict advice in 2011/2012) extended run in the team coincided with Higuain’s knee injury in 2010/2011 while Kaká (like Benzema, has dramatically improved his application in 2011/2012), even when briefly fit last season, rarely featured. This shift in the Galácticos policy was epitomised in the signing of Emmanuel Adebayor on loan from Manchester City in January 2011. Higuain’s injury had left Madrid with only one fit striker: the unfancied Benzema. Mourinho clashed with Valdano over the signing of the Togolese man and the pair fell out when Pérez granted Mourinho’s request. From this, it led to Valdano’s departure on 25 May, 2011 and Mourinho now has a powerful ally in Zinedine Zidane as sporting director.

Still, despite this, 2011/2012 has not been such an unqualified success for Mourinho. The Portuguese believed he could count on undying Madrid support, particularly with Valdano out of the way, and sought to re-instigate the bitter hatred against Barcelona in the Supercopa de España, when Gerard Piqué described Mourinho as the “enemy of football” after his cynical eye-gouge on Barcelona’s assistant manager, Tito Villanova. So, while Marca included a free poster with their issue upon Mourinho’s unveiling and Mourinho became the first Madrid manager to ever have his name specifically chanted in the Bernabéu, not everything has gone to plan in 2011/2012.

Firstly, after the 1-0 defeat to Levante on 19 September, Mourinho criticised Khedira for getting himself sent-off on 40’, thirty minutes before Arouna Koné put Levante ahead, and this irked the players. Then, Mourinho said in an interview with the BBC on 26 December that he “would love to come back to England”, which the Spanish press saw as Mourinho ‘ungratefully’ hankering for a move in the summer of 2012. The most shocking moment of Mourinho’s time at Madrid, though, came two days after the 1-2 Copa del Rey first-leg defeat to Barcelona on 18 January, 2012. Having employed a press officer to compile a broad mix of newspaper cuttings every morning, Mourinho headed to Ciudad Real Madrid the morning after the defeat and before he, himself, analysed the match, Mourinho had a broad set of weaknesses to work on. One was Sergio Ramos’ set-piece positioning:

Mourinho: You killed me in the mixed zone.

 

Ramos: No, boss, you have only read what it is in the press, not what we said.

 

Mourinho: Of course, as you are world champions and you are protected by your friends in the media…like the goalie.

 

Casillas (30 metres away, shouting): Boss, here things are said face to face.

 

Mourinho (ignoring Casillas): Where were you in the first goal, Sergio?

 

Ramos: Marking Piqué.

 

Mourinho: But you had to mark Puyol.

 

Ramos: Yes, but Piqué was blocking in the set pieces, so I decided to change the markings.

 

Mourinho: What is going on now? You are now the manager or what?

 

Ramos: No, but depending on the situation of the game, there are times where the markings have to be changed. And as you were never a player, you don’t know that these situations take place.

It was an incredible sequence of events, arguably the first time that Mourinho has so publicly (given the leak) been undermined and appeared vulnerable, but, astonishingly, Madrid were clearly united in rallying in the 2-2 second-leg draw at the Camp Nou and have since gone on a ten-match unbeaten run. Therefore, it is inevitable that Mourinho will lead Los Blancos to the title, having held an eight-point lead after twenty-seven games. So, while a return to England seemed imminent, given his very public house hunt in Belgravia on 29 February, Mourinho, craftily, was flirting in a bid to improve his own position – even if Roman Abramovich was the only realistic club owner willing to pay-off Mourinho’s world record €13.5 million per annum two-year contract.

Regardless of the situation, one should never go back and, instead, Mourinho will, at the very least, stick to Guttman’s theory and elevate his influence to Academy and medical department matters. Given that many have criticised the Portuguese’s nomadic tendencies in the past, it is clear he intends to build a legacy at Madrid – which will surely involve targeting multiple Champions League trophy wins. Also, interestingly, in comparison with his preference for near-peak aged players at Porto, Chelsea and Internazionale, Haimt Altintop and Ricardo Carvalho have been the only > 25 year signings in Mourinho’s time at Madrid so far. Maybe, all along, Mourinho realised that Madrid was the personal pinnacle, until Sir Alex Ferguson retired at Manchester United at least, and it is clear that he is thriving under the daunting pressure and club dynamics of Real:

Real Madrid and I share a project and we are going to carry on with it. Being part of this team is a fantastic and unforgettable experience for a manager like me. Madrid is one of the biggest clubs in the world and I feel happy here.

I feel they trust me here and I feel I have the complete support of the directors and all the fans. I see my future as achieving more things with Real Madrid and better results that lead to us winning trophies.

I am going to sign a new contract with Real Madrid. I would like to have a place in the club’s history.

So, as Jose Mourinho soon enters the fiftieth year of his life, one cannot help but wonder what such a self-assured, self-made, postmodern football coach would like to see left as his footballing epitaph. Of course, though, the private, family-orientated José and the footballing-obsessed Mourinho are near-unrelatable and this was epitomised in a recent interview Mourinho gave with Real Madrid TV: “Remembered? I’m not worried about that. I just want to leave my kids the greatest memories. In football, you make history with results. I am not worried about it.”

3 Responses

  1. I just wanted to thank you for such a wonderfully well written piece. That was great reading. I look forward to more of your pieces in future. I am a Portsmouth fan, and we have a special love for Avram Grant. I’d be interested to read more about his time at Chelsea.

  2. TitusBramble says:

    Good stuff,a really nice summation of the legend that is Jose.

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