The master of manipulation leaves Milan for Madrid

by Back Page Football

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/sports/2010-05/27/13317996_11n.jpgAfter working in two of the most fashionable cities in the world (London and Milan) it’s only appropriate to want to conquer another one – Madrid.

Jose Mourinho, the man who can be mistaken for a puppeteer. He’s the media’s best friend, always providing a story or a headline for the journalistic vultures to feast upon. When he speaks, silence descends. Football hasn’t seen one man receive such attention since the late, great, Brian Clough. It doesn’t matter whether you love him or loathe him, if you’re a football fan you’ll always be willing to hear what controversial, inspirational, comical and often egotistical words the Portuguese ‘master’ has to say.

It’s impossible to avoid this man, not because the media showcases him at every given opportunity, but because that’s what the audience wants. His command of the media was there for all to see as he ended Internazionale’s painful 45-year wait for a European Cup.

What occurred post-final whistle was something few had seen on a football pitch. Paparazzi being herded like sheep by the ‘top dog’ across the hallowed turf of what will now become his home, the Santiago Bernabeu.

The cameras were following his every step, movement and emotion. The footballing world’s fascination with Jose Mourinho was being displayed on club football’s biggest stage. Images of Mourinho playing puppeteer to the paparazzi were being branded across not countries but continents. Viewers were witnessing a man who appears destined to re-write history over and over again. A man who captivates his audience, no matter how big or small, whether it’s an interview with a reporter or on the touchline in front of 80,000 people.

Surprisingly, Mourinho showed an emotional side that was relatively inexistent the previous occasion he won the Champions League. Congratulating each player and member of staff for their success, there was a distinct hint of arrivederci lingering in the air. Maybe it was the achievement itself? Bringing the trophy back to the blue and black side of Milan for a change could easily have been enough to fill a passionate man with great pride. Inevitably it was the separation of a successful and affectionate relationship between club and manager that resulted in such a reaction.

Mourinho’s relationship with the media in Italy wasn’t quite so close. Despite initially winning them over with his impressive grasp of the language, including dialect, it was his reluctance to speak to reporters when often expected that caused a furor. Italian reporters and journalists generally have a lot of access to players, managers and clubs compared to what you’d find in England for example. This causes copious amounts of ‘rumours’ and some ugly situations arising. However, Mourinho’s selective way of speaking to the media was unheard of in Italy and very much unappreciated.

His ability to grasp languages so quickly and to such a standard enables him to ‘control’ the media. Previously known during his Barcelona days as the ‘Translator’ he’s now risen well above that patronising status and is well on his way to being one of the all time greats.

Famous for many things, Mourinho’s man management skills often stand out and are second to none in the modern game. He likes to give his teams the feeling ‘it’s us against the world’, ‘backs against the wall’, ‘David vs Goliath’ and so on. The method of combining tactical intuition with psychological and motivational knowledge has clearly worked as his numerous titles suggest. Mourinho had studied psychology and sports science and he’s put this in to practice with his approach to football management.

Mourinho has again proven that man management is a vital attribute to have for a manager to succeed, especially if that manager is changing from club to club. To be able to motivate, inspire and ‘look after’ your team is imperative if you’re to overcome all obstacles laid at your feet. Mourinho is more than capable of doing that and has proven this through his exploits with Porto, Chelsea and now Inter. The tearful farewell between himself and Materazzi was further evidence of the relationship and impact Mourinho has had and will have with his players.

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Arguably his background in psychology has helped him a great deal in knowing how to trigger reaction and take control. Control not only of the media and his players but also of the opposition and officials. At the Nou Camp we were exposed to footage of Mourinho having a ‘quiet’ word in the ear of counterpart Guardiola after Thiago Motta’s sending off. It’s often Mourinho’s confidence that is credited for such cheek, interrupting the Barcelona manager as he tries to give instructions to one of his players. But this act of ‘cheek’ was calculated and intentional and despite Guardiola not being totally distracted by it, he was certainly disturbed.

In the same game the referee had to personally speak to Mourinho regarding his conduct on the touchline, delaying play that little bit more. This was a sign of his ability to know how far he can push to gain the advantages he desires. In this case he had instructed his team to disrupt Barca’s free-flowing style whenever possible as the Spaniards looked to overturn a 3-1 first leg deficit.

Further indication of this tactic was the sporadic and late manner to which the Inter players returned to the pitch for the second half. Leaving a host waiting is often seen to be rude and the frustrated Barca fans made themselves known as Mourinho’s men nonchalantly strolled on to the pitch. This was a tactic repeated in the Final where the Bayern fans, eager to equalise, were left waiting. The Inter players gain a sense of superiority by leaving the rivals waiting for their arrival. With the opposing fans venting their disapproval it only adds to the belief Mourinho installs that ‘it’s us against the world’. There is nothing an official can do but let the manager know he isn’t happy with the lack of punctuality and mention it in his report, possibly leading to a club fine. However, the impact and distraction it can cause for the opposition and the fans is probably worth a club fine, especially if it helps bring a trophy that has been absent from the trophy cabinet for nearly as long as Mourinho has been alive.

So what can Real Madrid expect from their highly paid, highly infectious new manager? Well his mind games both on and off the field will help Real out of their current slump, particularly in the Champions League. He’ll bring trophies as he’s always done. He’ll take the pressure off the team and transfer that to the opposition, and he’ll make the ‘Galacticos’ more practical. He’s shown how he can get through to a player like Eto’o and persuade him to cover at right back so people shouldn’t be surprised if he does the same with Ronaldo, Kaka, Benzema et al.

One thing’s for sure, in Mourinho Madrid have a brilliant man who will motivate his players and manipulate fellow managers, the media and supporters to maintain his position as the ‘Master’.

Peter Rosselli

3 Responses

  1. ty says:

    Vapid piece, tells me nothing I don’t know, some factual inaccuracies.

    1. Peter Rosselli says:

      The piece was more of a testimony and an observation of Mourinho’s tricks and methods. I wanted to get across how much power, control and presence he possesses both on and off the field.

      Out of interest, what were the factual inaccuracies?

      Thanks for your comment.

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