Jose Mourinho – A Brown Thomas’ Tony Pulis
Watching last night’s Capital One Cup semi-final first leg you’d have been forgiven for thinking Liverpool had just faced a lower end Championship or League One side rather than, arguably, the best side in the Premier League and one of the strongest teams in Europe.
The match may have ended 1-1 but, frankly, it was one of the most one-sided games this season with Liverpool battering Chelsea, particularly in the second half.
Brendan Rodgers’ side played very well but not for the first time in his career, Jose Mourinho came with a game plan to frustrate and stifle the opposition rather take the fight to them. An early, very contentious penalty for the Blues allowed them to sit back – as they so often do in these big games – and try and hit Liverpool on the counter. At 1-0 up, Jose had already shut up shop.
Some would contend that the result is all that matters and that Jose Mourinho is a master tactician but with a squad worth around £400 million, surely the onus is on the coach of that side to entertain rather than frustrate? To go and try and win games in style rather than, for lack of a better phrase, “park the bus”.
Yes, they are the Premier League top scorers with 55 goals so far and yes, they do tend to delight against lesser opposition – but in the games that really matter, against the best sides, Mourinho is happy to contain and spoil rather than excite and entertain.
Therein lies the crux of the matter regarding the Portuguese coach; the divisive point of his talents. Of course, more often than not, his teams tend to win the big games – and for supporters of that side, that’s all that matters – but for the more idealistic football fan, the type who watches the game to be seduced and enthralled, the former Porto manager leaves a lot to be desired.
At Real Madrid, his battles with Pep Guardiola and Barcelona – his antithesis – defined his pragmatism.
Despite having a wealth of talent and some of the finest players in the world at his disposal, Mourinho was content with sitting back and trying to kick lumps out of the Catalonians rather than take them on.
Again, some would argue against trying to play such a brilliant side at their own game but that point always falls flat when you take into account the quality at his disposal and why merely nullifying his opponents in big games isn’t enough – one of the major reasons for Real Madrid President Florentino Perez wanting rid of him.
Winning just isn’t enough sometimes – more so at the biggest clubs. We laud Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid for the same qualities but unlike the Blues’ coach, the Argentinian does not have a billionaire benefactor and a £400 million squad to play with.
Jose Mourinho will always have his fans and rightly so; his managerial record is superb and the honours he has accumulated over his career will mark him as one of the finest ever. For some, though, performances like last night and those of his Real Madrid and Inter Milan sides of the past, means he will always have his detractors and face derision from certain quarters. Until he sheds the negative tactics on the biggest of stages and starts to consistently entertain, one would argue Jose Mourinho is nothing more than a Brown Thomas’ version of Tony Pulis.