Jose Mourinho – The King Of Sin & Spin
When Jose Mourinho retires, his name will go down in the pantheon of management greats as one of the best ever, no doubt. The problem – of which he probably cares less – is that few will have liked him; he will not have an overwhelmingly adoring public who will miss him when he goes.
To say he is a polarising figure is an understatement. For all his talent, his understanding and acumen for the beautiful game, more often than not his behaviour leans towards appalling – sometimes despicable. A man full of contradictions and a lack of contrition, few are willing to call him on it for fear of repercussions. If he’s not eye-gouging opposing managers or forcing referees into retirement, he is inventing fictitious ‘campaigns’ in order to drive the narrative his way.
The odd thing about Jose Mourinho is that he doesn’t need to any of this. His talent as a manager and coach alone is enough to see his teams succeed and yet he revels gleefully in the role of the bully and eggs his team on in that manner. For that is what Chelsea are under him: the schoolyard bully. Strangely enough, the world he creates – intentionally or otherwise – is entirely the opposite of this reality.
His side’s behaviour in their Capital One Cup victory over Liverpool on Tuesday evening – epitomised by Diego Costa’s antics – were pretty reprehensible by anyone’s standards. The former Atletico Madrid striker’s stamps on Martin Skrtel and Emre Can have been inexplicably defended by a decent-sized portion of the media as ‘part of the game’.
Apparently Costa is a “street warrior, an entertainer” and it’s all just wonderful. Whilst this writer has all sorts of time for a real old-school, tough-tackling, hard player, intentionally – that is what it was – trying to hurt his fellow players falls outside the boundaries of what you would call acceptable.
Previously a mere wind-up merchant who loved getting in players faces, Costa’s actions against Liverpool are a microcosm of how Chelsea’s behaviour is rapidly deteriorating. Against Spurs, Gary Cahill – right in front of the management touchline – booted Harry Kane up the backside and then stood on him. Anyone else would have feared the worst – not Jose, who was up belligerently calling for a throw-in. There is a line between playing with intensity and violence and his sides so often blur it.
This is why his players love him, though. They know that, however wrong they get it, he’ll stand right behind them, cajoling them onwards. At Porto, at Chelsea in his first spell, at Inter; he forged an ‘us against the world’ siege mentality that much of his success is based on. Of course, it doesn’t always work and when it goes wrong, it goes badly wrong.
At Real Madrid, he fell out terribly with a number of senior stars who were tired of his game-playing and arrogant ways. His bitter battles with Barcelona and Pep Guardiola are now infamous – a sore spot in the glorious history of Los Merengues. Florentino Perez had had enough, too, and wanted rid. No one was bigger than the club and Mourinho’s conduct had overshadowed and undermined what Real Madrid stood for. Carlo Ancelotti has restored some of that class, showing how to win trophies with impeccable behaviour.
That theme has run throughout his career, though. He so frequently becomes bigger than the club he manages. He can’t help himself for he is “the special one”. It is the reason he wasn’t given the Barcelona job in 2008 and it is arguably the reason he didn’t get the Manchester United job in 2013.
Whilst plenty will herald Jose Mourinho as a managerial behemoth of his time, many will also remember him as a snide, cynical and sometimes vicious individual who cares little for the ideals of football and more for winning at all costs, no matter who gets in the way. I guess it just comes down to how you view the game.