For nearly two decades Jose Mourinho has helped himself to 23 major honours in four different countries, an inspired modern tale of combating the establishment, legacy-building and history-making.
Whether it is leading Porto to a miraculous second European Cup, delivering Chelsea’s first league title in 50 years or rising to the challenge of Pep Guardiola’s magnificent Barcelona by giving Internazionale the honour of a first-ever Italian treble, there is no doubting the eternal greatness that is associated with the now Tottenham Hotspur manager.
Jose Mourinho, the way he comments, the way he conducts himself on the touchline and his interactions with the media – often sarcasm-laced, shows him to be a man as charismatic as confident.
“There are lots of poets in football, but poets, they don’t win many titles.” Jose Mourinho has never been one to wax lyrical on the ideals and virtues of the so-called ‘beautiful’ game.
Jose Mourinho used to have a reputation as a master manipulator of the media – someone who could send the press running in the wrong direction, missing the real story as they went chasing after the fact that he called Rafa Benitez fat or suggested Arsene Wenger was a pervert.
So what went wrong? What went so catastrophically wrong for Jose Mourinho? Just seven months after confirming his third Premier League title with Chelsea, he was shown the door by the Chelsea board in one of the most dramatic falls from grace.
A man who had never been officially sacked – though one has to wonder how mutual his departures from Chelsea in 2007 and Real Madrid in 2013 were – had been broken down by Christmas, leaving his club a point above the relegation zone and another disappointing reign at Manchester United followed.
As the world gawks at the passion and dexterity of the Guardiolas and Klopps, Mourinho is left out in the cold.
Signs of his spiral were beginning to come to the fore long before he arrived at Old Trafford; in fact long before he returned to England after a six-year hiatus. His time with Real Madrid, a job he had coveted from the beginning of his managerial career, had been tumultuous.
With a strike force including Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Mesut Özil and Ángel Di María, Real were ruthless on the counter-attack in a way none of Mourinho teams had replicated and were packed to the brim of individual brilliance, perhaps more so than Porto, Chelsea and Inter, where the Special One had managed previously.
But for all the prowess Mourinho had at its disposal, there was an issue that he had never faced before in his career.
When he discovered that captain and club legend Iker Casillas had called Barcelona skipper Xavi to call for peace between the two warring sides of El Clasico, Jose Mourinho had the perfect excuse to target a God-like figure and fully centralise power.
By May, continuing the fractious marriage between Mourinho and Real was incomprehensible. Florentino Pérez announced their parting of ways days after Real played in a turgid 2-1 defeat to city rivals Atlético in the Copa del Rey final.
Following the unceremonious departure from Madrid, Mourinho hopped on a plane to travel back to England, to the club where his impact is most felt.
He then brought in Cesc Fàbregas and Diego Costa, two men who had the potential to bring home the Premier League for the Blues, as well as the morale-boosting addition of Chelsea icon Didier Drogba from Galatasaray.
The astute work done in the transfer window resulted in the objective Mourinho craved: trophies. Two, in fact, as the Premier League and the League Cup were brought in to renew the club’s trophy cabinet.
The Red Devils were in a similar position to that of Chelsea before Mourinho returned.
United recognised that they needed a truly world-class manager to fill the hole Sir Alex left, a man who wouldn’t be fazed by the scrutiny the role brought and could bring silverware back to Old Trafford – Enter Jose Mourinho.
Unfortunately the second season that has always delivered glory never eventuated at Old Trafford, and Manchester City’s imperious form prevented a first a league title in five years.
A combination of transfer market frustrations and the decaying of dressing room relations with several key players conspired against the special one, staying true to form in his history of third-season implosions.
Finally, after a media storm that had ensued for four months, United were soundly beaten by Liverpool after another turgid performance. Once again, Mourinho had come to the endgame.
He left Carrington in the hands of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the team that had stuttered and stalled under his jurisdiction roared into life once again.
Jose Mourinho’s attitude may also have been why Real Madrid got rid of him. By the time he left, Mourinho’s relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo was tetchy and that with Real’s homegrown goalie and Spain captain Iker Casillas had broken down.
About Cristiano Ronaldo, Mourinho had said: “Maybe thinks that he knows everything and that the coach cannot improve him anymore.”
There were some casualties at Chelsea as well; Juan Mata, a hugely popular and talented member of the dressing room, came at odds with Mourinho due to disagreement on the latter’s philosophy.
The Special One
Special Once Upon a Time
— Malcolm Bradbrook (@MBradbrook) February 22, 2021
As we know, Mourinho is entrenched in his pragmatic approach and will not bend for anyone. A creative playmaker like Mata, even if they are talismanic in their influence, is surplus to requirements unless they are willing to devote themselves to the team and chip in defensively. After six months on the periphery, Mata was let go to Manchester United for £38m.
Alongside the high-profile sale of one of Chelsea’s best talents, a trio of fringe players were also sold. Little was thought of the departures, yet later down the line, he would become far more concerned by the names Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.
After his third league title, Chelsea became the first team looking to retain their title to fail to win on the opening day in Premier League history.
The headlines, though, were directed to an even more unexpected event: the row between Mourinho and club doctor Eva Carneiro. Mourinho has never been shy of picking fights but clashing with a fellow Chelsea employee for doing her job was a new low.
The reasoning was because she had rushed on to the pitch to treat Eden Hazard, who had gone down with a knock, forcing a stoppage in play.
This infuriated Mourinho; Chelsea were on the counter-attack, with the Portuguese shouting “filha da puta” (“daughter of a whore”). A month later, Carneiro was sacked by the club after Mourinho criticised her in a post-match interview.
NO HARRY KANE, SPURS IN PAIN
It is more than three years since Pep Guardiola described Spurs as “the Harry Kane team”, riling Mauricio Pochettino, but never has the description felt so apt.
Spurs have been abysmal since Kane was forced off at half-time against defeat to Liverpool and, without him, the limitations of his team-mates and Jose Mourinho’s approach have been brutally exposed.
Mourinho’s critics claim he has never been a coach of attacking systems, instead relying on set-plays and individual inspiration from his players in the final-third.
With Kane, Mourinho developed a canny set-play in which the England captain dropped deep to collect possession on the counter-attack and quickly released Heung-min Son.
It was devastating and Kane has already assisted Son nine times this season, almost every one of them were a similar move, and scored 12 of Spurs’s 34 League goals.
Without Kane, Spurs have looked like a side with no idea of how to attack. Also Spurs’s over-reliance on Kane is not a new phenomenon.
Pochettino suffered from it and Mourinho experienced it last season, but the signings of Vinicius and Gareth Bale in the summer were supposed to alleviate the problem and guarantee Spurs would remain competitive if Kane was sidelined. Instead, they are more dependent on their talisman than ever.
JOSE MOURINHO IS FINISHED?
At Chelsea, there was remorse and regret towards Jose’s unruly departure, yet as he left United, there was a sense of relief that the club could move on from his era. Once the most sought-after manager in European football, Jose Mourinho was left out in the cold.
Playing turgid and uninspiring football has not helped Mourinho escape the ‘dinosaur’ tag with which some have labelled him.
Mourinho hasn’t moved on with the changes occurring in the footballing landscape, not least in a game where players respond better to an arm around the shoulder than a cool ticking off. It seems that in his quest to win at all costs, he has failed to realise that his methods don’t work like they used to.
At Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, Chelsea again, and Manchester United, there was either an immediate initial improvement or a stabilization at a pretty high level.
At Real, Chelsea, and United, there were then big drop-offs. At Spurs, the decline has already begun, and there’s no history of Jose Mourinho being able to stabilize a decaying team and then improving it. If he’s able to do it with Tottenham, it’ll be something we’ve never seen him do before.