Jose – A Special Journey
Jose Mourinho is amongst the greatest of managers to have graced football’s many touch lines. A period early in his coaching career saw him mentored by the late great, and universally adored Sir Bobby Robson. His first post saw him take on the Benfica job before a move to Uniao, both of which proved brief stints for the young coach.
His move to Porto saw a remarkable period of both domestic and European success that propelled him onto the world stage. His Champions League success in 2004 (a year after winning the UEFA Cup), immediately garnered the attentions of any and all major clubs looking to upgrade on their own managerial position.
The Roman Abramovic owned Chelsea had already started making waves at this time, especially in the transfer market.
Where the team was now becoming established & elite players were present to push the club, it was felt that the Tinkerman (Claudio Ranieri), was a no longer the man to make that converted title push the Russian owner craved.
With a swift termination (which became common for Chelsea) of Claudio, Jose was installed and thus Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson had a brilliant young adversary to compete with in his twilight years.
Jose’s initial tenure at Chelsea revamped the sides style of play completely, with a steal and overwhelming power brought into their game. Moments of brilliance from certain players aside, they were a team built to win, first and foremost.
His charming & sometimes arrogant manner seemed to fit the man and his loyal players fell into line almost immediately. The support during this period was immense and his trophy haul made him a superstar, perhaps the first manager to really become a so famous, in his own right. With footballers like David Beckham, Zidane & any of the samba stars seen as footballing box office at the time, many supporters and football media craved a piece of Jose’s time & personality in equal measures.
Jose had well and truly arrived to the main stage.
Where very little time is given for managers experiencing rough times (even minor) at Chelsea, the sack came and Jose moved on. His 3 year spell brought two English League titles, one FA Cup & two League Cups. It was clear the players adored Jose, yet maximum success must be achieved at all times in order to stay on at Stamford Bridge, it would appear.
A move to Inter Milan was soon engineered with the Portuguese coach’s magnificent reputation still in tact. The Italian league suited Jose, his proven tactical savvy adapted ideally to the slower paced Serie A and his Inter squad bought into his magic immediately.
With a two year spell in Italy brought two Scudetto titles, a Coppa Italia & a Champions League (Mourinho’s second). There was perhaps no better manager in world football during his spell in Milan, with previous greats Fabio Capello & Sir Alex Ferguson clearing the path for a new breed of manager, there was surely no one more qualified than Jose Mourinho.
All the players & supporters to this point had bought fully into the Jose way. He was a trophy machine, with Porto, Chelsea & Inter experiencing huge success under the Mourinho watch. Each club contained a dressing room that admired and followed their manager without question. His swagger, one liners and smirking ways made him the darling of the press room. He was indeed the special one, self proclaimed or not.
His next stop, Real Madrid.
Spanish football, La Liga, presents a certain tug of war between two footballing titans. Real Madrid & Barcelona represent all that is great in football as well as most of which is bad.
Money, power & the desperate need for success drives both clubs, and Real needed an antidote for the Pep Guardiola Barca that had become the worlds premier footballing team.
Jose Mourinho, and his undoubted ability to win major honours, was the perfect candidate. He left Inter in order to tangle with the Catalan giants to the dismay of the Milan players and fans, but the challenge seemed too tantalising to ignore.
Guardiola and his brand of Tiki Taka football was seen as a revolutionary coach. His possession heavy style and beautifully crafted way of playing was somewhat opposite to Jose’s strong and powerful on pitch set up. The elegance and grace of Lionel Messi, Xavi & Andre Iniesta was met with Jose’s powerful version as their main adversary for success.
Christiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Sergio Ramos & Karim Benzema were powerful players among other graceful operators such as Xabi Alonso & Kaka. It represented a team of winners and a competition so hotly contested, it potentially brought a darker side to Jose’s confident demeanour. A single league win during his three year stay is highly regarded, given the talent of Barca during this period. His time overall, and the general feeling of the club was in stark contrast to that of his previous posts. Anger, turmoil & the Galactico way seemed to have taken away Mourinho’s charm and swagger, and a return to a stuttering Chelsea seemed the prefect outcome for all after his roller coaster stay in Madrid.
Having tasted huge success at Chelsea prior, a return to London suited the Portuguese coach after a turbulent spell in La Liga. Some of the players had moved on, but key lieutenants of Jose remained, with John Terry & Didier Drogba leading them to another league title in Jose second season back. All seemed well, all seemed settled. And then it wasn’t. The arguing, accusing and bitterness was becoming common place, where the smile and charm once were.
Mourinho always seemed best, often times unbeatable, when he had the trust of the dressing room. Players can come and go & styles can be adapted to suit the need of the match day. The dressing room never needs to be a happy place, but it needs a combined togetherness that is intent on winning for Jose to thrive. That was Jose’s special talent, immersing all his players into the idea that losing was unacceptable and that together anything could be overcome. His players would transform their game, they would run harder, they would fight longer and they would do all that Jose needed. They believed in the special one, they were themselves mentality monsters.
After Madrid & the hate, the battle weariness started to show. Jose of old, had perhaps become old, and his inability to galvanise his Chelsea squad saw perhaps the greatest manager of the 21st century’s sacked once more.
Manchester United, in their absolute failure to replace the footballing structure that Sir Alex Ferguson had built, took a punt on Jose, a serial winner.
The need for league titles was becoming apparent at Old Trafford, and despite the growing baggage that Mourinho brought, this was viewed as a need that outweighed the potential bad. A club now driven by money as a marketing monster, the dressing room was awash with highly paid players that were not delivering. Jose, the tactical master was now contesting an even richer group across the city, with Pep Guardiola helming state backed Manchester City, which had become the league’s powerhouse team.
Mourinho, the brilliant manager that he is, has always been backed at the outset of any position. Yet the players throughout his Old Trafford stay never seemed to fit the logic of his ways. Pogba, a superstar signing brought in to level the Manchester playing field, has never lived upto the mantle, and never became what Jose needed.
Mourinho began to publicly ridicule players, none more than Luke Shaw, in what appeared to be a complete opposite of Jose’s former ways.
Backing players, supporting players and creating a group within the club had often been apparent when true success was achieved, but this was now the past and the present saw Jose achieve no League title, but a Europa League trophy. A league cup aside, the expected impact never materialised, and where once the dogmatic football was accepted, given the extreme success, this was no more. Another major job led to yet another sacking of Jose Mourinho.
Tottenham, the absolute nearly men of our generation have had their ‘success’ limited to top 4 finishes. The quality, the European cup runs, the level of managers have all been in place, just not first place. The idea of Jose Mourinho still nestled in nostalgic minds, and Daniel Levy was keen to unearth the old manager that had dominated for so long. The squad, high level, the stadium immense, but the support was unsure. Mauricio Pochettino had nearly taken the north London side to ultimate European success, he had nearly won the league. He hadn’t, and perhaps dismissed much in the rash ways Jose had at Chelsea.
Jose was the Spurs answer, the roll of the dice decision. At the outset. even the charm seemed to have returned after proving a (rare) very good pundit during his job seeking period. After a good start and an entertaining documentary, the elements of success seemed to slowly build. The tactical evolving of the team became clear, and the dogmatic style was perhaps being sidelined for a more attacking style to suit the enormous talents of Kane & Son. And then, just like that, it all changed. Delli Ali became a forgotten man, cast from the first team picture, possession of the ball became drab and repetitive & the empty stadiums left even more quiet. Within White Hart Lane, the mood changed and once more Jose found himself without a job, one which he perhaps wasn’t qualified for anymore.
A sabbatical, a spell away to fully recharge or a stint as a pundit, in order to ease the absolute weight of pressure that has adorned Jose’s shoulder, would hopefully rekindle the fire that once burned so bright.
Jose Mourinho was a leading man in evolving the modern game. He brought tactical innovation and changed typical players to special performers. He raised men from boys and the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry & Didier Drogba still respect the man like no other.
I suspect a less taxing role leading a national side will follow, as an England manager I believe he would be perfect, given his tournament savvy and knowledge of the English League. Needless to say, Jose will go down as a great, and perhaps one day soon that greatness will have one last special showing.