By Aiden McLaughlin
My first, clear memory of José Mourinho dates back to May 2003. Celtic played Porto in the UEFA Cup Final in Seville:
Porto had a cracking team, fielding nine Portuguese including the likes of Deco, Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho. Porto won 3-2 to break the hearts of an estimated 80,000 Celtic fans who had travelled to Seville and many more watching around the world.
Tough defensively, but with a splattering of attacking flair, and a lot of gamesmanship, Mourinho laid down a marker – a Special One in waiting.
The waiting didn’t take too long. Champions League success followed the very next season with Porto and then Chelsea, with Roman Abramovich’s millions, came calling. Jose was also the Ambitious One and moved to London within a week of that victory.
When he joined Chelsea, I remember being strangely drawn to his personality. Confident, (downright arrogant actually), he was successful and wasn’t afraid to tell anyone who asked – he backed it up though. I liked him – well, I enjoyed watching and listening to him anyway, he was different, exciting in football manager terms. With a core of English players such as John Terry and Frank Lampard, familiar faces like Ferreira and Carvalho joining him from Porto, plus big money signings including Didier Drogba, Mourinho looked invincible and won the Premier League in his first and second season. Although Man Utd bounced back in his third year to win the league, Chelsea still won the FA Cup and League Cup, not bad, and you can’t win them all, right?
All was not well though and tension between José and the owner had been brewing for a while, which culminated in one of those mutual agreement sackings in September 2007.
Although Chelsea had become a big club, there were bigger out there. Mourinho knew they would come calling and they did, with five trophies at Inter Milan (including another Champions League) and another three at Real Madrid before he made up with Abramovich and returned to Chelsea to win another title.
When he managed Inter and Real, I still followed him fairly closely; from a distance, he still had that X Factor that I had been drawn to when he came to England. But why was he only staying at clubs for a few years – surely with all the success he had, clubs should be falling over themselves to keep him?
Didier Drogba reflected on the end of Mourinho’s first spell at Chelsea in his autobiography, as follows:
‘By the start of the fourth season that José had been in charge, I think we had started to reach a point where it was harder for his message to get through. We wanted to hear it, we tried but somehow we had lost a little bit of what made us special.’
He’s known to have had major bust ups with players. Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas said last year, ‘In the beginning there was a lot of connection, but in the end there was not a good feeling. It’s like a couple: at first it’s very passionate, but then it does not work….I had spoken with him many times, but the last year we didn’t speak at all. It was an ugly situation.’
When he arrived back at Chelsea second time around and again now at United, I see a very different José. He is more confrontational, more defensive (arguably on and off the pitch) and any warmth and appeal he may have had for the neutral has, for me, disappeared.
Performances on the pitch are well below standard, results are not up to scratch and criticism is coming from all angles. Paul Scholes earlier this week said ‘I’m actually sat here surprised he survived after Saturday the performance was that bad. He’s coming out in press conferences, he’s constantly having a go at players, he’s having a go at people above him because he’s not getting what he wants and I think his mouth is probably out of control and I think he’s embarrassing the club.’ Ouch.
At one stage, I thought José Mourinho could be one of the great modern managers. From a trophies won perspective he is, but I and many others have fallen out of love with the man. He could have built real, lasting legacies – we’re not talking Sir Alex Ferguson levels, but significant ones. To me now, he’s the football equivalent of Eddie Jones, short, sharp shocks leading to early success followed by dips and fallings out. It’s not a compliment.
The Special One has become The Angry One and before long he’s in danger of becoming The Sacked One….again.
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