Ever since he guided his un-fancied Porto team to Champions League glory Jose Mourinho has been a man who while not universally loved is at least respected as one of the game’s top managers. A UEFA Cup victory followed by a Champions League triumph cemented his credentials as one of Europe’s brightest managerial prospects. He’d achieved the unthinkable at Porto and it was only a matter of time before Europe’s top clubs came calling. When Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea managed to secure his talents it seemed only a matter of time before he replicated his success at Porto with the West London club. Two successive titles, plus a Carling cup and an FA cup can hardly be called anything but a success, especially as Chelsea’s last league title success had been in the mid-fifties. Unfortunately of course, it all went sour and for whatever reason Mourinho ended up taking his special self off to look for pastures new. Thankfully Internazionale supremo Massimo Moratti was fed-up of Roberto Mancini’s winning ways and appointed Mourinho to improve on such a sorry state of affairs. Mourinho delivered the Serie A title-Inter’s fourth in a row- meaning the Milan outfit could join the two teams from Turin as the only three Italian teams to achieve such a feat.
All this reads like a managerial record found in Roy of the Rovers, domestic titles plus UEFA and Champions League glory, are surely the efforts of a truly gifted coach.
Other coaches across the globe must look at Mourinho’s record with envy, only on Championship Manager have such achievements seemed possible.
However, before we all burst with adulation, there is an argument to be made that maybe the ‘Special One’, is not so special after all, some may argue the terms, ‘Fortunate’ or ‘Downright Lucky One’ would be more appropriate. This may sound like blasphemy to certain people so allow me to explain.
At Porto there can be no denying that Mourinho achieved unparalleled success particularly in Europe. It’s here where the first signs of his good fortune can be found. Many Celtic fans will remember that fateful night in Seville where Mourinho’s side prevented the Glaswegians of their first chance of European glory since 1967. The game will not be remembered for just the goals, sendings off, and the drama of a last minute Porto winner but also the manner in which the Portuguese players spent much of the match, rolling around on the deck, performing the sort of dramatics the Royal Shakespeare Company would be proud of. While at the end of the day a victory is a victory few neutrals-and even fewer Celtic fans -can have been impressed with Porto’s playacting which no doubt unsettled the Scottish team. Being a bit unfair does not make you lucky though and surely winning the Champions League the following season could extinguish such a notion.
Porto’s Champions League triumph, seems like a real David versus Goliath act of heroism, one of Europe’s smaller clubs taking on and beating the giants of the European game. However, Porto’s path to the final saw the club encounter only two true heavyweights Real Madrid and Manchester United. Against Madrid, Porto lost 3-1 at home and drew at away to get through the group stage as runners-up. It’s the tie against United where Mourinho’s luck finally came to the forefront. Porto won in the Dragon Stadium 2-1, leaving United needing a two clear goals win at Old Trafford to go through. The return leg will be forever etched in United fans minds as one where injustice seemed to prevail, Scholes, after giving United the lead then scored a perfectly good second which would have seen United through. However it was wrongly judged offside and a Tim Howard mistake in the last minute saw Porto grab an equalizer. Porto then got past the likes of Lyon and Deportivo before defeating Monaco in the final.
Following that success Mourinho was off to Chelsea to win every domestic honour going. It’s here where both his luck and his shortcomings were exposed. He inherited a team that contained, Makelele, Lampard, Cole, Duff, Robben, Gallas and Bridge with Cech already on his way. There is a good chance Claudio Ranieri could have won the title himself had he been given an extra year at Stamford Bridge, after all the previous season they’d been runners-up to the Arsenal ‘Invicibles’- hardly a shameful campaign.
Mourinho of course wasn’t bought in just to win the league, for all the money he’d forked out Champion’s league success was the only one which could truly satisfy Abramovich. Rafa Benitez had other ideas though as his Liverpool side prevailed in the semi-final. Mourinho would of course scream at the injustice of the so-called ‘goal that never was’- despite the fact that had Luis Garcia’s goal not counted, Cech would have been sent off and Liverpool would have been awarded a penalty. ‘The Still Special One’ also failed to explain why his team deserved to go through despite not being able to score in over 180 minutes of football including almost a full 90 following Garcia’s winner. While the following season saw Chelsea retain their title, Barcelona put paid to any Champions League aspirations in the first knockout stage.
Mourinho’s final full season at Stamford Bridge was also his least successful; Benitez again triumphed over ‘The Not Quite as Special Anymore One’ in the Champions League, while United gained back the title. Chelsea’s only success was in the FA cup where once again lady luck was smiling down on Mourinho. Ryan Giggs’s shot clearly crossed the line in normal time, but neither the referee nor linesman managed to see it, before Drogba grabbed an extra-time winner.
The following season saw ‘The Barely Special One’ leave following a 1-1 draw at home to Rosenborgs. Although that result is hardly the cause of his departure, Mourinho for whatever reason left without attempting to regain the League title he had lost or try and finally win Chelsea a Champion’s League. In fact Avram Grant’s efforts which took Chelsea to within a penalty miss of Champions League glory were even attributed to Mourinho in some sections of the press.
And so on to Internazionale where Mourinho , now in his second full season at the San Siro has simply carried on from where Mancini left off. Retaining the Serie A title and failing in Europe. This season will see him get a chance to rectify that with Inter through to the second round where they’ll face none other than Chelsea. The signing of Samuel Eto’o in exchange for Zlatan Ibramihovic- with Inter also getting around 45 million euros- is probably one of the best pieces of business done by a top European manager in the last decade or so, but how much of that was down to Mourinho is anyone’s guess.
It seems ‘The Manager Formerly Known as the Special One’ is still highly regarded by many and has been tipped to take over from Sir Alex Ferguson at United when- if ever- he finally does retire. If you scratch the surface though, there’s a case to be made that Mourinho is a manager who’s rode more than his fair share of luck, inherited good teams at the right time, and been better at self-promotion than any other manager since perhaps Brian Clough. Whether he really is a Special One is not as open and shut a case as it may seem.
Read more of Justin Mottershead writings at his blog ‘Name on the Trophy’