Rejoice, one and all. Jose Mourinho might be returning to the Premier League. News broke in the Sunday Times that he intends to quit Real Madrid at the end of the season, and is confident of securing a return with a Premiership club.
But who? The Mirror reckoned on Manchester City, in an article with no quotes, evidence or anything more than baseless speculation. The presumption is a dismissal for Roberto Mancini, should he fail to capture the league – that’s making a lot of assumptions. Arsenal is the slightest of possibilities if Wenger was to walk, but it’s hard to envisage Mourinho managing there. Chelsea is an obvious choice should Abramovich’s patience run out with Villas-Boas, but again that’s speculation. Tottenham is more logical as Harry Redknapp by the end of the summer may well be the England manager. The obvious preference for Mourinho is Manchester United. This again presumes that Alex Ferguson suddenly decides on retirement, a possibility only if they win the league perhaps. The other downside to many of the teams mentioned is that he will demand a war chest as manager to build a team in his own image – this limits his options either due to lack of resources or restrictions enforced by Financial Fair Play rules.
Whoever it may be, this is wonderful news surely? One of the great managers, and characters, in the game will be coming back to his spiritual home. Well sorry, but I can’t join in with the enthusiasm.
Mourinho was considered a breath of fresh air when he first came to England. Now he more resembles a sweaty sock, left on a hot radiator for three weeks having first been stuffed with stilton. Mourinho’s conduct at Real Madrid has been nothing short of a disgrace. It’s little wonder he is known to have fallen out with his players, the board, and pretty much everyone else he has come into contact with (though the support of the Real Madrid fans has at its peak been huge).
Of course much of his actions can be explained away as deflecting criticism away from his players and bonding the team together as it often did successfully whilst he was at Chelsea, and he is hardly the first and wont be the last manager to do this, but surely there has to be a point when you stop and say he has gone too far.
What is not in doubt is that he brings with him a blueprint for success. And few fans would care if their manager was a bad guy if he delivered trophies year after year. This is the manager that looks like he will break Barcelona’s grasp on the La Liga crown, after a weekend draw at Villareal left Guardiola’s men seven points adrift of Real Madrid. He is tactically aware, is good at fostering team spirit, researches the opposition like no other, and has bought pretty well with the vast amounts of money he’s had at his disposal. But again, there comes a point when his other actions affect the image of the club.
Much of Mourinho’s actions at Madrid appear to have been borne from a place of deep paranoia. He seems to think the world is out to get him. He has been keen to blame everyone but himself for bad results – if you think the Respect campaign is failing in this country, it would collapse like a house of cards in a wind tunnel if Mourinho returned to our shores, his criticism of referees in Spain as common as the sun in the Madrid sky. His criticism of fixture lists though would stand him in better company in the Premier League. His siege mentality was never more apparent during El Clasico weeks, when he would throw insults towards Guardiola, Barcelona players, the Spanish FA, referees, or just cut out the middle man altogether and poke the eye of the opposing assistant manager.
There’s another reason for my disdain though. And it’s that reason that almost bugs me the most. It is that the double standards applied to Mourinho are without equal. Roberto Mancini may be wrong to wave imaginary cards on the touchline, but no doubt the majority of the press pack would be chuckling and shaking their heads with a smile on their face were Mourinho to do the same. Like a late Paul Scholes tackle, some things are allowed to pass with a shrug of the shoulders, and the antics of Mourinho can be put in that bracket. As per a comment on the Daily Telegraph site:
The prospect of our pathetic sycophants in the media hanging on his every banal utterance makes me glaze over.
And sure as night follows day, once the news of his possible return broke, an article soon appeared trumpeting the return of the “special one”. First out of the blocks was the Telegraph’s Henry Winter, in an article which was preceded by the following guff:
So that’s what the large clock in Trafalgar Square is doing: it’s counting down to Jose Mourinho’s return. July 27 sounds about right: quick bit of pre-season training, release a few players to the Olympics, organise and motivate the rest and resume the hunt for the Premier League. He’s coming home. Jose’s coming home.
The Premier League soap opera has missed Mourinho, a character part-hero, part-villain. He’s pure box office: photogenic, melodramatic, cunning and very, very funny. The Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Scudamore, is currently “going to market” for the next broadcasting rights deal. Mourinho is another ace to lay on the negotiating table, a one-man wow factor.
Wherever he goes, Mourinho knows the Premier League is his spiritual home. He’s revered by many here, reviled by only a few. Everyone is captivated by the colour he splashes across a blank landscape, the sound bites with sharpened teeth. Many of his utterances are scripted at the Machiavelli School of Management, their message hardly difficult to decipher, but he shapes them so stylishly.
Mourinho galvanises players, even those he criticises. He made some disparaging remarks about Cristiano Ronaldo the month before that 2007 final, questioning his compatriot’s education. Yet Mourinho also provided advice and support when Ronaldo endured a particularly awkward, mercifully brief off-field period at Old Trafford. Ronaldo has performed well for Mourinho at Real.
He inspires players, fostering huge loyalty in most.
The memory remains strong of the smiles on the faces of Joe Cole and others as they climbed on to the roof of Chelsea’s bus outside the Reebok after grasping their first title under Mourinho. He’s a magician of a manager, a weaver of dreams, and he will make one English club incredibly happy if he returns. He’s still special.
Sorry to burst his bubble, but I, and I would hope most fans, couldn’t give a damn about the brand of the Premier League, or its marketing strategy. At least Winter does mention his bad points: “…there will be bad traits to declare as well as good. Mourinho undermines referees (ask Anders Frisk), can be offensive towards his peers (ask Arsène Wenger) and his brand of football is hardly a homage to the Beautiful Game (ask Real fans).”
His brand of football is the definition of cynicism at time. The article mentions his achievements, but his skill as a manager has never been in doubt. Maybe one of the world’s best managers should be welcomed back to the Premier League whatever baggage he may bring with him – after all, his record speaks for itself. But success should not come at the expense of certain values
And whilst we should applaud the arrival of great managers as well as great players to our shores, it doesn’t change the fact I won’t be dusting down the bunting just yet. So fasten your seatbelts, for the circus that is Jose Mourinho……as it’s likely he’ll be serving a touchline ban most of the time, he’ll be the guy hiding in a laundry basket.
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