Chelsea’s shock 4-2 defeat to Bradford City on Saturday not only produced one of the greatest FA Cup giant killings of all time, but also the latest instalment of Jose Mourinho’s hand-shake challenge, where he bizarrely attempts to make opposing managers perform the obligatory post-match hand-shake before the final whistle like a cringe-tastic gag from Impractical Jokers.
The controversial five-finger shuffle was first introduced by the Chelsea boss at the start of the season and provoked a particularly adverse reaction from Aston Villa’s Paul Lambert and then-assistant Roy Keane in October, who branded the seemingly unsporting gesture ‘disgraceful‘.
Since, Mourinho has been spotted prematurely palm-slapping Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino and most recently, Bantams boss Phil Parkinson, who also declined the offer of an early handshake, so perhaps it’s time a Premier League manager offered the Portuguese a taste of his own medicine.
When Chelsea were roaring their way up the Premier League table undefeated, it was a gesture that smacked of grotesque arrogance, a spiteful mind-game with the message being a simple “look at that, I’ve beaten you with minutes to spare. I will spend the remaining time doing something that actually matters. Try harder next time.”
Clearly however, that was never the Stamford Bridge manager’s intention, else he wouldn’t have extended an early arm to Pochettino and Parkinson, the only managers apart from Alan Pardew to have got the better of the Blues gaffer this season (Note to self; research project on Mourinho’s record against managers beginning with P, preferably before facing Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City next Saturday).
Furthermore, if it was a simple case of Mourinho shaking hands as soon as he felt a victory was home and dry, he may as well accompany any substitute appearance from John Obi ‘kill this game’ Mikel with a quick stroll to the opposition dugout.
Maybe all those wisecracks about ringing his wife are true. Maybe Mrs. Mourinho is a ball-busting luddite who refuses to use the Internet or television to check Chelsea’s results. Maybe the Blues boss wants to ensure there’s already some tea brewing before he returns to his swanky London mansion. Maybe he’s making sure Match of the Day either is or isn’t being Sky-plused, dependent on the Blues’ results.
Yet, there’s still something quintessentially un-English about Mourinho’s persistent habit. We’re a nation of footballers that play until the final whistle, no matter how likely a loss or victory already is, and resigning to defeat early just isn’t the done thing. Imagine if Geoff Hurst took a breather instead of netting that famous ‘they think it’s all over’ goal against Germany – perhaps the proudest moment in English footballing history. Imagine if David Beckham jogged off to the changing room instead of sending the Three Lions to the World Cup with his magical free kick against Greece in 2001. Imagine if Crystal Palace had accepted defeat when they were 3-0 down to Liverpool last season. Football would be a very different game if one could declare results early in the way Mourinho’s hand-shakes allude.
As Roy Keane argued, you’d likely receive a Glasgow Kiss if you attempted it in the shin-shattering world of England’s Sunday League football; to some, it will constitute an enormous attack on self-pride and dismissively frank behaviour they aren’t accustomed to.
Likewise, although I believe Mourinho’s actions aren’t sourced from some sociopathic lack of empathy as others have prescribed, it’s hard to overlook their egotistical nature. Even if Mourinho isn’t mocking victory over his opponents with time to spare, instigating the early handshake still suggests he – not his professional counterparts, not the referees, not the final whistle – decides when a fixture has been lost and won.
Mourinho admirer or adversary, few will dispute that the Chelsea manager is very much the centre of his own universe, with little care for how his actions might reverberate onto others. He clearly enjoys the role of pantomime villain amongst Premier League fan bases and equally, his manager-cum-comedian relationship with the British media, who continually hang on his every word. He’s hardly the first Premier League manager to fall into that category – in fact, one could even argue it’s an essential trait, shared by Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis van Gaal and Arsene Wenger to name but a few – but the early handshakes are a manifestation too far of the Portuguese’s egotism.
So what better way for a Premier League rival to bring Mourinho’s universe crashing down, at least for a minute or two, than offer him a handshake with plenty of time to spare? The Chelsea boss is often a bad winner but he’s an even worse loser, and one can only ponder how submissive, humbling or hypocritical his reaction might be.
Then again, out-Mourinhoing Mourinho with a classic Mourinho move might be so audacious that football, and subsequently the world, implodes.