The summer of fun and joy that was the World Cup is over. I know this because Jose Mourinho is once again making the football headlines with his tales of misery and woe. This before a ball has been kicked in anger in the 2018-19 Premier League season.
When did happy-go-lucky Jose, who had the English football press eating out of his hands when he first managed at Chelsea, turn into a grumpy old man?
In my opinion it was in Spain that the rot set in. I saw plenty of his press conferences and interviews when he was manager at Real Madrid and witnessed a definite change in tone. Increasingly, as Barcelona dominated when it came to playing attractive football, Mourinho lost his rag with the press, some of the players, almost all referees and those who ran the club.
For the Real Madrid bosses the last straw came when Jose walked across to the Barcelona bench and poked Tito Vilanova in the eye. Vilanova was part of the coaching team at Barcelona. He would go on to manage the side before passing away at the age of 45 from cancer.
Real Madrid prides itself on having standards. The club may look away when Sergio Ramos is assaulting opponents and when Cristiano Ronaldo was blatantly diving. That’s all part of the game now. But when their manager poked someone in the eye, in front of TV cameras, that was all too much for those in the boardroom at the Bernabeu.
Of course this was not the only reason the club that had for so long courted Jose Mourinho, finally sent him packing.
By that time only one section of the Real Madrid support was still on his side. Those who occupied the cheap seats, relatively speaking, worshipped Mourinho and he played to them. As for the Spanish football press, that particular honeymoon was a very short one. Unlike the English sports reporters who fawned all over Jose when he first arrived at Stamford Bridge, the Spanish writers asked tough questions of him and queried his coaching methods from the off. He did not like that and press conferences grew increasingly bitter.
After Real Madrid failed to reach the final of the Champions League you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife as the under pressure manager faced the press. He said he blamed them for a semi-final defeat and told them: “I know England loves me, and that the press treat me fairly. In Spain there’s a lot of people that hate me, many of whom are in this very room.”
In Spain I have a senior friend who, many years ago, played football in the second division of Spanish football. He was in his 70’s when Mourinho arrived at Real Madrid, the club my friend Luis had supported all his life. I told him how pleased he should be that the self styled ‘special one’ was at the Bernabeu.
But Luis didn’t like what he saw. He was far from alone in alleging that Jose Mourinho was the wrong sort of man to coach Real Madrid. It wasn’t about his style of play, which was already showing signs of being too conservative for players and fans alike. Older Real Madrid fans turned against him because of his manner. It wasn’t, they claimed, the way they wanted their club to be portrayed on the world stage of football. The constant walking on the pitch to remonstrate with refs. The offensive comments he made about other clubs and their managers.
Here we are in 2018 and social media is awash with jokes about how Jose would turn great players into ordinary ones. About how he would turn Pele into a boring full back who didn’t advance beyond the halfway line. Many of those comments are from Manchester United fans concerned by the boring football they endured last season. They fear worse is to come. That reaction is nothing new.
I recall phone-in shows from the first spell Jose Mourinho spent at Chelsea, when they were winning things and Jose was all smiles and his press conferences were laugh a minute exchanges. At the time I was baffled by season ticket holders at Stamford Bridge calling phone-in shows and saying things such as:- “It’s great that we are winning, but it’s so boring to watch”… or “I’m not going next week because we are winning dull.” And so the complaints went on, at least from some. I was shouting at the radio: ‘Be grateful for what you have!’
Life around Jose seemed so much more fun in those ‘special one’ days.
There can surely be no argument that his style of play has become increasingly unambitious in subsequent years. Mourinho says he doesn’t have the quality he requires to play attractive football. When they signed Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez I expected Man Utd to be scoring plenty of goals. Last season, however, Manchester City scored almost twice as many as United. Players at Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal found the net more often.
What I am really interested in is why Jose Mourinho appears so unhappy.
Is this now an act he has perfected or, and I ask this in all seriousness, is he clinically depressed? Or has he actually fallen out of love with football?
Last season I became increasingly convinced of the latter and concerned that he might be suffering from depression. The signs were there. The man seemed so unhappy both at work and at leisure.
Then, late last season, I wondered if it was just pretence. That was when I saw Paul Pogba interrupt a television interview his manager was giving. Jose Mourinho reacted with a big smile and the misery mask dropped. Only for a minute or two, but the old Jose was still there.
I am not alone in hoping we see more of that Jose Mourinho this coming football season, when I will once again be offering members of VG Tips my week by week match analysis and betting tips.
I appreciate that his latest comments are aimed at the Old Trafford hierarchy. He bemoaned the weakness of the team he fielded against Liverpool in a friendly Man Utd lost 4-1.
He said: “I would like to have two more players. I think I am not going to get two. I think that it’s possible I will have one. I gave a list to my club of five names a few months ago and I wait to see if it’s possible to have one of these players.”
He is pointing the finger at those above him who he says have failed to sign the players he asked to bring to the club. He is, however, hardly alone in that regard. No manager since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson has had his transfer wishes fulfilled. Why did Jose Mourinho think it would be any different for him?
If his constant moaning is an act, then it’s not working to the advantage of Jose Mourinho. Part of me still believes Jose Mourinho would benefit from sessions of cognitive therapy and I’m not convinced he actually likes football any longer. What I do know his that he is running out of clubs who will want him as their coach. The person he is damaging most is himself. His once glowing reputation. His future in football. If he’s not careful, international management will be all he’s left with.
If he doesn’t enjoy the game any longer then it’s time he had a long break from it. Perhaps forever. I don’t want to see him gone. I want to once again see a smiling Jose Mourinho.
A man whose glass is half full, not half empty. The Jose Mourinho of Porto. The confident coach who arrived in England full of himself, with a glint in his eye, jokes aplenty and the ability to lift a dressing room to such an extent that players performed above and beyond their natural ability.
Come back that Jose Mourinho. I for one miss you.