Saturday 20 January 2018

Don't believe the new, bland Special One

James Lawton

James Lawton

Jose Mourinho has had better reviews. Some are even theorising that on the evidence of the unveiling of his second coming he has lost a certain snap.

This was after a withering preview delivered by the sublime midfielder Andres Iniesta, who was terse but damning in saying only that Mourinho had done more harm than good during his three years in Spain.

This set the tone of the examination of what you might have been persuaded to believe was the remnant of a once major football figure. But only if you had forgotten the meaning of one of the most remarkable careers football is ever likely to see.

Mourinho, it is true, played a part yesterday, as he has done at so many pivotal stages in the past. Yesterday he was the wounded warrior – subdued, reflective, and this to the extreme of even brushing against the odd hint of modesty. Yes, he had weaknesses, he knew better than ever before, but they were almost too few to mention and the last thing he was going to do was reveal them to the enemy. In fact the more he acted up, the more he sounded like a buffeted old mariner who had come in from a storm, the greater was the sense of an immutable fact.

He may have had a gruelling time at Real Madrid but then so did Jupp Heynckes, Vicente del Bosque and Fabio Capello. You do not manage Real Madrid, you attempt to survive it, and if it is said Mourinho failed there it is a verdict based on the fact that he experienced his first season without winning a major trophy.

Such a blemish is astonishing in its uniqueness and it should not obscure the fact that no one did more to challenge, and then break, the myth that Barcelona had become an unstoppable force.

You do not achieve as much as Mourinho and then give way at the first taste of disappointment. You seek to redouble your commitment and it is impossible to believe that Mourinho sees Stamford Bridge as a bolt-hole rather than a suitable relaunching pad for the old aura.

If the great Iniesta is scathing about Mourinho, it may just have something to do with the fact that the object of his contempt did so much to undermine the belief that Barca had indeed achieved an unbreakable hold on football.

Of course, he had his battles and his lapses but, as he conceded yesterday, you do not get to the age of 50 without learning some vital lessons. He fashioned a few elegant sentences but maybe he was a little passive, a little reluctant to make the usual blaze of headlines.

He reminded his audience that his arrival at Chelsea as the young lion of the game was all of nine years ago. Mourinho may not have come back shouting the odds but for some it was no doubt enough that he returned through the front door. He had a wound or two, perhaps, but that's what happens when you compete so ferociously, when you believe that your destiny will always be to win.

Do we have a new and bland Mourinho? Do not believe it. It will not happen. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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