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Levy has major decision to make on Mourinho with echoes of United endgame


Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

It is an uncomfortable truth for Tottenham Hotspur that the greatest entertainment Jose Mourinho has provided since he took over as head coach remains his performance in Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary.

That series also gave the impression that chairman Daniel Levy was somewhat star-struck by Mourinho’s arrival - rather in the way that Ed Woodward gazed at the manager when he was hired by Manchester United in 2016. We all know how that ended.

Only this week Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed he had been tasked with making the players “smile” again when he arrived, such was the toxic atmosphere at the end of Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford.

The alarm bells must be ringing now for Levy. Not just after last weekend’s north London derby defeat to Arsenal, or the horrific Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb. No, the most damaging moment was the revealing post-match interview by Spurs captain Hugo Lloris that, without using the words, seemed to be the definition of a toxic atmosphere. A disconsolate Lloris did not hold back.

“We are a club that is full of ambition, but I just think the team, at the moment, is a reflection on what is going on at the club. We have a lack of basics, a lack of fundamentals,” the goalkeeper said. “If you follow the team only when you are in the starting XI, that causes a big problem for the team... we had great moments in the past because we could trust the togetherness that was in the team. Today, I don’t know, I am not sure about that.”

Wow. Although it points to a deeper malaise that predates Mourinho he, unfortunately for him, will become the focus even if Lloris was also very clear in blaming disgruntled players and the club as a whole.

But Mourinho is in charge and he has to get those “fundamentals” right. It looked like Levy bet the house by bringing him in, especially on a salary of up to £13 million-a-year, only for that house to be in danger of going up in flames.

Maybe that is overly dramatic, but this is not what Mourinho was hired for.

Even if Spurs manage to beat Manchester City in the League Cup Final - securing a first trophy for 13 years - it will be scant consolation if they are out of the top four or out of Europe all together. This, by any measure, is not progress.

Mourinho was targeted because of his track record of delivering short-term success in what was, undoubtedly, a marriage of convenience. Which brings us to the fundamental question: what does Levy now do? Or, more specifically, what does he do at the end of the season if Spurs continue to underperform?

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The effects of the pandemic have fogged decision-making to some extent, but one will have to be made. Does Mourinho stay or go?

It is said that Levy cannot afford to sack Mourinho, whose contract runs until 2023 and apparently does not contain a break clause. But, conversely, will a situation arise when he cannot afford not to sack him?

Following Mauricio Pochettino’s dismissal, Spurs were left paying two managers, until the Argentinian went to Paris Saint-Germain.

It is likely that they will use the same method should Mourinho go and - maybe - Levy might get lucky because it is well-known Mourinho does not like extended periods out-of-work and may try and get another job as quickly as possible.

The problem with that, though, is how high would his stock be if Spurs sacked him?

Whichever way you cut it, the last decade has been one of slow decline for Mourinho from the extraordinary heights he hit in the first half of his managerial career.

Even so, bringing in Mourinho - following the opening of the splendid new stadium and after going so close, under Pochettino – reaching the Champions League final was supposed to be a significant, bold step for Spurs. But although they have reached a global stage with their financial potential, they have gone backwards on the pitch.

Maybe Mourinho can turn it around again - after all his second season at clubs tend to be his best - but his opportunities are rapidly dwindling.

The League Cup really does not represent much solace for a club with Spurs’ ambition, even if it might represent silverware. What Mourinho has to do is fight for that top-four place and with it Champions League qualification.

Winning the League Cup and finishing mid-table is no guarantee that he will hold onto his job and as has been previously reported, RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann would be Spurs’ top target if a change were to be made.

Whether he would want to join them remains to be seen but, either way, Levy may have a big decision to make on Mourinho. Spurs wanted it all. They may be left with nothing..

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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