Tuesday 22 January 2019

Mourinho a good fit for new job on Putin's television payroll

United manager is well prepared for his gig as a World Cup pundit with Russian state TV

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Matthews Childs/Action Images via Reuters
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Photo: Matthews Childs/Action Images via Reuters

Jim White

There must have been some confusion. Manchester United fans were hoping to see their manager sign a right winger, not sign up for one.

But this week it was announced, via a comically naff commercial in which he can be seen giving an inspirational team talk to a bunch of cameramen and sound technicians, that Jose Mourinho was to undertake a role as a pundit during the World Cup for the Kremlin-backed English-language broadcaster Russia Today.

The fact is, he is about to become an employee of Vladimir Putin.

For the duration of the World Cup, Mourinho will be based in Moscow, offering his insights on matches as they unfold.

Invariably a man with something interesting to say (albeit, when it comes to discussing French midfielders, he is marginally less vituperative than the former United players-turned-pundits Roy Keane and Paul Scholes), the pity is that the BBC and ITV missed the opportunity to put him on their teams.

What an addition he would have made to any analysts' panel: wry, sharp, unafraid.

But then, maybe we should not be too surprised that he has decided instead to deliver his thoughts via Putin's mouthpiece. Given his working methods, you sense that he might well sympathise with the notion of the brooks-no-opposition, my-way-or-the-highway hard-line despot.

And having been in daily contact for the past couple of years with United's in-house broadcaster MUTV, he knows all about heavily censored television output. Besides, he has enjoyed great success working for a shadowy Russian in the past.

True, he was fired on both occasions he did so. But in the summer he will not be around long enough to get on the wrong side of his new boss. It is easy to mock. And that should not necessarily stop us.

During the World Cup, Russia Today will be offering us a steady diet of positive news about the competition. The claim will be that everything in the Moscow garden is rosy. We will be informed of the welcome afforded by the locals to every visiting fan no matter their ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Mourinho's observations will sit between boasts of how this is a drug-free tournament, untainted by corruption, delivered to the highest of standards, its excellence proof that Russia is a place to do business.

Because giving us news of Russian excellence is the channel's raison d'etre.

Whatever those who have taken the rouble to offer up their opinions on its output may claim (mentioning no names, Stan Collymore), this is not a broadcaster renowned for its impartiality.

And yet anyone who watched the BBC's embarrassing coverage of the Winter Olympics can hardly claim that Mourinho's adopted homeland occupies the moral high ground when it comes to sporting neutrality. It is hard to sneer at the output of others when the Beeb was so relentlessly jingoistic.

The moment viewers were treated to supposedly hidden camera footage of its pundits jumping around the BBC commentary box like unhinged fools when a British competitor won a bronze medal was the moment all notions of detachment were surrendered. This was not reporting. It was cheerleading.

Indeed, you wonder whether it was that performance from South Korea this winter which persuaded Mourinho he would be better off serving up his thoughts for Russia Today. After all, at least with Putin TV no one is under any illusion they are engaged in anything other than straightforward propaganda. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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