Sunday 16 June 2019

'You little guys can go away' - How Jose Mourinho's incredibly prophetic words from 2013 have come back to haunt him

Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Those of us fortunate to be sharing Jose Mourinho’s airspace in a Stamford Bridge conference room on the day he pronounced himself as ‘the special one’ back in 2004 didn’t need to be convinced that his arrogance was justified.

The handsome, brash, bullish winner who had just steered FC Porto to the most improbable of Champions League victories spoke with a confidence that instantly captivated all present at his unveiling as Chelsea manager and on that afternoon, his love affair with English football and, believe it or not, the nation's media began.

With Petr Cech, Arjen Robben and Didier Drogba among his dynamic first few signings at Chelsea, he quickly transformed them from pretenders into champions, with Mourinho's assured strut as he walked into each of his press conferences evidence of the joy he had in his success.

This was in the days before Chelsea moved to their plush training ground at Cobham, with their rented HQ in Harlington a windswept outpost made all the more unpleasant due to the constant drone of jumbo jets screaming overhead from the adjacent Heathrow airport.

It was not a glamorous workplace and yet the revolutionary at the heart of the story was rarely without a smile, as he shook hands with each journalist ahead of press conferences and offered up quotes that were delivered with a hint of deviance that was appealing rather than appalling.

Sure, if you were not a Chelsea fan and had your allegiances pinned to one of the traditional giants of English football, it would have been easy to loath Mourinho's cocky takeover of the Premier League fuelled by owner Roman Abramovich's and his lavishly funded player recruitment policy.

Yet Mourinho appreciated he needed to get the media on his side, as he took on the might of Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Rafael Benitez at Liverpool and Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

"You could say the press conference is the start of the match," declared Mourinho, as he spoke to his captivated media audience in his first year at Chelsea. "Maybe you can influence your own players and maybe more. It is all part of being a manager."

Mourinho's eagerness to befriend the London newspaper reporters extended to media lunches designed to build relationships, with this innovator a vision of charm once the cameras were turned off and you could share private moments in his company.

Spending time with Mourinho was delightful  and while the honeymoon period was replaced by slightly less jovial press gatherings as his first spell at Chelsea unraveled in 2007, Mourinho left English with two Premier League title wins representing a solid gold legacy.

Even when he returned to Chelsea in 2013, after a chastening experience as he created enemies aplenty during a turbulent spell as Real Madrid head coach, the old glint was in Mourinho's eye as he started round two of his charm offensive.

As we were welcomed into a backroom at Stamford Bridge with handshakes and smiles from Mourinho and all his coaching team, the media gathered around a large boardroom table eager to be educated by a returning hero, who appeared determined to use his status as Chelsea's greatest manager to build a dynasty at the club second time around.

It was amid this discussion that Mourinho uttered words that have proved to be so relevant both during his final days at Chelsea and now, as he clings on to power with increasingly fragility at Manchester United.

"I say the same thing in every club I go and I will say the same when I meet the players here," stated Mourinho. "Some have heard it before from me and others not yet.

"If you are a top professional, if you are not a selfish person, if you put the club in front of yourself and if you are here to work 100 per-cent for me, for your fellow players and for the club, we will have a wonderful relationship.

"If you are selfish, if you don't care with the club, don't care with the fans, don't care with the image, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, we are in big trouble.

"So it depends on you if the relation is fantastic or not fantastic. Sometimes you have groups that adapt to this in a very easy way. Sometimes you have groups that this becomes like a doctrine and everything is easy.

"Sometimes you have a couple of guys who are not so keen to accept these kind of rules and this is where you have some problematic relationships.

"At that moment, the club supports the problematic player or supports the manager. If the club supports the manager, you little guys can go away. This is how it works."

How significant that doctrine has proved to be be for Mourinho, as his 2015 Premier League title triumph arrived as the cracks in his make-up at Chelsea were beginning to show, with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa appearing to lose faith in their manager in the months before they lifted the biggest prize in English football.

Few could have foreseen his dramatic exit from Chelsea just a few months later, but Mourinho has lived through his first crisis and didn't emerged scared, beaten and helpless.

It was to be assume that he would have learned from that chastening experience as he landed the job he always wanted when he was handed the chance to succeed his former mentor Louis van Gaal at Manchester United in the summer of 2016 and yet from day one, it was clear the Mourinho of old was not about to re-emerge.

A grumpy first appearance before the cameras as United manager has been followed by two years and four months of what can only be described as childish petulance from this once great manager, as he has picked fights with his players, referees, journalists and created too many enemies to survive in one of the biggest jobs in football.

While Paul Pogba's antics in his war with Mourinho in recent weeks have been unpleasant and the performances of his highly paid players has been little short of pathetic, a great manager would have found a way to solve the problems before they reached this breaking point.

It may be that Mourinho has lost the fire that made his special back in 2004, as he has been tarnished by what he perceives to be too many injustices in a sport that he believes has never shown him the respect he is due given his remarkable success.

The tragedy is that Mourinho will be sounded out of Manchester United with few sad to see the back of him.

We are bored of his brand of football, tired of his persistent whinging and offended by his eagerness to pick fights with anyone who crosses his path.

If only the Mourinho of old could be revived.

Sadly, it seems, he is gone for good.

Online Editors

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