Wednesday 21 February 2018

Now, more than ever, Jose Mourinho comes with a health warning

Jose Mourinho's next move is uncertain (Action Images/Reuters/Tony O'Brien)
Jose Mourinho's next move is uncertain (Action Images/Reuters/Tony O'Brien)

Sam Wallace

It is 30 months since Jose Mourinho walked back into Stamford Bridge preaching the benefits of stability, the joys of bringing his family back to London and the long-term challenge of developing young players rather than lighting the proverbial fireworks under established stars and running away.

It was difficult to believe then that the serially ruthless winner of trophies had pledged to a future of "developing young players while giving an identity to the team" as he claimed then.

Less than 24 hours after another Mourinho sacking, and inevitable blame game, it is hard to think that he even believed it himself.

In the past he has been able to walk away in glory, or at least with a good story to tell about how his best efforts were betrayed. What now for the man who has won eight league titles across four nations?

At Porto and Inter Milan, he left a Champions League winner. At Chelsea in 2007 he could jab a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of Avram Grant and ask if that was really an upgrade.

At Real Madrid in the summer of 2013, he left a deeply divided dressing-room but, Mourinho could say, such is life in the madhouse of the galacticos where the manager is always expendable.

The Mourinho who walks away from Chelsea in December 2015 does so having suffered with the biggest single blot on his record. It remains a remarkable record, unparalleled within the modern game but for the first time in his career, his next move is not clear.

There will always be takers, possibly even Inter at some point. But now, more than ever, Mourinho comes with a health warning.

The trend is for the pliable modern coach who slots well into a sophisticated recruitment operation. That is how the likes of Paris Saint Germain, Barcelona, Madrid and Manchester City run these days and there are already plenty of reasons why those clubs would not hire Mourinho.

His place in history is as the first of a new school of coaches, but in reality he is the last of the old school: a man given to taking control of an entire club and even eager to dominate the player trading side of the operation that is now regarded, in the modern age, as a different sphere to the coaching.


It will take a certain kind of club to entertain the notion of Mourinho. There is much that is seductive about his leadership, especially the core business of winning trophies. Valencia, where Gary Neville is in temporary charge, have been named as one possible example, so too Benfica, where Mourinho's management career began and where he was unjustly sacked in 2000.

There are many who will look at his Chelsea history and wonder if Mourinho could not build there in the long term, then where? He was in charge of one of the most powerful clubs in Europe with a draw for leading players arguably greater than any in England, with their London location.

He had the devotion of the supporters.

Mourinho will win trophies again. He remains one of the most consistently successful organisers of teams, a rigorous coach, an astute changer of games.

Yet there are clear flaws too. The immaturity that lead him to demote a club doctor, or to bring on Nemanja Matic and then substitute him again, or to take off John Terry at half-time against City.

Pre-2015 these kind of decisions were regarded charitably as eccentricities. From the position of 16th in the Premier League they look like misjudgements.

The new frontiers of football, in the Gulf states and beyond in China will pay a lot of money for Mourinho but as much as he likes the stuff, it is clear he craves the prestige of the European game.

His enormous wealth has not prevented him from looking like a hollowed-out version of himself on the touchline in recent weeks. This will be poison for his self-esteem.

He said as much in June 2013. "Titles I have. Money I have. I need challenges. Nothing motivates me more than challenges. I'm not worried that I've got 21 cups now, or that I have one more pound than I had. I need challenges. I have 15 years in my career still. . . it's about changing the club."

Mourinho always loved the English Christmas programme, an intense run of matches that fed his raw competitiveness. He used to joke that while the players in the Spanish and the Germans and the Portuguese leagues were on holiday, his boys were running themselves into the ground trying to win the title.

He will miss it over the next few weeks as he wonders where and when he will return. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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