“I have a problem, which is I’m getting better at everything related to my job since I started. There has been evolution in many different areas – the way I read the game; the way I prepare the game; the way I train; the methodology… I feel better and better. But there is one point where I cannot change: when I face the media, I am never a hypocrite.”
Jose Mourinho is famous around the world as a successful manager. Statistically, he is the most successful in the world. He has managed four teams – Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. He has won the league in each country, and the Champions League twice. A host of domestic cup victories complete his extensive list of successes.
Mourinho is also one of the most opinion-dividing managers, maybe ever seen in football. The list of cup victories isn’t much longer than the list of FA charges, touchline spats and arguments with the media, if not shorter. However, there is a method to the madness. The 52-year old gets to the Chelsea training ground in Surrey at 7:30am. Everyday.
“I need my time to be lonely,” he said. “You know, in football, I’m not so old. At 52 maybe I have 20 years in front of me to coach. But I feel myself as… you might say an ‘old fox’. Nothing scares me, nothing worries me too much; it looks like nothing new can happen for me. I am very, very stable in the control of these emotions but I need my time to think. Not wake up in the middle of the night worrying about somebody’s injury, or the tactic for this match. I need to reflect, I need to try to anticipate problems. I need my time.”
His first job was teaching kids with Down’s Syndrome and severe mental disabilities. This was, as Mourinho calls it “a big challenge.” He said: “I wasn’t technically ready to help these kids. And I had success only because of one thing, the emotional relation that was established with them. I did little miracles only because of the relationship. Affection, touch, empathy – only because of that. There was one kid that refused all his life to walk up stairs. Another one that couldn’t coordinate the simplest movement – all these different problems, and we had success in many, many of these cases only based on that empathy.
“After that I was coaching kids of 16. Now I coach the best players in the world, and the most important thing is not that you are prepared from the technical point of view; the most important thing is the relationship you establish with the person. Of course you need the knowledge, the capacity to analyse things. But the centre of everything is the relationship, and empathy, not only with the individual but in the team. And to have that empathy in the team we all must give up something. It’s not about establishing the perfect relation between me and you; it’s about establishing the perfect relation to the group, because the group wins things; it’s not the individual who wins things.”
After a relatively low-key playing career, Mourinho turned to coaching. Not all managers agree with each other – Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger are no exception. The pair have rarely given a fourth official an easy game. However, the Ballon d’Or (FIFA’s best impression of the Oscars) has, somehow, brought the two together.
“I think Wenger said something that is interesting; he is against the Ballon d’Or, and I think he’s right, because in this moment football is losing a little bit the concept of the team to focus more on the individual. We are always looking at the individual performance, the individual stat, the player that runs more. Because you run 11km in a game and I run nine you did a better job than I did? Maybe not! Maybe my 9km were more important than your 11.”
“Once players came to football expecting to be wealthy when they retired. Now they expect to be wealthy before they’ve played their first game!”
Having worked for Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona, Mourinho’s career in management was somewhat false – a trademark dispute, this time with the club’s president, made Mourinho’s first stint as manager just three months long. He moved to Porto, and his career took off. He won the Portuguese Primeira League twice, the UEFA Cup and then, in 2004, the Champions League.
He then moved to South London, for his first stint at Chelsea. He won the Premier League twice – in his first two seasons (2004-5, 2005-6), the FA Cup, and twice won the League Cup. He then moved to Inter Milan, winning Serie A twice and the Champions League for the second time. At Real Madrid, he won the Copa Del Rey and La Liga in two consecutive seasons. He returned to Chelsea in June 2013.
However, Mourinho says that, although obviously important, a club’s success isn’t just down to the manager: “The manager is not the most important person in the club – of course not. I keep saying, the most important person in the club is first the supporters, secondly the owner, third the players, and then I come. But it is the manager that everyone looks at. The players are watching you, analysing you; they want to see your reaction, they want to see your stability. The people that work in the club are also watching you, and they follow in a negative or positive way. Even the supporters are watching you. They want to feel that after that big defeat you are ready for the next day; that after the big victory you are not in the moon but have your feet in the earth. And I think I am good in controlling these situations, and good in trying to keep people balanced for the negative and for the positive. At home I am not good, because they know me too well. I can’t hide. They get me.”
However, the arguments correspond with Mourinho admitting that he has no close friends in English football. But, there is one man for whom his respect is endless. Sir Alex Ferguson. They met in 2004, when Porto knocked out Manchester United. “That was when I felt the two faces of such a big man,” Mourinho says. “The first face was the competitor, the man that tried everything to win. And after that I found the man with principles, with the respect for the opponent, with the fair play – I found these two faces in that period, and that was very important for me.
“In my culture, the Portuguese and the Latin culture, we don’t have that culture of the second face; we are in football to win and when we don’t there is not a second face most of the time. But when we beat United in the Champions League I got that beautiful face of a manager which I try to have myself. I try.”
Mourinho has an infamous mind-set. Referees are against him. He was fined earlier this season for saying that referees had a ‘vendetta’ against his team. But the Portuguese man feels more – the whole world is against him. But according to him, it has installed an ‘underdog’ mentality in one of the most complex, and misunderstood managers in the game. But whatever is in that complex mind, it works brilliantly.