José Mourinho, the master of the mind game, or so the narrative of the last decade or so would lead us to believe; but narrative is a funny thing in football, it can change drastically depending on what point of view you want to put across. For example, some people think that when Mourinho is being an asshole to everyone around him, it’s some strategic duplicitous mind game where he is moving the pawns on the board to his advantage. Others think he is just being an asshole.
If you cast your mind back to the opening day of the season, when Mourinho threw a hissy fit and blamed his physio team for his side drawing 2-2 at home with Swansea, the general narrative at the time was that good old José was being incredibly clever with the way he was deflecting attention away from his team’s poor display by throwing his staff under the bus. Nonsense.
Opening day results can be strange the majority of times. Teams may not be up and running properly, one teams pre season can go better than another’s, maybe all the transfers in and out haven’t been completed, or there is the clichéd “slow starters” excuse. Whatever. Drawing your opening game of the season against a strong side isn’t exactly a crisis. Swansea aren’t nobodies, only the previous season they won on the opening day at Old Trafford. Surely accepting that these things happen and moving on is better than having a giant temper tantrum and ending up with a lawsuit for constructive dismissal. There must be a middle ground, right? That’s not a distraction; a distraction would be blaming the referee for having a bad game, blaming the FA for scheduling the game at the wrong time, or talking about being a little horse with no money to spend. That’s a distraction, what Mourinho did was just be an asshole about it.
It’s was all good though, because in typical cerebral style, Mourinho deflected attention away from the Eva Carneiro situation by giving the press something else to talk about. Chelsea went out and got hammered 3-0 by title rivals Man City, but before people could even notice of the score line, the attention had been deflected away from that by taking off captain John Terry at half time. That sly old fox had pulled a classic triple judo Jedi mind trick on us all. Between the lawsuit, the dropped captain and the thrashing at The Etihad, everyone had forgotten all about the perfectly acceptable 2-2 draw with Swansea. Oh José, you’ve done it again.
Mourinho has always been an asshole though. Even back in the summer, he took a random pop shot at Rafa Benitez’ weight. In an interview, Mrs Benitez joked that her husband always had to go into clubs to clean up José mess. That’s clearly not true, as the only club that Rafa ever directly replaced Mourinho was at Inter, where José had left them as trebling winning European Champions, and Rafa was sacked after about 6 months. When Mourinho was asked about the Mrs Benitez dig, he could have just laughed it off, pointed out it was silly nonsense; but once he got his retort in, he then essentially said “and he’s a fat bastard too”. Yes, whenever there is an opportunity to be the bigger man, our man José will gleefully pass up the opportunity. Maybe it was just a long-term mind game? I mean, Chelsea could meet Real Madrid in the latter stages of the Champions League and sure then “BINGO” the games had already begun and Mourinho was already one step ahead of his chunky opponent. The fact that he hasn’t been serially attacking the other mangers of Europe’s elite clubs would suggest to me that this isn’t some long term strategy, more a case of an immature man who just couldn’t rise above an insignificant dig. In short, he was just being an asshole again.
Moving back to Chelsea’s current woes, their troubles this season have a sense of the David Moyeseseses about them. The last time a team of Champions floundered this badly was when Moyes took a team of serial winners on a nationwide tour of systematically knocking down proud records that had been built up and stood for decades. When the first few got broken – West Brom winning at Old Trafford for the first time in 40 years, Newcastle for the first time in 30 years, Everton in 20 years or Swansea in, like, ever – there was an excitement around the rest of the league. “United are there for the taking”, but as it went on, you could feel everyone else almost feel sorry for them. “What? Stoke have their first win over United in God knows how long? Awww, poor Moyes.” Beating Chelsea this season somewhat similar. You know you’re the butt of the joke when Palace win at Stamford Bridge for the first time this century and after the match Alan Pardew is praising Chelsea for “playing their part” in the game.
There is a morbid curiosity surrounding Chelsea this season, the poor form, the bad play, the talk of a club in crisis and a locker room lost. Apparently, we’ve never seen Mourinho in this situation, facing a player revolt and losing the dressing room – that is, if you fail to remember that about 90% of the Real Madrid squad wanted to hang him from the crossbar by his man parts – there is also a sense of satisfaction of watching a dickhead reaping years worth of sowed dickhead seeds. The bellend chickens are coming home to roost and José is cutting a very lonely figure in the face of it all. It’s very rare that life imitates art in such a way, we’re forever seeing the bad guy get his comeuppance in the movies, but to watch it play out, so protractedly, on such a deserving figure is quite satisfying.
Mourinho has a reputation for being a short term manager, so short term that he apparently has huge problems in his third season at a club and things go off the rails. It was his third season at Chelsea the first time round that he lost his strangle hold on the Premier League title back to Sir Alex Ferguson and Man United – he was sacked shortly after. His third season at Inter Milan saw him win the treble on the field, but off the pitch, he took up a Tim Sherwood “I’m just going to keep swinging until something hits” style approach to dealing with the media, so much so that he was practically hounded out of the club. His third season at Madrid saw a player revolt and a hasty exit, which leads us to the current meltdown, obviously occurring in his third season at a club that has already fired him once.
Do people just eventually see through him? He is a weirdly charismatic guy, who does successfully build an effective “us against the world” mentality in his squad, but it seems that at some point, all the smoke and mirrors fade away, and when the magic is gone, all you’re left with is a petty, insecure dickhead. It’s quite possible that through a series of constantly picking fights, he has lost the respect of his team. He clearly picked the wrong fight against Eva Carneiro, but instead of being the bigger man, he insanely stuck to his guns. He has public hung players out to dry, even go so far as to individually attack and humiliate them in the case of Nemanja Matic. Surely when the players see the man who is suppose to be their leader, the man who protects them from the media, repeatedly and callously throw you’re team mates under the bus, then at some point the ideals of Martin Niemóller’s “First They Came….” poem must kick into effect, and the players start to turn.
Mourinho’s record is the kind of record that speaks for itself, which makes it all the more alarming that so many fans of other football clubs wouldn’t want him as their manager. I’m a Man United fan, and I have the displeasure of knowing several other Man United fans, and so many United supporters say they would never want to have Mourinho at the helm of the club. It’s a moral thing. Personally, I would rather go back to nothingness under Moyes than success under such an uncompromising bellend. “Yeah, but he guarantees success”, that may be the case, but at what cost? You essentially sell your soul to make your club the personal play thing of a sulking man child. In the interest of balance, I know many Man United fans that would also love José to manage the club, but I’d say it’s close to a 50-50 divide on those who would be for and against it.
50-50 was also about the divide of the Real Madrid fans who were for or against the appointment of Mourinho. If Chelsea were to sack him for a second time, where can you see him going next? Real would be out of the question, Barcelona wouldn’t touch him – especially after the scumbag poked Tito Vilanova in the eye, in what I’m sure was just some innocent mind game and not the action of an epic dummy spitting session. Maybe I think too highly of the club, but I cant see Bayern Munich ever touching him, nor a team like Dortmund being able to afford him. PSG maybe, or the Portugal job if he was interested in dipping his toe into international football. My point here is, for a guy with Mourinho’s record, the majority of the top clubs in European football probably wouldn’t want to work with him, and at just 52 years of age, he has almost exhausted all of his employment opportunities. If his record isn’t a problem, then it must be his personality that is the issue, right? See, I told you; he’s an asshole.
I personally don’t think Chelsea will sack him, not in the immediate future. I think they are acutely aware of the fact that he is still the best manager they have ever had, and if they sack him now, he will be gone forever, I cant imagine there ever being a third reign as Chelsea manager, so I think they would allow him as much time as possible to turn it around. There is also the little issue of about £30 million in compensation should they decide to sack him now. So the fun and games look likely to continue for the next while at least, but Mourinho is going to need to learn to grow up. We criticize footballers if they aren’t mature by the time that they are in their mid twenties, yet we seem allow a man twice that age to act a bigger child on a weekly basis. We live in a society where if you’re enough of a cock, you eventually become popular for being so. Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are modern examples of if you persevere with being a dick for long enough, people will accept it and you’ll even gain a cult following for it. Its like when you hear someone being described as “ah he’s alright once you get to know him”, it just translates to “yeah, he’s a dickhead but you kinda get used to it”, and I feel we’re probably just going to have to stay “used to it” when it comes to José Mourinho.