The upcoming Premier League season is a tantalising prospect, largely because of the gaffers. Here’s your guide to 2013-14’s touchline archetypes, starting with 'The Rock Star' José Mourinho below, and five others here.
The Rock Star
Mourinho’s return to Chelsea is the headline act for the festival that is this season. ShortList’s Ben Isaacs examines his rock star credentials, and asks what sort of football we can expect to see from his new-look Blues
Most managers with such an overflowing trophy cabinet (two Champions League titles, one Uefa Cup, seven league championships in four countries, 10 assorted domestic cups and shields, all before he turned 50) would simply let their record speak for itself. But José? No way. If there’s speaking to do, he’ll do it himself – in one of the four languages he’s fluent in.
It’s been nine years since he anointed himself “a special one” at his unveiling at Stamford Bridge. At that point he had walked out on FC Porto, with whom he had won the Champions League just weeks earlier. There was only one place for a swaggering, ambitious manager at that time. Mourinho needed the Premier League, but what few realised was how much the Premier League needed him. Not least because he would break the stranglehold of dominance enjoyed by Manchester United and Arsenal since 1995-96.
He arrived wearing tailored suits, an Armani overcoat (always with that overcoat). He was wry and revelled in the cut and thrust of a press conference. He made some fellow managers – such as Stuart Pearce, Iain Dowie and Nigel Worthington – look like dinosaurs, even though they were all a similar age.
Yet, despite his modern approach, Jeff Livingstone, editor of influential football website In Bed With Maradona, believes that what we love is his old-school approach: “Mourinho adds a dash of sparkle and a spike of confrontation. He’s a throwback to the inflated egos of the Seventies, a large dose of Brian Clough, or Malcolm Allison – the sort of individuals that we are told are long extinct. What José might say remains an enthralling subtext to modern football and the media are hooked.”
“Until very recently, fans and media haven’t been that keen on tactical analysis,” adds Andy Brassell, a go-to European football expert for the likes of the BBC, ESPN and FourFourTwo. “Mourinho isn’t keen on talking about how his teams work, so his brash soundbites are what we like.”
In his first two seasons at Stamford Bridge Mourinho won the Premier League twice (the Blues had only been English champions once before, in 1955), and added an FA Cup and League Cup for good measure. Chelsea, bankrolled by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, soon became reviled by fans of other clubs. But suave Mourinho captured the public’s imagination in a way that the team’s 34 clean sheets across all competitions in 2004-05 failed to do.
“From the mid-Nineties Chelsea had a succession of good teams and good managers, but neither had the qualities to lift the league title,” admits Rick Glanvill, Chelsea FC historian and author of The Chelsea FC Miscellany (The History Press). “José made the difference. His method and manner inspires love, loyalty, confidence and invincibility in fans as much as players.”
At a time when footballers were being media-trained to within an inch of their lives, here was a man who spoke his mind. In 2005 he called Arsene Wenger “a voyeur… it is a sickness” following the Arsenal manager’s frequent comments about Chelsea. As his relationship with Abramovich broke down, Mourinho channeled his inner Cantona in September 2007, saying that he wasn’t allowed to buy “class one eggs… from Waitrose” to make his “omelette”.
His subsequent stints with Internazionale and Real Madrid were tumultuous. Expectations were higher than at Chelsea, he never had the rapport with the home fans he enjoyed in England and the foreign media regarded him with suspicion. But he was dominant in Italy, emulating his achievement at Chelsea of winning the title twice within two years of taking charge, and this time also adding a Champions League crown in 2010.
“I was in the Nou Camp for the second leg of the semi-final against Barcelona,” ITV Sport pundit and former Chelsea player Andy Townsend tells ShortList. “Tactically, he put on a masterclass – 3-1 up from the first leg, most would have told their team to go and score again. He didn’t – he realised if you opened up against Barca they would maximise the space and pick you off. He sat his back four on the edge of the 18-yard box and they didn’t move. Samuel Eto’o ended up playing right-back for 45 minutes. Since that night, many other teams have opted for this way of setting up against Barca with some success. The blueprint was designed by Mourinho.”
He later claimed that any top manager who doesn’t take charge at Real Madrid would “have a gap in [their] career”. His reward for success at the San Siro was the job he seemed made for – on the surface, at least. Despite the Spanish edition of Rolling Stone putting him on the cover and naming him the magazine’s ‘Rock Star Of The Year’ for 2011, by his own standards he failed in Madrid. Just one championship in three seasons and a trio of consecutive semi-final aggregate defeats in the Champions League. On 2 April 2011, lowly Sporting Gijon beat Real Madrid 1-0 at the Bernabau – the first time Mourinho had lost a league game at home for more than nine years.
“He became ridiculously confrontational and aggressive last season,” says Andy West, a Spanish football correspondent for the BBC. “He clearly wasn’t enjoying the environment at the club, and his reaction was to start fights with anyone and everyone. By the end, he hardly had any allies left.” The Special One proved fallible and had been humbled. Now he wanted to come home.
Mourinho told the official Chelsea magazine that he wants to make the fans happy, not just with results but with their “playing style, by the mentality and by the personality of the team”. World football guru Keir Radnedge tells ShortList, “I think Chelsea will continue to play in the manner for which he created the template during his first stint in charge: solid at the back, quick on the break and capitalising on the skill and pace of their midfielders and forwards. He has possibly more creative talent at his disposal than when he first arrived at Stamford Bridge, so it will be fascinating watching him trying to inspire the best in all of them.”
There is a dichotomy to Mourinho and Chelsea. There is an image of glamour and style to both, but this did not translate to swashbuckling entertainment on the pitch. Although the Chelsea of 2004-08 were a far cry from Stoke City under Tony Pulis, it was not a side cut through with attacking flair. Speaking of Mourinho’s return, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech recently said, “He’s a manager who’d rather lose than draw a game. He’s all about winning the right way. ‘Right’ doesn’t necessarily mean in a ‘great’ way, as in a nice way to watch.”
“Mourinho was perceived to have left Chelsea because his priority was results over entertainment,” says Radnedge. “That was a perfect theme for him to maintain at Inter, but it may be that the demands at Real Madrid, for a more explosive attacking style, have given him new insights and ideas into what can be achieved. But Chelsea won’t play like Real Madrid – unless they sign Cristiano Ronaldo.”
West is in agreement: “Mourinho would claim, of course, that Ronaldo flourished because he devised the right system to allow that to happen, but he’ll have to allow for greater positional variety to allow more subtle players such as Juan Mata and Eden Hazard to shine.”
“If opponents fall into a counter attacking trap though, then all the better,” believes David Cartlidge, Spanish football writer for The Mirror. “Chelsea probably won’t operate with such velocity on the counter attack, they might be a more intricate unit.”
There’s been upheaval at all major clubs recently. As Glanvill puts it, “With Ferguson and his influence gone, Wenger seemingly on the wane, José is one of the Premier League’s elder statesmen.” What does this state of flux mean for Mourinho? “There’s a feeling of transition, of journey rather than destination for many clubs,” says Livingstone. “They say ‘never go back’ but, in the short term at least, Mourinho’s vehicle of choice looks an interesting proposition.”
“He seems to have matured personally and professionally,” adds Glanvill. “This is the first time he’s returned to a club and it feels more permanent at the moment – hints of wanting a longer project based on youth and the academy.”
So what does the man himself think has changed? “I have more titles, I have more money, I have even more desire to win than before,” José claimed on ITV documentary, Mourinho. “My career is always incomplete. And nobody puts pressure on me, because I put pressure on myself.”
From using bank notes as toilet paper to throwing hissy fits over substitutions, many players are alienating modern men. Does any right-minded adult admire Wayne Rooney? Mourinho, on the other hand, is what many of us want to be. Quick-witted, good-looking, well-dressed, universally respected and arguably top of the pile in a competitive industry. If the typical player’s level of celebrity reminds us of The Only Way Is Essex, Mourinho feels like our only rock star.