In Sportskeeda’s exclusive “Top 10 European Managers of the Season”, let’s take a look at the Number 5 on the list.
Read #6 in the Managers’ Series here (Stay tuned on www.Sportskeeda.com, Each day a new manager)
#5: Jose Mourinho
“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one”
The name Jose Mourinho always evoked extreme feelings amongst people. For folks who support him, he is no short of a demigod and they pledge even their life to him. For others who don’t , he is nothing short of an enigma and they would not leave any opportunity to take a dig at him.
Mourinho came from a footballing family and as a child he tried his hand at playing the beautiful game. But it became evident that he would not excel as a professional due to a lack of the requisite pace and power. Acceding to his shortcomings, he chose to pursue the dream of becoming a professional football coach instead. He studied sports science at the Technical University of Lisbon and taught football at schools side by side. His first big break came when he joined Sir Bobby Robson as an interpreter at the Sporting Lisbon club. The move was a step away from management but as an interpreter, Mourinho earned Robson’s respect and friendship. When Sir Robson moved to Barcelona he moved with him and joined him there in the same capacity. Gradually he became a prominent figure of Barcelona’s staff by translating at press conferences, planning practice sessions, and helping players through tactical advice and analysis of the opposition. Robson and Mourinho’s styles complemented each other: the Englishman favoured an attacking style, while Mourinho covered defensive options, and the Portuguese’s love of planning and training combined with Robson’s direct man-management. Consequently he also worked with Louis Van Gaal at Barcelona as an assistant coach before he was picked by Benfica to become their head coach. He moved to Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan as a head coach subsequently and the rest they say was history.
The famous Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi had once said,
“I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first.”
Jose Mourinho might have never played football but he does know how to make footballers play. His achievements speak for themselves. A Champions League winner with two clubs , a semifinalist in the Champions league with four different clubs and a multiple league champion in Portugal, England and Italy. Without a doubt he is amongst the best coaches in the world if not the best. No wonder Real Madrid desperately wanted to have his services for the 2010-11 season and beyond.
And so he came. On 28 May 2010, it was confirmed that Mourinho would take over the reigns of Real Madrid. On 31 May 2010, Mourinho was unveiled as the new manager of Real Madrid after signing a four-year deal at the club. His objectives were very clear. Firstly , to win the elusive 10th Champions League for the best club of the 20th century. Secondly , to break Barcelona’s hegemony both in the League and in Europe. Mourinho knew that the key challenge in both his goals were ultimately the same. To defeat Barcelona , widely regarded as the world’s best team. For Mourinho it wasn’t something impossible as he has already shown how to defeat Barcelona in route to winning the Champions League in 2010. But as shrewd a tactician Mourinho was , even he knew that achieving the goals wont be easy especially for a team which has been out of the champions League in the round of 16, six years in a row.
Mourinho began his daunting challenge at Madrid by bringing in four players that he wanted. Ozil, Di Maria, Khedira and Carvalho were the four players that were brought after Mourinho became the boss and among them the last proved to be the most crucial buy. Madrid’s Achilles heel in the past seasons has been their defense. For a team whose supporters want them to play attacking football , the defense is sometimes neglected and left exposed leaving opponents to have an easy go. However Mourinho is adept at organizing defenses. Both at Inter Milan and Chelsea , he created one of the meanest defenses in Europe and the signing of the relatively aged but experienced Carvalho was a step in the same direction. Real Madrid’s strategy was also tweaked to solve their defensive problem.One of the key aspects that Mourinho brought into Madrid’s game was his quick wit and the pressuring play, which started at the offensive line, dubbed pressão alta (high pressure). It was the same strategy which Barcelona has been using to conquer Europe and Mourinho knew that as he had been part of the Catalan club for almost five seasons. Again the onus was to build from the back and keep a tight line as Mourinho knew that the key ingredient for success in Europe was to not give away cheap goals. With the offensive prowess of Cristino Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Di Maria , Madrid would always be an offensive threat to any side.
Mourinho’s Madrid began impressively both in the La Liga and in Europe. However the first and one of Mourinho’s biggest setback came in the form of first El Clasico defeat. The match, held in Nou Camp ended 5-0 in favor of the hosts, with Real Madrid director Florentino Pérez regarding it the worst game in the history of Real Madrid. Sporting director Valdano also criticized Mourinho for his ‘inability to bring a major correction to the game’ and ‘not leaving his bench for the (majority) of the match’. When asked by a media reporter however, Mourinho refused to call the loss a ‘humiliation’. For a team which wasn’t coached by Mourinho the match would have broken down the team to an extent that it would be really difficult to make a comeback. However Mourinho’s strength is his tremendous self-belief and confidence and he instills the same in his team as well. If not before Mourinho now knew that his team was still gelling and to unsettle and slay Barca , a lot of work had to be done. Mourinho also consoled his players by saying that it aint over until it really over and Madrid might have to come back to the Camp Nou again. Little did everyone knew that it would prove out to be true.
Despite the El Clasico setback Mourinho’s Madrid continued to roll and when the season had ended , Madrid has won the Copa del Rey defeating Barcelona, came runner up in the league and lost a controversial semifinal in the Champions League to their arch rivals from Catalunya. Impressive for a team which had ended trophy-less for the last two seasons. As was the case mentioned above , Madrid’s main challenge in the season came from their Catalunyan rivals.After a marathon series of 5 El Classcos Madrid had lost only twice and won once in five matches against a Barcelona side which some say is the best in the world. However , had luck been in Madrid’s side it could have been a lot better.
The biggest thing with Mourinho does in all the team he coaches is his ability to be the center of attraction. In this process he frees his players from the unnecessary digressions that the players might face. Amidst the rants against referees and coaches , the one thing Mourinho never does is take bullshit. If something is wrong he never shy’s away from mentioning his displeasure. Throughout Madrid’s season, he had to face multiple disciplinary actions but the never let the team unsettle because of his actions. He used the attacks against him from the press and rival teams as a means to motivate his team to do well. Madrid might have lost out the league and Champions League to Barcelona this season but Mourinho’s Madrid showed glimpses of what he can achieve next season. Mourinho has always maintained that his teams do well in the second season and there is no other coach in the world there is as articulate as Mourinho in that way. The tremendous self belief and confidence he instilled in the young Madrid side was something special this season. No wonder he is called the special one. Come next season, Real will be stronger and will pose a stronger threat to the kingdom of Barcelona.