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Jose Mourinho's conundrum - to be a 'friend' or a 'father'

2.62K   //    07 Jan 2016, 12:07 IST
Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea in December, seven months after winning the Premier League with the club

Chelsea's fall from grace under Jose Mourinho has to be one of the most bizarre phenomenon in football history and there are multiple theories floating around to explain it. Let me add mine to the list.

In simple form there are two types of managers in football; Managers who want to control the ball by altering their tactics and personnel based on their opponents' strategies - proactive managers if you want to call them and then there are managers who retain their shape and personnel - reactive managers who wait for the opposition to make mistakes and play on the counter.

The likes of Guardiola and Tuchel belong to the former category while Mourinho belongs to the latter.

Mourinho has in the past defended his tactics and his players - especially his players. He goes to great lengths to divert the blame from his players to anything from the referees, to the pitch or even the media. This creates an 'Us vs them' mentality in the squad in which he becomes the players' 'friend' with him at the front taking all the criticism for the team.

The camaraderie he creates speaks for itself when you hear players like Zlatan say, "He would become a guy I was basically willing to die for. I felt increasingly that this guy gives everything for the team, so I want to give everything for him. It was a quality he had. People were willing to kill for him." - All that began to change at Real Madrid.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic played for the 'Special One' while at Inter Milan
Zlatan Ibrahimovic played for the ‘Special One’ while at Inter Milan

In those three seasons at Real Madrid Mourinho's mentality started to change. For the first time in his career, he had a group of players who formed cliques and did not conform to his idea of 'us vs them'. There were accusations that some of them even leaked dressing room secrets to the media and in Mourinho's own words he had felt 'betrayed' (a word he would again use in his final press conference at Chelsea).

Real Madrid is a strange place for managers and is in essence run like a business rather than a football team, where the players are the real power centers and the manager is just a trainer. Mourinho's style suits clubs where he is given complete control to impose his ideas and this he received at Porto, Chelsea and Inter, who were all up and coming teams and were tailor-made for somebody like Mourinho to come in and lead them against the 'big boys' of the football world.

Mourinho wanted to change the mentality at Real and it was clear that being a 'friend' to the players wasn't going to work anymore; the players had to not only love him but also be afraid of him, in order to conform to his ideas.

And whether knowingly or unknowingly, he had begun his transformation into a 'father' figure personality much like Alex Ferguson, a man he has always openly admired and calls “The Boss”- Ferguson's players were scared of him and gave their best on the field to earn his love.

And it was in the midst of this transformation that he began his tenure at Chelsea and for the first time in his career we saw Jose Mourinho openly criticize his players and berate them. This included digs at his strikers, saying "I have a team but no striker" and at players like Mata and De Bruyne for their lack of work ethic.

This was unusual for him; Diego Forlan once said of Mourinho, "Not only does he win trophies, players feel he supports them, protects them from pressure and shields them from criticism by taking it on himself. He defends his players publicly, even if he speaks differently to them in private."

In the past players like Mata and De Bruyne were eased out of the first team, and meant to be used when anyone in the first team got injured but that wasn't the case anymore, there was criticism in store for whoever refused to toe the line now. Players who took the criticism well stayed and the ones who didn't were sold.

And all through this time stood with Mourinho his loyal lieutenants who kept the dressing room together for him. This included the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, John Terry and Micheal Essien.

These players were a double-edged sword for Mourinho. He was their friend, but while they were in the squad he couldn't become the dominating 'father' figure personality which was the ethos behind Ferguson's dynasty building and one which Jose wanted to emulate.

Mourinho had shown adoration for Alex Ferguson since his first spell at Chelsea

By the beginning of this season it seemed like Mourinho was finally confident enough to not need the help of his lieutenants in the dressing room anymore and so they were eased out of the club. Thus began the season and when things went bad he made a statement, by first dropping Terry and then lashing out at his medical staff. This was a statement to the players along the lines of, 'I'm not your friend anymore if I can do that to them, I can do it any of you'.

And he lived up to his words as he dropped most of them and berated them openly in the media. The reaction he probably expected was for them to get the message and train harder for him. But it all fell apart for him, instead of being intimidated into performing for him out of fear, the players sulked on him and simply gave up.

This was fatal to his tactics which placed a lot of emphasis on players holding their shape on the pitch with high levels of discipline. And so ended Mourinho's second spell at Chelsea.

Everything has unravelled so quickly that it would be easy to overlook his obvious talents and it wouldn't be wrong to say that he still belongs to the small group of managers whose achievements give them authentic greatness. As someone said, without greatness, there is no fall and no tragedy.

This was supposed to be the season when Mourinho proved that he can create a dynasty like Sir Alex Ferguson did at United. It is the one challenge that has seemed beyond him so far, and like great men always do, he will probably take on that challenge again and if he succeeds or not, only time will tell. It will be interesting to see how his mentality will further evolve after this second 'betrayal' though.

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