Jose Mourinho divides football fans right around the world.
The 53-year-old is in the middle of a love tryst with Manchester United as rumours persist that he’ll replace the possibly doomed Louis van Gaal.
In an explosive new book, Jose Mourinho: Farewell To The King, veteran football writer Harry Harris delves deep into the psychology that drives the legendary former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan manager.
In the first of Loaded’s exclusive extracts from the book, Harris reveals how The Special One is also The Hollywood One.
Designer stubble, expensive grey overcoat and scarf, brooding, explosive, animated, flashy, arrogant, young and glamorous. But Jose Mourinho has proved to be more substance than style.
Mourinho was voted the best club coach in the world in 2004 by the International Football Federation of History and Statistics, finishing well ahead of Arsène Wenger and Didier Deschamps of Monaco, and the award came just as he was on the verge of engineering a shift in power within English football away from Highbury and Old Trafford. It’s incredible to realise that Mourinho has performed a meteoric rise – back in the late 1990s, he was a glorified interpreter at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona.
Some say Mourinho’s defining moment was when his Porto team won the Portuguese League Cup for the second year running, and then overwhelmed Monaco to win the European Champions title in May 2004. Perhaps, though, his seminal moment had come in Lisbon four years earlier when, after just nine matches, he walked out on the famous Benfica club.
‘It wasn’t right,’ says Mourinho. ‘I could have stayed around, but I knew my work could not prosper there. My ideas could not develop.’
When Roman Abramovich interviewed Mourinho on his yacht in Monte Carlo, the Chelsea owner had had twenty-four hours to read a document sent to him by his prospective coach. It was a stunning appraisal of the situation of the club that had become the richest in the game. English football writers put to Mourinho some theories about the course of English football, with talk of a renaissance at Arsenal and a rally by Manchester United. Mourinho, in response, frowned. ‘Do not tell me about your movie. I am in a movie of my own.’ The choice of metaphor is not accidental. Mourinho loves films. On away trips he carries his laptop with him and, when he describes meeting Abramovich for the first time, it is like a scene from a James Bond flick: the French Riviera,the speedboat, the monumental yacht. And the pressure Mourinho is under? That brings another screen reference.
‘Worthy of Don Corleone,’ he says.
“My friends laugh when they read articles which label me as arrogant – they know it is not true”
If Mourinho’s life is a movie, its pre-production has been extensive. “He’s an overnight sensation who is twenty years in the making,” UEFA’s technical director Andy Roxburgh once said. Roxburgh has been acquainted with Mourinho all that time. It was through Roxburgh that Mourinho acquired his first coaching badge, when he attended a Scottish Football Association course in Largs, Ayrshire. ‘We used small-sided games on that course and it had a profound effect upon him.
“I know that players appreciate his training methods and attention to detail. He is also very personable and has good communication skills.’
For Roxburgh, Mourinho was a willing, enthusiastic and, above all, interested student. His public image – ice-cool, dispassionate, detached – is misleading, though even his wife, Tami, has said she had to learn to ‘decodify him’. Roxburgh says that, far from public perception, Mourinho does not ‘need the limelight’.
“My wife suggests books for me to read. Reading allows me to distract my mind from the rest of my worries”
‘With big-name players you sometimes see that they do,’ Roxburgh adds, ‘but because of his background that’s not the case.’ Mourinho enjoys the good life, but sees it as merely a reflection of success. ‘I have a good car, but only one at a time. I like good holidays with my family, I like us to live in a nice place [Eaton Square]. But as a football man, the most important thing is to be working with the right people and with the right approach to things,’ he says.
There is a little secret to his success. He calls it his ‘methodology’. Mourinho calls it his ability to ‘smell’ what to do. ‘I have a new way of thinking the game, the players and the practice,’ he says. ‘I defend the globalisation of the work, the non-separation of the physical, technical, tactical and psychological. The psychological is fundamental.’
Mourinho’s ideas are stored on his laptop. He used the machine to make his famous ‘Power point’ presentation to Abramovich in which he analysed Chelsea’s strengths and weaknesses with forensic detail. Also, on the computer is Mourinho’s ‘bible’: an extraordinary document that contains his theories about teamwork (its first line is ‘The team is more important than the player’), his philosophies, beliefs and even his definition of what the role of club chairman should be. He never shows it to anyone. It’s his secret – as are the notebooks he keeps hidden in his coat, and his private diary.
What strikes all who encounter him is his remarkable belief in himself – a belief that allows him, unusually among managers, to sleep easily. Mourinho’s favourite hobby is quad biking, and he enjoys skiing and snowboarding. He also indulges in more genteel pastimes such as reading and going to the theatre. ‘I like to go out for dinner, to go to a show or read a book. My wife suggests books for me to read because she is an insatiable reader. Reading allows me to distract my mind from the rest of my worries.’
In an interview with Roxburgh, the former Scotland manager, the Chelsea coach reveals his international ambitions and also laughs off suggestions that he is arrogant. Mourinho points to the way he was encouraged to develop when assistant manager at Barcelona, first to Bobby Robson and then Louis van Gaal, as a key period in his career.
‘Louis gave me the responsibility of taking the team in some friendlies or cup games and he monitored the way I handled things,’ he says. ‘I was prepared to take charge of a team; I had developed my know-how and confidence. Confident? Yes. Arrogant? No. My friends laugh when they read articles which label me as arrogant – they know it is not true. When I say I think we will win, I am only saying what most coaches think before a match.”
Jose Mourinho: Farewell To The King is published by John Blake Publishing on February 25, priced £7.99.
Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran