As divisive as Jose Mourinho is, the manager who looks certain to take over at Manchester United is undeniably charismatic.
Yet The Enigmatic One has a level of privacy which people still struggle to break down, despite endless attempts to find out what he’s really like.
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.
“Team” is the word Mourinho refers to as part of his footballing mantra. His forte is balancing individual talent to the collective team ethic. How to motivate overpaid players is a vexing problem, which even Mourinho finds hard to resolve. “It’s true! Once, players came to football expecting to be wealthy when they retired. Now they expect to be wealthy before they’ve played their first game.”
Mourinho doesn’t have many close friends in English football. “Some, we like each other and have some communication, but I cannot say we’re so close.” Mourinho refers to the Arsenal manager as simply “Wenger”. There is no love lost there. It was a backhanded compliment, and only that, when Mourinho said of Wenger: “I think Wenger said something that is interesting; he is against the Ballon d’Or, and I think he’s right, because football is losing a little bit the concept of the team to focus more on the individual. We are always looking at the individual performance, the individual stat, and the player that runs more. Because you run 11km in a game and I run nine you did a better job than I did? Maybe not! Maybe my 9km were more important than your 11.”
“When the top player arrives, the team is already there. It’s not him who comes to discover the team, like Columbus discovering America”
Mourinho has also expounded the virtues of teamwork when he said: “For me, football is collective. The individual is welcome if you want to make our group better. But you have to work for us, not we have to work for you.
“When the top player arrives, the team is already there. It’s not him who comes to discover the team, like Columbus discovering America. No, you are coming to help us be better. And as a manager you have to give this message every day – not with lectures or words. It’s about what the players observe in relation to the behaviour and to the feedback: the way you react to this player and that player; the empathy with this one and that one.
“The only thing you cannot give to a player is the talent. But can you work the talent properly so that he understands the team’s needs? Is he an intelligent, open guy waiting for you to help him be better? Is he the kind of maverick, the selfish guy, where it’s much more difficult to persuade him the team is more important than he is? I’ve had all of these in every club I’ve ever worked at. There is no perfect group anywhere but, if you ask me what’s the most important thing in a player, it’s the talent.”
“It’s harder and harder to install such working relationships with young players who have too much too soon. Young footballers are given the opportunity, but invariably they don’t know how to handle it. They can waste their God-given talents. I had one player who I gave the chance to play in the first team. A couple of weeks after he’d played, his father left his job, his mother left her job; they were living with him, living his life, making decisions for him. It’s very difficult. That’s one example out of 1,000. They need to be lucky with the parents; they need to be lucky with the agents. They need education. I had a player once that came to me with a new car, and I told him, “Another one? Why? Do you have a house?” No. “Do you have lots of money in the bank?” No. He said, “This car, I didn’t buy it; my father got it for free in leasing and I signed the document.”
“I never go to the church to speak with Him about football”
I said, “Do you know what leasing is?” He said, “It’s free!” “No! Sit here and I’ll explain to you what is leasing.” He didn’t know, because nobody had explained. When I first got real big money in my hands, it was my second contract with Porto in 2003. I was thirtysomething. I was married. I was ready for it. These guys, they’re 16, 17. They don’t know how to react, what to do.”
‘In Chelsea we have a fantastic department which we call Players Support and Welfare where they help the players with everything. They have people in the bank to explain money. You want to buy a house? Let’s make sure you’re with the right person making the right deal. Young players coming to the first team – don’t buy a car, we’re sponsored by Audi and they provide the cars for the players. The players need this. This is a complicated world.”
Mourinho and his wife Matilde support a Catholic food programme in Setúbal. “But we have a principle that we do it not for people to know, or to promote our profile. We do it because we can, and we want our son and daughter to understand how privileged we are, and to understand that other people need support.’
He’s a religious man: “I believe totally, clearly. Every day I pray; every day I speak with Him. I don’t go to church every day, not even every week. I go when I feel I need to. And when I’m in Portugal, I always go.’ What does he pray for? ‘For my family! For my kids, for my wife, for my parents, for happiness and a good family life. But I can say the reality is I never go to the church to speak with Him about football. Never!’
“If I lose an important match, I try to go home with a nice face. But I arrive at home, and my family have the bad face”
Is Mourinho a good person? “I think so. I try to be. And I think I am. I don’t have problems with family or friends. I am a good family person; I am a good friend. I try to support people that I don’t even know. Do I make mistakes? Yes. My professional area is not only very competitive – it is competitive and emotional and you must push people for a certain kind of behaviour. But the professional life is only part of a person. A person is much more than that.’
He does his best to separate his professional and family life. He never discusses football with his wife.
‘It’s not her world. Be in a club that I like. Be in a place that I enjoy. Work with people that I like. That is basically her advice, because when that happens life at home for everyone will be better. But it is difficult. Even if I can separate things, sometimes they can’t. If I lose an important match, I try to go home with a nice face, tomorrow is another day, it’s just a game of football and so on. But I arrive at home, and they have the bad face. They are sad for me!’
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