Friday, March 24, 2006

In defence of Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has always been a complex character. So for him to be lynched the way he has been recently demands an explanation. For it is because of misunderstanding and the culture of political correctness we live in that he is so outspoken.

Mourinho always speaks his mind, and is not afraid to say what others won’t say. When he joined Chelsea he said “I am European Champion”, which many people defined as arrogant. However, it was true. He was European Champion at that time. Last year he compared himself with Frank Rijkaard, former Holland player and Barcelona manager, saying that as a player himself he had won nothing and the Dutchman everything and as a manager it was the other way around and he was more successful in terms of trophies. He was right. He is supremely confident, and knows how good he is at what he does.

His views on Michael Essien’s European suspension were absolutely spot on. Essien’s tackle was reckless yes, but not malicious and didn’t cause anything but surface scarring – Hammann missed no games. Nigel Reo-Coker’s tackle on Essien put Essien out for six weeks. Yet not even a booking for Reo-Coker. Those aren’t hearsay, conjecture, complaints or excuses, they are the facts. He had and has every right to feel unjustly treated and is quite entitled to say so.

If he genuinely believes Chelsea have been wronged in any match situation he will say so no matter whom he upsets, and will defend his players to the hilt. Yes, his teams may display some sportsmanship at times, but if you look at most of Europe’s best teams I don’t think you’ll find one that doesn’t.

His persona in the media and that in private seem to be two different things. One on one interviews with him reveal a different person. Not an arrogant, self-righteous man but a caring, considerate man who loves his players and his family and has a great sense of humour. The players constantly speak of a man who in private is intelligent, fun and a good friend off the pitch but who once on the training pitch has complete authority and respect from the players. A manager who strikes the perfect balance between friendship and aloofness.

There is also the fact that he has also often spoken of how important his family is to him – and that they, not football, are the most important people to him. At the presentation of the Premiership trophy last season the first people he went to were his children and then his wife. He was quoted recently as saying that if his family really wanted him to leave Chelsea he would instantly. Are those the words of an arrogant man?

The confident air he portrays is all a show for the media, to protect his players, so that the media are always talking about him rather than his team. It takes the pressure off the players. He sees pre and post-match media conferences as part of the game – whether reacting to the previous game or preparing for the next one. Not even there do you always see the real Jose Mourinho.

For sure though he is a highly confident man – confident in himself and his own abilities as a football manager to be able to say the things he does and command the respect he does, and with the love of his family always providing him with security in his private life. He is a forthright man who is not afraid to speak his mind and speak what he believes is the truth, however un-politically correct it may be. He is a loyal man who stands up for his players, protects them from criticism, defends them when wronged and honestly criticises them for poor performances – like after the 3-0 defeat to Middlesbrough.

Above all though he is a great football manager, with a superb track record only six years into his career. He has his best years as a manager arguably still in front of him. He has changed the face of English football and broken the duopoly that Man Utd and Arsenal held for so long at the top of English football and created a team that is already the dominant team in this country – and will be for many years to come - and soon may be the best team in Europe too. For that he should be applauded, not criticised.