Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Chelsea Managers: Jose Mourinho - The Special One

Now the start of a new series on this site, profiling some of Chelsea's best managers. Of course there's no better place to start than with a profile of the man largely responsible for their recent successes, Jose Mourinho.

José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix, to give him his full name, was born 26 Jan 1963 in Setubal, Portugal. Football was in his blood right from the beginning, as he was the son of Portugal goalkeeper Felix Mourinho. As the years passed it quickly became apparent that Jose was not the most gifted of footballers, but still had a great passion for the game. Management is where he would achieve greatness.

Looking back Jose’s path to management arguably began at the tender age of 15. His father was a manager at the time and asked Jose to go on scouting missions and prepare dossiers on players, a skill he has now brought into management. Jose studied Physical Education at University, specialising in sports methodology. He then began work as a PE teacher. To put this in context, at around the same time Sir Alex Ferguson was winning the FA and Cup Winners Cups at Man Utd.

Jose was ambitious and determined to make a name for himself in management. But he was wise enough to know he had much to learn. He got his big break in 1994 when Bobby Robson took over as Sporting Lisbon manager. Jose, being able to speak Portuguese and English, had the opportunity to work with him as his interpreter. Bobby Robson famously asked him to tell him everything Luis Figo was saying about him which he couldn’t understand. Mourinho quickly impressed Robson with his commitment and work rate and was slowly given more and more responsibility. Indeed, he impressed Robson so much that when went to Porto the next year he took Jose with him. There he assisted Robson as he took Porto to two league titles, amongst other successes.

When Bobby Robson was asked to take over as manager of Barcelona, he insisted on Jose coming with him as one of the terms of his employment. There Jose honed his coaching skills even more. When Louis Van Gaal took over from Robson in 1997 Jose continued as his assistant. Jose said that working with two very different styles of coach helped him in his development. As he said in his book, “Bobby Robson isn’t interested in study or planning the training practice; he’s about training and having direct contact with players…..with Van Gaal all that was left for me to do was training on the pitch”.

Working with two different styles of manager had allowed Mourinho to develop his skills both in terms of preparing a training session and studying opposition, and in running a coaching session. He watched and learnt from two great managers. In 1999 when Bobby Robson went to Newcastle, he invited Jose again to go with him, but Jose this time declined, despite the promise of the managers’ job when Bobby retired. Jose was his own man and knew his own mind. He would do things his way. He stayed at Barcelona for another year, but was now becoming restless. He was ready to go into management in his own right. He quit his well paid assistant’s job at Barcelona in the summer of 2000 and waited for the right opportunity.

Benfica were the first club to give the untried Mourinho his chance, in 2000. However this was short lived. A fall out with the clubs’ new owners let to him quitting after just 9 games in charge. Jose proved he was nothing if not strong minded. In 2001 he took over at unfashionable Uniao de Leiria and started to show his true qualities as a manager. He took the side into fourth position, even above Porto, arguably the biggest club in Portugal. They needed a new manager and Mourinho, who knew the club president from his time there with Bobby Robson, was appointed in January 2002. He finally had a platform to make his name.

When Jose took over at Porto he announced that not only were they the worst Porto side in 26 years, but that the next season they would be champions. His supreme confidence already showing itself. He was proved right. In 2003, on a budget Jose has since described as ‘the same as Sunderland’s’, Porto completed an unprecedented treble of league title, domestic cup and UEFA Cup. Jose was already getting offers to move, but stayed. He wanted experience in the Champions League. Little did he know what would happen next.

In 2004 Porto retained their league title, only losing one game. They lost in the Portuguese Cup final to Benfica. But it was in the Champions League they made the biggest impression. In the group stages they held Madrid to a 1-1 draw, and then the tie that made him famous in this country. Porto were drawn against Man Utd. In Porto they beat them 2-1, Ferguson furious with Porto and Mourinho and showing it at the handshake at the final whistle. But it was at Old Trafford it all came to a head. Porto going through with a last minute Costinha goal, causing Mourinho to famously jump out of his seat and run down the touchline in celebration. From then there was no going back. Now his name was starting to get linked to clubs all over Europe. Inter and Liverpool at first, and then of course Chelsea. By the time Porto played Monaco in the Champions League final it had become the most open secret in football that Mourinho was off to Stamford Bridge. After the whistle blew on his teams’ 3-0 triumph he immediately announced he was leaving Porto. Most football fans knew where his destination was.

On June 3 2004 Jose Mourinho was officially confirmed as the new manager of Chelsea FC. He wasted no time on his arrival in proclaiming himself as “a special one” (not THE special one as has been commonly misquoted since) and a ‘top manager’. At the start of that season Chelsea were among the favourites to win the title, and Mourinho wasn’t afraid to admit his ambitions. The first test came on opening day against Man Utd. Chelsea may have only won 1-0, but the confidence that came from that victory, combined with a rock-solid defence marshalled by new captain John Terry, a midfield run by Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard combined with the flair and creativity flying wingers Damien Duff, Arjen Robben and latterly Joe Cole, finally becoming under Mourinho the player he had always promised to be, drove Chelsea firstly to the Carling Cup, their first trophy for 5 years, but then to their first league title in 50 years. Only one defeat and the least goals conceded of any team in league history. A record number of points in Premier League history. Some good performances were also served up in Europe, including 4-2 demolitions of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and only some poor luck against Liverpool denied Chelsea their first Champions League final.

Mourinho had changed the whole culture of the club. From being a club that hoped for success, they were now one expecting it and demanding it. Winning was now to become the norm. Chelsea swept to their second successive league title the next season, and the most that can be said about it is that it almost seemed inevitable from day 1.

Mourinho has proved himself to be a manager who reads and understands football and players perfectly. He prepares his teams to win, and trains them in a variety of tactics so they are perfectly prepared. He prepares his team to play either with or against 10 men, is not afraid to make big decisions during games and leaves absolutely nothing to chance. Every training session is planned right to the last minute in meticulous detail. Players get dossiers on their direct opponents in games and occasionally DVD’s to study in preparation. He’s also a brilliant man-manager, knowing how different players respond to different treatment. The obvious example of this being Joe Cole.

He’s often outspoken and accused of being arrogant. But he knows how to play the media. He himself has said that he sees press conferences as part of the game and everything he says is planned and thought through. He is supremely confident both in his own ability and in the ability of his team. He has proven he can handle pressure. At the age of 43, after only six years in management, he has already won all but one of the competitions he has contested as a manager. In the last four years he has won the UEFA Cup and Champions League – on a small budget, as well four league titles, two domestic cups, the Portuguese Supercup and Community Shield. A better record than any other manager during that time. He has committed himself to Chelsea until 2010 and Chelsea have said they want to keep him beyond that. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but what is without doubt is that not only is Mourinho the greatest manager in Chelsea’s history but arguably the finest manager in Europe at the current time.

Chelsea are truly lucky to have such a great manager in charge of their club. Long may it continue.