A risible image of Jose Mourinho surfaced on social media last week following the loss suffered by Tottenham Hotspurs to Brighton and Hove Albion in an English Premiership League game.
The caricature depicted the controversial Portuguese as a clown, with the names of all the clubs he had managed and is managing formed into an acronym: CIRCUS – Chelsea, Inter, Real, Chelsea, United, and Spurs. And of a truth Mourinho, the self-styled Special One, has created a one-man entertainment center everywhere he had landed. Every team he had coached ever since he achieved the (almost) impossible with Porto had become a circus, with Jose himself the ringmaster.
But that circus act that was birthed the moment he announced to the world, “I am the Special One” had survived this long, only because Jose is not the only contributor to the madness that seem to constantly follow him. Who are these other contributors?
The Media. Journalists, especially the English media, are the biggest contributors to the Mourinho circus act. One may argue that the Portuguese is the architect of his own misfortunes, based on the number of times he (deliberately) draws attention to himself with the remarks he makes in public spaces; but the media too, play up everything he does because Mourinho sells.
There is hardly anything Mourinho does that any other successful manager has not done; but once it comes from the Jose, the media turns it into a full scale production – they escalate, misinterpret, stretch, milk and keep cashing in on it, until they find something else. And because of this,
The Fans, many of them not objective participants – are conditioned to react in a certain way once his name drops in the media space…for whatever reason. Like the person who drew the clownish Mourinho caricature, and added the (incomplete) acronym, conveniently forgetting the three clubs that preceded Chelsea: Benfica, Uniao de Leiria and Porto,. Since the BUP (the acronym of those three teams) does not fit the narrative, it was discarded for a more convenient, farcical, one.
That is a microcosm of what happens when it is Mourinho in the limelight: highlight what fits the narrative, dismiss the rest. No matter how relevant…especially, to changing that narrative.
The Players. Those that have served under Mourinho are three (general) types: the ones that swear by him, the ones that passionately hate him, and the ones that just get on with their jobs, to the delight of the fans. Sadly, it is the ones in the middle that get airtime with the media, and whose voices are amplified by the fans. A grown man was left weeping when Mourinho left Inter, where he turned some boys to men. Benni McCarthy, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o swear by him, and Marcus Rashford recently confessed that Mourinho made him a much better goal scorer. But those stories are usually buried for the more salacious ones…including the current drama with Dele Alli.
The average (modern) footballer covets the luxurious lifestyle more than the graft needed to deliver what is wanted on the pitch, and they have mastered the art of using Social Media to score cheap points. So, petulant Pogba put on a show when Jose was at Manchester, and put out a tweet (later deleted) the day Mourinho left the club. Others, from Real Madrid, to Chelsea and now Spurs give stories to the media via ‘anonymous’ sources, stoking the flame, piling pressure and thereby adding to his reputation of being ‘tiresome’.
He named himself The Special One when he arrived England in 2004, and no matter how much it is argued, he is: Mourinho was Champion of Europe and had won two trophies on the continent by his fourth year as manager. And while the argument that Pep Guardiola is the youngest to win the trophy is valid, Mourinho has won it with two different clubs under daunting circumstances. That’s what makes him special.
And yes, he brings down thunder over himself with his utterances, but there is nothing Mourinho does, that any other (top) manager hasn’t done at least once. And there is nothing that happened to him that any other manager had not experienced: Klopp got angry with the press after a bad loss, Guardiola almost assaulted an Assistant Referee as time slipped away with his team losing, and Liverpool lost to the same Brighton whose defeat of Spurs sparked the circus caricature.
Mourinho may well be the Special One, but the same things that have followed him since he departed Chelsea for the first time in 2007, has followed him to every club he has managed since then, and has ensured that he does not spend more than three years at a club thereafter, has surfaced again. And it is definitely not his brand of football; because there are many ways to achieve success.
I once questioned who the Portuguese really is, but since that write up, the question seem to have been answered: Mourinho is a victim, haunted by his own success, and his lack of fear to let people know it.
The Special One is now the Haunted One…