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The Not-So-Special One


When English referee Howard Webb signalled the end of Real Madrid's Champions League campaign for this season, he also helped remove the sheen on the home manager Jose Mourinho.

It is a testament to the kind of society we live in. The Portuguese coach has built up a following so strong that I have dubbed them the Cult of JM. These members are predominantly fans of Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho is a very successful football manager/coach. No question about that. However, there is absolutely NOTHING special about Jose Mourinho. He is on par with at least 10 other managers, past and present, at the top level of club football. So if those other ten are more humble in their ways, it should not make their achievements any less.

I first noticed Mourinho during Porto's run to the '03 Uefa Cup win, when they beat Glasgow Celtic in the final in extra time. His stock rose in England when his Porto team knocked out Manchester United en route to winning the Champions League.

What struck me was his brash behaviour and how quick he was to point out that Manchester United's budget was so much more than that of Porto. Of course he ignored that Porto's budget dwarfed that of the other teams in Portugal.

After winning the Champions League in 2004, Mourinho joined Chelsea and fell into the waiting arms of the lazy English sporting media, who were fed up with the Wenger/Ferguson duopoly and were happy to have a young buccaneer to tackle these two old men.

Flush with Abramovic's millions, Mourinho did not disappoint, as Peter Kenyon helped in buying up young talent across Europe. His press conferences in England were turned into Box Office events where the Portuguese came up with more sound bites each time.

He duly delivered a first title for the club in 50 years, winning the League Cup also. He fell short at the semifinal stage of the Champions League. Despite winning one more league title and an FA Cup he never made it to the Champions League final with Chelsea and fell out with Abramovic and got the sack. Later that season, Chelsea got to the Champions League final and were a penalty kick away from winning it in Moscow.

At Inter Milan he was able to galvanise a team to win the scuddeto and also the Champions League for a second time. Jose Mourinho acolytes will point out that he has won league titles everywhere and has won the Champions League twice. True.

The two Champions League victories were six seasons apart. When he took over at Inter, the Italian league was suffering from Calciopoli and Inter had the top players available in the league at the time. This is not to denigrate his achievement, just to point out that he is actually NOT special.

When Florentino Perez returned for his second spell as president of Real Madrid, the club was in panic mode. The panic was caused by the football played by Pep Guardiola's Barcelona, which was winning plaudits all over the world and hoovering up trophies along the way. Barcelona looked unstoppable and, after so many drubbings home and away, the Madrid hierarchy had to do something.

As usual, after winning the Champions League with Inter, Mourinho left, claiming how he was not wanted in Italian football. His brief was to stop the domination of Barcelona. With the talent at his disposal, and after becoming the most powerful Real Madrid manager ever, what is so special about winning ONE title.

Early this season, I believe Jose Mourinho felt he was going to leave Madrid and was going to go on his own terms. He brazenly sacrificed the league and wanted to concentrate on winning the Champions League. He must have dreamt of another Champions League winners' medal around his neck at Wembley, which he might take off and throw into the Real crowd, as he does - the proper showman. It has not panned out that way.

What I have always found unattractive about Jose Mourinho is that he always finds a way to make every event surrounding the team he manages about him. When they win it is because he is a tactical genius - I do not think he is at all by the way. When they lose it is also because some player did not listen to his instruction or he will clearly mention the officials. It is tiresome.

Jose Mourinho, for the brief period he sparred with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, turned El Classico matches into fractious, ill-tempered affairs even before a ball was kicked. The man had a way of poisoning the pre-match atmosphere.

Pep Guardiola is a special manager as the football of his Barcelona team proved. Arrigo Sacchi was special during his time at AC Milan when he led the team to two back-to-back Champions Cup wins and one Serie A title. Fabio Capello is a special manager as he won three titles with Milan, two with Madrid and one with Roma.

Bob Paisley was a special manager for all the trophies he won with Liverpool and is still the only man to have won three Champions Cups. Sir Alex Ferguson is a special manager for his longevity and achievements at Manchester United. Vicente del Bosque is a special manager for winning two Champions League titles and La Liga titles with Real Madrid with the first batch of galacticos.

What makes these men special is not just their achievements. They never made it about them. It was about their players and the team. Press conferences were normal and not for drama and theatre. Their teams played football that stood out in terms of style and even had something new.

Carlo Ancelloti, Marcelo Lippi, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Rafa Benitez, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho all belong to the same class of successful managers. That is all of it.

Please agree or disagree with me. You can also follow me on Twitter @CalvinEmeka


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