Jose Mourinho, Chelseas scheming showman

03 June 2013 01:47

Jose Mourinho's return as Chelsea manager reunites English football with one of the most colourful, charismatic and controversial figures in its long history.

Not since Brian Clough has England known a coach with such a gift for manipulating the media, and with his good looks and flair for soundbites, Mourinho can genuinely claim to be a household name.

Although he can be churlish at times, the 50-year-old Portuguese knows how to work a room of reporters and the return of such an endlessly quotable character is sure to be welcomed by an appreciative British press.

"He's very popular and did a wonderful job last time he was here, and I'm sure that the people, especially the media people, will be very pleased to see him," commented England manager Roy Hodgson recently, with perhaps a hint of envy.

Even more central to Mourinho's modus operandi is his ability to form tight bonds with his players, and in that domain he is without equal.

Although he alienated several high-profile figures at Real Madrid, he has inspired outright devotion everywhere else.

When he left Inter Milan in 2010, television cameras captured a private, tearful embrace between Mourinho and Italian hardman Marco Materazzi that spoke volumes for the depth of attachment he had inspired at the San Siro.

It was the same in his first spell at Chelsea, between 2004 and 2007, when his enthusiastic participation in his side's victory celebrations made him seem as much a mate as a mentor.

"Mourinho was the best. For me he was. He brought my confidence to a level it had never been," said Chelsea stalwart Frank Lampard, who blossomed under Mourinho into one of Europe's finest goal-scoring midfielders.

"It's a presence and an aura and a way with people. He galvanises people. His own self-confidence reflects back on his teams. He did that to me personally."

Mourinho has had countless run-ins with his fellow managers, many of which have left deep scars, but his contemporaries also realise that there are few more gifted tacticians and motivators in the game.

Before he had announced his retirement as Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of his old adversary's return, remarking: "It will make me angry again."

For all his brashness, Mourinho has never been afraid to show appropriate deference to his elders.

Having learnt at the knee of first Bobby Robson and then Louis van Gaal, he gained knowledge at an early stage of the work ethic and sacrifices required to reach the very top.

That Mourinho's name belongs among such exalted company can no longer be debated.

Since 2002, he has not gone one full season without winning at least one piece of silverware, amassing seven league titles and six domestic cups in four different countries, as well as Champions League titles with Porto and Inter -- although this season's success was only the somewhat minor Spanish Supercup.

At Madrid he enjoyed an unforgettable success over Barcelona in the 2011-12 title race, but he failed to bring home the long-awaited 10th European Cup and this season's struggles have worn away some of his sheen.

It is on such rare occasions, when he falls short of his objectives, that his more objectionable characteristics become even harder to overlook.

In the words of respected British football writer Hugh McIlvanney, Mourinho is capable of a "cynical willingness to besmirch the reputations and lacerate the feelings of others in ruthless pursuit of success".

He hounded referee Anders Frisk into retirement in 2005 after an untrue allegation that the Swedish official had held a half-time meeting with rival coach Frank Rijkaard, prompting UEFA referees' chief Volker Roth to brand him "the enemy of football".

His eye-poke on then Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova in August 2011 caused huge outrage and there were few tears shed in the Spanish media when it was announced that he would be leaving the Bernabeu.

In England, he says "they love me", and he will find journalists prepared to eat out of his hand and a club eager to be imbued with some of the old Mourinho self-belief.

After his travails in Madrid, it will come as a relief to feel wanted again.

Source: AFP

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