The embarrassingly recent ‘cottoning on’ of the Spanish media with regards to the extent to which Mourinho uses psychology in his conferences/interviews, seems to have given birth to this bitter perception of the Portuguese coach as someone who is totally and very deliberately disingenuous in the public eye. And sadly it’s a perception that’s steadily flowing into Britain as well. That Mourinho uses his personality as a part of his methodology in coaching a side cannot be doubted, that he uses it expertly is just as much of a fact. He is at all times acutely aware of how his behaviour and comments affect the psyche of his squad and when at his most intense, you can sense how every word is being chosen to bring about certain actions.
Those in Madrid who became disillusioned with his sombre (hated Portuguese in Spain) persona last season, probably now think that they see Jose for what he is, a man behind a newly designed mask, vacuously narrating platitudes about ‘happiness’ and ‘stability’ in hope of scoring cheap humility points with reporters and fans. But in my opinion there isn’t anything insincere about Mourinho’s public comments or conduct. He doesn’t wear a mask. My perception is that having intuited what intended effects need to be wrought upon his players, like a writer creates a story, Jose creates a persona and then exercises it in a tone best served to establishing these preconceived effects. He doesn’t pretend to be anything for the good of his teams in other words, rather literally becoming what he feels they need him to be.
So what is he becoming this time around? So far it seems he hasn’t managed to progress his character any further than a man who’s delighted in his new job. And right now even the harshest critics of the legitimacy of his disposition would have a hard time imagining there’s much pretending going on here. There are very few ways in which the coaching of Chelsea won’t be evidently easier/more enjoyable than his work at Real Madrid…
Roman Abramovich isn’t the most easy-going owner in world football, but on a scale of obtrusiveness he is well to the left of Florentino Perez (with his legendary propensity to meddle wherever possible). Michael Emenalo’s involvement in recruitment and with the academy might not provide Mourinho with the total autonomy over football matters we assume he’d prefer, but the Nigerian’s recent rebuffed offer to step down from his position shows he isn’t quite as keen as Jorge Valdano was to constantly be in the way. And whilst we know there are some egos at Chelsea – very proud club legends mixed in with some pretentious young talent – the core of the side it is now Mourinho’s job to build, should all be receptive to the importance of the “meritocracy” that Iker Cassilas was foolish to disregard as a policy for lesser men than himself.
Obviously, Jose will know this isn’t the easiest dressing room to manage, though the probability of a Chelsea player saying to him “you wouldn’t know; you never played the game”, as Sergio Ramos infamously did, must surely lie pretty close to zero. Reasons for Mourinho being “the happy one” at this moment in time aren’t particularly difficult to think of; very few coaches’ jobs have recently become so much more straightforward.
Press Conference Review
British football journalism might be a tad sensationalistic at times, quotes may be excessively ramped up whilst the drama it seems is always destined to be bigger the game itself. The hyperbolic/melodramatic nature of the profession however, isn’t to say anything about the professionals themselves. For the most part, British football writers are clever enough to have worked out and to understand Mourinho methods. His Spanish critics would have us believe that our journalists are gullible and ignorant in their enjoyment of Mourinho, as they eagerly await his next anecdote.
To be honest, I think this is to grossly misunderstand why Mourinho is appreciated so much in my country. Whilst his arrogance probably does resonate more with British humour than anywhere else, the prospect of a 50 year old man calling himself special and making fun of Arsene Wenger isn’t enough to attract an audience of 250+ to a press conference. We’re owed more credit than that.
Having said that, the conference probably didn’t live up to its hype – a lot of the questions lending themselves to some pretty banal responses. The only typically snarky answer came in response to a question about Andres Iniesta’s accusations that he’d ruined Spanish football. Mourinho gave the predictable yet perfect response by describing his pride in having ruined Spanish football for Iniesta personally, by destroying Barca’s dominance. Elsewhere, I thought these were the pick of the quotes from Jose yesterday:
On the need for stability when instability has bought success so far: You need stability for identity, and I think identity becomes more important in football. If Chelsea bought lots of young players, those players need to be developed. For me, as a manager, it’s something I want to experience. I have 15 years in my career still – 20 is too much, 10 is not enough – … It’s about changing the club. I think so. And the club thinks so too
On the profile of the squad: We’re happy to go with these fantastic, talented boys. We’re happy to show that the investment Chelsea made in recent seasons, by putting young players on loan, was a good decision, especially with FFP arriving. If you bring back Lukaku, De Bruyne and perhaps Kalas, who is at Vitesse. Bring three guys back, that’s zero (spent) because the investment was made before. We want to go in this direction and to help these young guys grow up. Not build the team, because the team has a structure on it. But I want to help the team improve.”
And on the likelihood of immediate success: These ‘kids’ – and I say that respectfully – have big potential and big space for improvement. They’ve not reached their best level yet. The stability the owner and I can give them is related to work. In the methods, the coaching philosophy, in my leadership, in everything that can help them improve. Mix with them those who are over 30, we’ll keep a balance and try to go on. When you have this profile, you can’t think the best will come next year. It has to come in two, three, four, five, six years time. In the media age, we are speaking about boys with 10 years to play football. I’d expect to be here to win it in that second season. Of course.”
The papers this morning are all praising Mourinho’s “performance” as a more humble coach, with many asking/predicting how long he can keep it up for. The question, although I think it exacerbates the dramatic aspect of Mourinho’s methods, is a potent one, given we know that the psychology of his style is a constant. How he will go about creating stability remains to be seen but you can be sure he will continue to fight for his own and confront anybody who threatens Chelsea’s interests. That unforgiving, impassioned and relentlessly intense desire to win is still an immutable part of his personality. And that should be a constant source of security and optimism for Chelsea fans, however he decides to behave.