When José Mourinho took the Real Madrid job, he had succeeded in every single previous managerial job he had taken. Yet, as Mourinho watched his side come so close to snatching a place in the Champions League finals away from Borussia Dortmund, his expression almost showed sadness. ‘The Special One’ has failed for the first time.
Mourinho was a loyal pupil of Sir Bobby Robson, who was Mourinho’s tutor, teaching him at FC Porto and Barcelona. Mourinho acted as the teacher’s pet, serving as an interpreter (due to Robson’s poor foreign language skills). The title is what he is still called by many Barcelona fans and press to this day. Robson fed the hungry pupil with the knowledge he craved. The imprint that Sir Bobby had on Mourinho was large : “One of the most important things I learnt from Bobby Robson is that when you win, you shouldn’t assume you are the team, and when you lose, you shouldn’t think you are rubbish”. Mourinho still remembers his master’s lessons to this day, and his notebook is probably full of them.
After impressing at Benfica and União de Leiria, Mourino was head hunted by Porto. At Porto, Mourinho was simply expected to win the league title. He took over in January 2002 from Octávio Machado with Porto in a terrible position, considering their stature; fifth place. He made an immediate impact, as he has done throughout his career; winning 11, drawing 2 and losing 2 of the remaining 15 games Porto had. He gave the promise of “making Porto champions next year.” He did this, as promised, in his first full season, wrestling back the Primeira Liga trophy to Porto’s hands, after Porto had gone three seasons without clasping it. That was what was expected of him, and he had passed his first test, not failed. In his time in Portugal, he also won the Portuguese Cup and the Portuguese Super Cup. His Porto even exceeded expectations, winning the UEFA Cup in the same season, and the League and Champions League in the following year.
After winning the Champions League, clubs attention around the world was alerted. He took the test of turning newly rich, typically mid-table Chelsea into league winners. “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one” said Mourinho upon being unveiled to the world’s media as Chelsea’s new media. The media’s newly dubbed “Special One” passed Abramovich’s test with flying colours, winning the league in his first season after bringing in some expensive but brilliant buys who would form the backbone of Chelsea for many years. In the second season, Mourinho further established Chelsea as one of England’s top sides by winning the Premier League again, with a record points total of 95. He also won 1 Community Shield, 1 FA Cup and 2 League Cups. He then departed the club after a series of arguments with owner Roman Abramovich, leaving Avram Grant his squad, which reached the final of the Champions League.
The former pupil was now becoming a fellow master, already having taught André Villas-Boas (current manager at Tottenham Hotspur) who was his scout at Chelsea. After Chelsea he went to Milan, joining Internazionale in June 2008, while succeeding Roberto Mancini. His task was to maintain Inter’s winning run of championships, with them winning the previous 3 league titles. Mourinho again completed his task, and again made the task look easy. Like Porto, he also excelled in Italy, winning the Champions League in the 2009-2010 season. This feat, like at Porto, was an outstanding one, with Mancini’s one big managerial weakness being his European record. Again he won domestic trophies, small tokens of his vast knowledge and power. The master was turning into a grand master, and it looked like nothing could stop him.
Then the big test, Real Madrid. The final exam until he could become the greatest coach in history. The biggest job of his career, with Johan Cruyff’s pupil; Pep Guardiola standing in his way. Guardiola once said: “Johan Cruyff taught me the most. I worked six years with him and learned a terrific amount.” Cruyff V Robson, Guardiola V Mourinho. Mourinho used his best skill, the mind games, to great effect. The mind games slowly destroyed Guardiola’s mind, with Guardiola resigning from Barcelona at the end of the 2011/2012 season due to stress. Destroying the tiki-taka of Barcelona was not enough for Real Madrid though. Winning La Liga is what is expected from supporters of Spain’s most popular club. Winning the Champions League-conquering Europe for the third time, was Mourinho’s job. Real Madrid has aged Mourinho as a person. The once youthful looking man has grown older, now looking more wisened and hardened by football. The effect of Madrid on Mourinho is like that of Barcelona on Guardiola. Going out to Dortmund, having his work at Real Madrid for the season ruined, Mourinho has failed his examination at Real Madrid. It is his first and only failure as a coach. He did not deliver what Florentino Pérez demanded but, of course, with exams; a pupil can re-take. Mourinho is now a master, a doctor of the game, and can make his own decisions. His interview with ITV Sport said to the world that he had finished his education at Real Madrid. To become the grand master, the greatest coach in the history of football, Mourinho will want to win the Champions League again. Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and, perhaps Inter, are all destinations which will appeal to Mourinho. “I know in England I am loved” said Mourinho, “I know I am loved by some clubs, especially one.” It looks likely that Mourinho will return to his old examiner, Abramovich. Like a naughty pupil though, it would be just like Mourinho to deceive the press and the world, just like his nemesis Guardiola did. Guardiola praised English football before announcing his move to Bayern, and, with Mourinho dropping hints about returning to England, he might ‘do a Guardiola’. With Carlo Ancelotti looking likely to head to Real Madrid, could a managerial swap be happening this summer? Mourinho à Le PSG?