José Mourinho Myths Part Two: Boring Football and Building Empires

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For Part One of José Mourinho Myths, click here.

Real Madrid (2010 – 13)

Much like Chelsea, Madrid aren’t a club that you would normally associate with bringing young players through. The “Galácticos” era is probably one reason why this is the case, given that the last player to come through their youth set-up who became a club legend was Iker Casillas, who made his debut in 1999. The records suggest that Mourinho tried to alter this way of thinking.

During the time that the Portuguese manager was in charge, he brought in players such as Luka Modrić, Ángel Di María and Sami Khedira. He also invested money in young players such as Mesut Özil, Nuri Şahin and Raphaël Varane. His spending during his time at Real Madrid was approximately £125 million for the entire three years he was there. Put that in contrast to the summer of 2009, when the club spent a lot more than that on just four players; Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and Kaka.

In addition to the young players he brought to the Bernabéu, Mourinho gave debuts to no fewer than 12 players aged 21 or under, all of whom came through the club’s academy. Nacho is a defender who can play anywhere across the back four, and far from being an automatic selection, he is still a member of the Real Madrid first team squad.

The same could be said for Jesé, equally adaptable to any position in the final third, be it central or out wide. Injuries have halted his progress somewhat, but he is still regarded as a prospect with a very bright future, although whether that is in the Spanish capital remains to be seen.

The likes of Joselu (Stoke City), Sergio Canales (Real Sociedad), Pablo Sarabia (Getafe) and Juan Carlos (Malaga) were all given fleeting appearances under the Portuguese manager but were never likely to trouble the likes of Ronaldo, Alonso and Khedira. He also gave debuts to four young goalkeepers, Antonio Adán (now at Real Betis), Tomás Mejías (Middlesbrough), Jesús Fernández Collado (Granada CF) and Fernando Pacheco Flores (Alaves).

Alvaro Morata was barely 18 years old when he made his debut in 2010. He forced his way into Mourinho’s plans by the time he was 20, despite the attacking options at Madrid’s disposal. His successor, Carlo Ancelotti, was impressed enough to give him even more chances in the team. Morata joined Juventus in 2014, and has done so well in Serie A that it’s rumoured that Real now want him back. He is also a full international for Spain.

Nobody could ever accuse the style of football Mourinho played at Real Madrid as boring to watch. In the three seasons he was there, Madrid scored more than 450 goals in total. When they won the title in 2011 – 12, they scored 174 goals in all competitions. Enough said.

The prospect of Mourinho (or anyone else) building an empire at the Bernabéu was never a realistic one, given the managerial merry go round that takes place there every season. Vicente del Bosque is the longest-serving and most successful Real Madrid manager in the modern era. With two La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies won during his tenure, his job should have been very secure. Having just made them champions of Spain, he was promptly replaced in 2003 by Carlos Queiroz, a man whose resumé was hardly in the same league.

Mourinho’s time in charge was defined by the fact that he didn’t win the Champions League with the club. For two of the three years he was there, he was up against Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, whom many believe are the greatest club side ever, and actually took the title from them, so it was hardly a failure.

Ancelotti took over the reins in 2013, and won the Champions League in his first season. He was popular with the players and fans, but was inexplicably replaced last summer by Rafael Benítez, who had failed to even guide a good Napoli side into Europe’s top competition. In the last quarter of a century, only del Bosque has remained in charge longer than the “Special One”.

Mourinho left Real Madrid amidst rumours of fall-outs with senior players, who are probably not used to having the same manager for such a long period of time, He is, after all, the second longest-serving manager of the last 25 years. During his time in charge, Madrid played some exceptional football, promoted various youth prospects and even spent less money than usual. None of the usual accusations levelled at the Portuguese manager seem to apply here.

Chelsea (2013 – 15)

It was the worst-kept secret in football during the summer of 2013 that José Mourinho would return to Stamford Bridge. It seemed this time that the Portuguese manager would finally prove his worth as a long-term manager. It seemed to work at first.

One thing Mourinho did straight away was sell a number of players he himself had brought in as youngsters during his first spell at the club. Players such as Gaël Kakuta, Jeffrey Bruma, Patrick van Aanholt, and Milan Lalkovič had all failed to break into the first team on a regular basis. Ryan Bertrand was another Mourinho acquisition, but chose to join Southampton in search of first team football.

There were big expectations of Josh McEachran, whom it was believed would be the next big thing. After failing to impress during a spell at Swansea City, he dropped down a division with loan spells at Championship sides Middlesbrough, Watford and Wigan, with mixed results. After spending time at Dutch side Vitesse, he was finally sold last summer to Brentford.

Academy striker Patrick Bamford has done well in the Championship, but in loan spells at Crystal Palace and Norwich he is yet to score a Premier League goal. At the age of 22, it’s hardly likely that he will be central to incoming boss Antonio Conte’s plans.

This should not detract from the youth players that Mourinho did blood into the first team, and one of the biggest calls he made would eventually see Chelsea legend Petr Čech leave the club. When Thibaut Courtois was brought back from an extended loan spell at Atlético Madrid, he was made the club’s number one goalkeeper.

Kurt Zouma was still a teenager when Mourinho paid £12.5 million for his services in 2014, and would make his debut just a month short of his 20th birthday. He has, so far, made this seem like money well spent and could be one of the reasons that Chelsea were hesitant to offer John Terry a new deal. He is expected to become a part of the Stamford Bridge back line for many years to come.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is another who was given his debut under Mourinho. Although he has yet to become a regular in the Chelsea side, he has impressed enough in less than twenty appearances to be given a new five year contract recently. Like McEachran, much is expected, but whether he will deliver remains to be seen. Time will also tell whether players such as Bertrand Traoré, Kenedy and Baba Rahman, all tried in the team by Mourinho earlier this season, have what it takes to make it at Stamford Bridge.

One transfer that remains a bone of contention for Chelsea fans is that of Romelu Lukaku. The striker had successful loan spells at West Bromwich Albion and Everton before joining the latter permanently in the summer of 2014. With Diego Costa and Didier Drogba ahead of him in the pecking order, Chelsea won their first title in five years. There is no guarantee that this would have happened had Lukaku stayed.

In an interview with Four Four Two, Mourinho hinted that Lukaku did not want to fight for a place in the team, which is the wrong kind of attitude to have at any club, let alone one competing for the top prizes. It is worth noting however that if Chelsea want to re-sign him, it will probably cost them at least double £28 million they received from Everton for him.

During the first two seasons of Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, the football on display rather mirrored that of his first spell in charge. They scored more than 200 goals in all competitions during that period, and in 2014 – 15 they won both the Premier League title and the League Cup. In short, there was plenty of attacking football, but when they needed to grind out a result, such as their 1 – 0 win at Manchester City, they could do that as well.

While it has been well-documented what happened in the last few months of his second spell at Stamford Bridge, everything seemed to be fine until the incident involving club physio Eva Carneiro. Given how the players have performed since his departure, one can only speculate at the real reason it all went sour.

Since the Premier League era began, only Claudio Ranieri has spent longer in a single spell as Chelsea manager, although collectively Mourinho has spent the most time in charge having twice been in the hot seat.

The Future?

Mourinho is now the odds-on favourite to replace Louis van Gaal at Manchester United. The possibility of this divides opinion with the Stretford End faithful. Many welcome such a move, whereas some sections of the support claim he is not the right man for the job. The ones who are against it will point to the José Mourinho myths that have been explored in the two sections of this article.

With regards to the treatment of youth players, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that if he believes a player is good enough, he will give them a chance. Youngsters such as Marcus Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson seem to be better than a lot of the players he has had in the academies of his previous clubs. It’s also worth pointing out that none of those clubs are regarded in the game for the blooding of youngsters, whereas it is expected of a United manager.

Fans of most clubs tend to favour the player who was brought through the ranks over the one who cost mega-bucks. They feel more of an affinity with them, but there is no point in blooding youth players that clearly aren’t good enough just because they are home-grown. These days, football is a results business, but despite this Mourinho has always tried to give young players a chance – when they are good enough for the level he demands.

Part of the reason the United fans want van Gaal out is the safety-first style of play, and lack of attacking football. José Mourinho has never managed a team that managed to score less than 50 league goals in a season, unlike United this season.

The point about him not being a long-term manager is an interesting one. Most managers these days won’t be managing the same club five years from now, it’s a different game to when Alex Ferguson took over at Old Trafford. These days, it is all about instant success, and the financial rewards that go with it.

Given that none of Mourinho’s previous clubs are noted for having long term managers, who is to say that he can’t build an empire at Old Trafford? He’s never made any secret of the fact that it is the job he wants more than any other.

After all that has taken place at Manchester United over the last three years, surely even the short term success the Portuguese manager usually guarantees would be welcomed. One thing is certain, however; if Mourinho can’t build an empire at Old Trafford, he probably won’t manage it anywhere else. Given United’s seeming reluctance to sack van Gaal, it suggests he would be afforded more time than at Chelsea and Real Madrid if he did take charge.

If he is to be the next United manager, then this will be his chance to prove beyond reasonable doubt that his critics are wrong. The stage is all set for him to do just that.

 

 

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