Before saying anything like Jose Mourinho still has that fire in his belly, or even drawing the conclusion that his best days could be well behind him, let’s start with the fact that Mourinho, the new man in the Tottenham hot seat, is back in the Premier League with a point to prove after his tumultuous time at Manchester United last time around.
The Portuguese manager, who has, time and again, proven himself to be a serial winner across Europe, has now been left with his reputation badly tarnished and is an unfamiliar territory because of a couple of reasons. Firstly, Mourinho arrives at Spurs at a time when he will have to persuade a large number of audience who will be sceptical of his success. Secondly, as one can well imagine, many Spurs fans would have preferred Mauricio Pochettino over Mourinho as their manager. Perhaps, no matter where he went in the past, Mourinho never encountered such negativity upon his arrival.
Like all top managers around, Mourinho in his heydays had his choice of elite football clubs. His appointment in clubs like Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and even at Manchester United brought jubilation. It seemed that the management wanted him more than the other way around, given his aura that helped win many trophies in the past and no one doubted his capacity to win trophies no matter where he went.
To be blunt enough, while the aura is not gone, it is certainly damaged after his exit from Old Trafford. Therefore, with his return to the Premier League, he has several points to prove, one of them being that the English clubs are not hopelessly addicted to him or his aura.
Mourinho, who did not hesitate to accept his move to join Spurs after receiving a call from the club chairman Daniel Levy, is obvious. With his reputation badly damaged, he gets another crack at the Premier League, and of course, the Champions League.
It is an important steppingstone toward rebuilding his already illustrious coaching career. Had he not pursued this job with Spurs, Mourinho indeed had fewer options left to get back into top-tier football once again, thanks to the acrimony he earned at Manchester United. Confrontation with the players marked steady deterioration of the man himself. Not to mention the bitter fights he had with the press quite often.
Therefore, it feels like the 56-year-old manager readily agreed to be back on the training pitch to remind everyone that he still has it in him, just like in 2004 when he charmed all and sundry as a fresh-faced manager at Chelsea as the “Special One”.
“I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters. The quality in both the squad the academy excited me. Working with these players is what has attracted me,” Mourinho addressed the media, hours after Pochettino was sacked.
Back in 2004, when Mourinho arrived in Chelsea from Porto, he had spectacular success under his belt. As he won the Premier League title with Chelsea in his very first season and repeated the feat the following year again, he surely ended Arsenal and Manchester United’s authority in the league. However, things turned sour and he left the club in 2007. His next stop was Italian heavyweights Inter Milan in 2008, and they became the first Italian club to win a historic treble of league, cup and Champions League.
In 2010, he arrived in Spain to take charge of Real Madrid whom he helped win the league title in 2012. Although he guided Real to three consecutive Champions League semi-finals, he failed to lead them to European glory. In June 2013, Chelsea appointed Mourinho once again, and it was here, he won his third Premier League title in his second season. However, a poor beginning to the next campaign cost him his job at the club once again in 2015. 2016 saw Mourinho taking charge of Manchester United, penning a three-year-deal with the English giants. Even though he failed to win the league title with the club, he added the Europa League and the League Cup to the club’s rich trophy cabinet.
However, what followed soon after damaged Mourinho’s coaching career more than ever before. He fell out with many senior players of his side, including Paul Pogba. He also squarely blamed other players for not delivering and it all led to a massive deterioration in performances on the pitch. That became a forgettable episode in his managerial career.
Mourinho, therefore, will have many questions to answer as he takes up the job. It is important to remember that when Mourinho joined United, one section of the fans also questioned his approach as to how it would fit in with the club culture that has been long nurtured by the legendary Alex Ferguson. With Mourinho failing to guide the club to win the Premier League title, he was bombarded with questions and criticism from all sides. One expects he would face the same issues at Tottenham, the club which had been nurtured by Pochettino for so long.
In order to move up the managerial pecking order, Mourinho will be desperate to prove himself now, and to rediscover the magic formula that brought him success. He definitely has a chance to do so; Spurs is without a silverware since 2008, when they won the FA Cup last time beating Chelsea, and also has a group of extraordinarily talented players who reached the final of the last Champions League in June.
However, questions remain – can he retransform from the “Surly One” to the “Special One”? Can he give Tottenham fans taste of a major silverware since the grand total of two league cups since 1991? Can he prove it one more time that English football is not hopelessly addicted to him? Time has the answer, perhaps.
The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.