Willian words on Jose Mourinho prove polarising Portuguese has acolytes, as well as enemies

Matt Jones - Editor 23:01 07/08/2018
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“Sometimes we talk, we text, we send messages to each other via WhatsApp. He is a great manager, I really enjoyed working with him. I hope I can work with him again someday.”

Doesn’t it just warm your heart to see these words, spoken by a current Premier League footballer, reflecting glowingly on his time spent with a previous manager.

Now, if we told you this was Chelsea’s Willian waxing lyrical about his time spent under Jose Mourinho, you wouldn’t believe us.

Believe us you must though, as this was said by the Blues’ brilliant Brazilian about a man many football analysts will have you believe is a terrible tyrant, hell-bent on tearing players’ promising careers to shreds and sabotaging his own in the process.

For all his success as a coach, the Portuguese has worn out his welcome wherever he has gone.

Trophies have been hoovered up with regularity since the Primeira Liga was procured with Porto in his native Portugal in 2002/03. The Champions League followed a year later and thus began the magical Mourinho era.

Jose Mourinho 16

But it is alarming that success hasn’t yielded stability. Strip away the trophies and there are plenty of flaws – namely the stigma that he doesn’t develop youth and several bitter and very public fallouts with players.

“I am Jose Mourinho and I don’t change. I arrive with all my qualities and my defects,” the Special One famously said upon his unveiling as Real Madrid boss in 2010.

In 2013, after La Liga, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana were lifted, he was gone. Fraught relationships with Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas contributed to his downfall.

A turbulent ending to his spell in charge of Los Blancos was the catalyst for Mourinho’s mystique to begin unravelling.

He shipped both Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne off to Fiorentina and Wolfsburg respectively during his second stint at Stamford Bridge – they have since returned to England with Liverpool and Manchester City and are arguably the Premier League’s two shining lights.

Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata, Kaka, David Luiz, Eden Hazard, Mario Balotelli and even compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo are other high-profile players he has fallen out with over the years.

Last term, Paul Pogba became the latest at Manchester United, Mourinho benching him in favour of Scott McTominay, of all players, for a period of the season.

Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba endured a fraught relationship last season.

Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba endured a fraught relationship last season.

Third-season syndrome is often a phrase that gets tagged to his career. He has never lasted longer at any of the six clubs he has coached – with the dreaded third term in charge of United upon us.

And after a campaign of wide ranging discontent among Red Devils fans and a summer of strife in the transfer market, many believe the devilish Mourinho won’t last at Old Trafford beyond 2018/19.

Luke Shaw, Antony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have felt the poison of Mourinho’s words. But while many pulverise him for his punishing treatment of some players, there is very often a purpose for his predilection towards confrontation.

Salah was deemed both mentally and physically weak when he arrived in England, aged 21.

The feud between Casillas and Mourinho was sparked by the goalkeeper’s phonecall to Barcelona midfielder Xavi in August 2011 as a means of rectifying the ugly and bitter clashes between the El Clasico rivals during the Portuguese’s spell in charge.

The pair were widely lauded for their diplomacy, yet Mourinho saw Casillas’ actions as a betrayal.

The relationship was untenable, yet Casillas was clearly on the wane and failed to retrieve his starting spot until successor Carlo Ancelotti’s second season in charge (2014/15), after which he nevertheless exited through the back door after 16 seasons in white.

Judge Mourinho all you want for his harsh treatment of United’s stars. It has been warranted.

Shaw has had regular issues with weight and fitness, Martial has undoubtedly failed to fully realise his potential, while Mkhitaryan’s maddening inconsistency infuriated United’s fans as much as his manager.

Even Pogba, for all his talent, could not argue that his woeful form during his second season back at the club was far below what is expected of an £89 million player.

Zlatan Ibrahimovich once said Mourinho made players want to die for him.

Zlatan Ibrahimovich once said Mourinho made players want to die for him.

On the other hand, there are plenty of renowned stars who’ve sipped from the Mourinho thermos and been happy to go back for more.

William Gallas, John Terry, Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o, Mesut Ozil, Michael Essien and Cesc Fabregas have confessed their love of working under the Portuguese.

Former Inter Milan striker Diego Forlan has said of him: “Not only does he win trophies players feel he supports them, protects them from pressure and shields them from criticism by taking it on himself.”

For every player he’s upset, there’s another willing to walk through fire for him. After leaving Inter for Barca in 2009, Zlatan Ibrahimovic said: “It was sad to leave Mourinho. That guy is special. He would become a guy I was basically willing to die for.”

Can Mourinho be brash and offensive? Absolutely. But there is more often than not method to his madness.

To some he is a tyrannical dictator, while others would happily go to war for him. Although a long list of mutineers litter Mourinho’s past, he could equally call upon a willing army of acolytes, as proved by Willian’s warm words.

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