The Portuguese has attracted plenty of controversy with his media appearances over the years, but also aims to please the press initially at all of his clubs. Here’s a closer look
By Ben Hayward
From Special One to Happy One, Jose Mourinho makes an instant impression. The Portuguese may have attracted his fair share of controversy and confrontations over the years at each of the clubs he has coached, yet initial introductions instead reveal a quite charming character.
There was perhaps an air of disappointment on Monday, however; a tangible tinge of regret from the press pack in west London as those anticipating theatre and polemics were served up politeness and respect in an introduction far removed from the coach’s explosive entrance to English football nine years earlier.
Then, Mourinho was right at the height of his powers, having won the Uefa Cup and subsequently the Champions League in back-to-back seasons at Porto. “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one,” he announced.
That nickname has followed him around ever since and Mourinho made reference to it as he was unveiled by Chelsea for a second time on Monday. Now, however, his priorities appear to have changed after a turbulent three-year tenure at Real Madrid as this time he simply stated: “I’m the Happy One!”
It was the first line and it turned out to be the best line in a more low-key presentation: there was no boasting nor promise of success, only hard work and dedication. But it was, as always with Mourinho, extremely engaging.
Making his second Chelsea introduction, the 50-year-old also spoke about Roman Abramovich (“I kept reading I was sacked, I was fired – that was not true”), about Sir Alex Ferguson (“I’m a bit disappointed he is no longer there”), about his weaknesses (“I’m trying to hide them”), about John Terry (“I’ll try to get the best out of him), about his predecessor (“Benitez’s decisions are Benitez’s decisions”), about dropping Iker Casillas at Real Madrid (“all my decisions are based on meritocracy”) and about Andres Iniesta’s claim that he had damaged Spanish football (“I damaged Spanish football by being the manager that broke Barcelona’s dominance”).
All fascinating, yet free from controversy and criticism of others. There will be time for that; Monday was all about charm and finding favour.
At Porto, he took over in January of 2002 with the team languishing in the league, but boldly predicted success in his first full campaign. “We will be champions next season – I can say that with certainty,” he told the Portuguese media as applause broke out in the press room.
And he was good on his promise, leading Porto to two titles as well as a Supercopa success, a Taca de Portugal, the Uefa Cup and, finally, the Champions League before leaving on the crest of a wave to join Chelsea in 2004.
It was then that he muttered his ‘Special One’ line which became his moniker, while at Inter he endeared himself to the Milan media by answering in impeccable Italian and even responding once in local dialect to a question about how Chelsea players like Frank Lampard and Michael Essien would adapt to playing in Serie A. “Non sono Pirla,” he replied to great amusement. “I’m not stupid.”
There were also kind words for former Inter boss Roberto Mancini (“I respect the work of a great coach like Roberto, but I’m different”) and for the club itself (“Mourinho is coach of a special club”), while he went on to speak of a special rapport with players and making Italian football great again. Just as in England, his audience had been suitably seduced. But how had he picked up the language so quickly, he was asked. “I’m very intelligent,” was his reply. “I only started learning Italian three or four weeks ago. It’s a Latin language, like Portuguese. I speak good Spanish, so it’s not too difficult.”
At his presentation in Madrid, however, Mourinho spoke in a Spanish heavily influenced by his native Portuguese and the Italian he had picked up before and during his time at Inter. “Can you understand my horrible Castilian?” he asked, amid laughter. They could, of course. “I don’t know if I was born to coach Real Madrid,” he told them. “But I was born to coach football.” And he added: “One thing I think and I would like my players to think is this: special, special, special is not playing for Real Madrid or coaching Real Madrid; special, special, special is winning at Real Madrid – that’s my motivation.”
Barcelona were another motivation and many battles between the two teams lay ahead, but in 2010 Mourinho explained: “I’m not anti-Barcelona, not at all. I’m Real Madrid coach and I’m concerned with the construction of a great Real Madrid, I’m not concerned with Barcelona.”
The Portuguese was unveiled by Madrid’s director general Jorge Valdano and even had kind words for the Argentine, before a bitter power struggle ensued between the two men and the former World Cup-winner was forced to move on just a year later.
Many more problems followed for Mourinho, who was never far from controversy at Real, at Inter or at Chelsea during his first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge. On Monday, however, it was all smiles. The Happy One really is happy to be back and Chelsea really are happy to have him. But just how long will it last?
Follow Ben Hayward on