Jose’s puzzling motivation an all-consuming personal passion play
Curious spat with rival Villas-Boas generates more heat than light
Tottenham Hotspur’s manager Andre Villas-Boas (right) and Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho walk the line during the weekend’s fractious drawn game between the rival London clubs. Photograph: Reuters
Around 1:30pm on Saturday afternoon, it looked awkward for Jose Mourinho. Chelsea were 1-0 down at Tottenham. The opposing manager was his estranged protege Andre Villas-Boas, who had been talking about their broken relationship. If Chelsea lost, the “apprentice schools master” stories would run for weeks. Already the home fans were singing “You’re not special any more”.
In the circumstances, turning to Juan Mata was not the hardest decision he’s had to make. Worst-case outcome: Mata does nothing and Chelsea lose. If so, then at least Mourinho’s decision to leave him on the bench has been vindicated. And best-case: Mata helps Chelsea to win the game. Not only has Mourinho put Villas-Boas back in his place, he can even argue that by rattling Mata’s cage, he has provoked the player to produce his best.
The final outcome was in between. Mata set up the equaliser. As Chelsea pressed for a winner, Fernando Torres got a red card which made the draw look better and allowed Mourinho to lecture Tottenham on the importance of manly English virtues.
Before the match he had lectured Villas-Boas about how grown men ought to behave.
“I am not a kid to discuss relationships in the media,” he had said.
Mourinho’s achievements tower over those of Villas-Boas, so why does it seem so important to him that he is seen as the man and Villas-Boas still just the kid? Football is big enough for both of them, so why does Mourinho act as though Villas-Boas is his rival in a zero-sum game?
Contrast with Bergkamp
Perhaps it has to do with the reason why he got involved in football in the first place.
Most top players and managers have an unusual degree of drive, but the source of their motivation varies. In his new book, Stillness and Speed, Dennis Bergkamp notes that some players are motivated by memories of an impoverished childhood or a difficult family background, while others harbour an ambition to be rich and famous. For Bergkamp, his passion sprung from an early fascination with the ball and its flight.
He describes the solitary circumstance in which he spent much of his childhood: “It’s not thinking. It’s doing. And in doing, I find my way . . . Most of the time I was by myself, just kicking the ball against the wall, seeing how it bounces, how it comes back, just controlling it. I found that so interesting! Trying it different ways: first one foot, then the other foot, looking for new things – inside of the foot, outside of the foot, laces . . . Maybe other people wouldn’t bother. Maybe they wouldn’t find it interesting. But I was fascinated. I was just very intrigued by how the ball moves, how the spin worked, what you could do with spin.”