Nothing all that special about Chelsea manager’s clownish antics
Petulance and not ‘passion’ is the primary motivation for the Stamford Bridge boss
Jose Mourinho: “A fantastic coach,” the usually genial and laid-back Carlo Ancelotti once seethed. “But I’m not going to discuss his character.” Photograph: Getty Images
What a loathsome individual Jose Mourinho can be. And what a shallow game this media lark is when not only his extreme behaviour is excused, but that elephantine ego is inflated even more by coverage of the supposed wonder of his personality.
A persona, which to those of us not in thrall to the Chelsea manager, appears to revolve mainly around attention seeking.
That distasteful trait is dressed up as something ulterior, a desire to deflect pressure from his players, unless of course it suits Mourinho otherwise; then he is more than happy to shift attention back to them. Just ask the near €120 million worth of attacking talent he is doomed to work with at the moment.
Only this is presented as more evidence of his mind-game mastery. In fact listen to some of the more panting commentary and Jung gets to sound like some baked-out, hippy-dippy, new-age loon in comparison to the psychological colossus from Setúbal.
Moreover, any unfortunate slip in that mastery is excused by “passion” – a convenient catch-all piece of tabloid meaninglessness dolloped out to anyone from south of Jersey, rather than being accurately described as the cheap ignorance it often is with Mourinho.
It was petulance not passion that provoked his comments which led to death threats sent to referee Anders Frisk and his family after the 2005 Chelsea-Barcelona Champions League clash, a disgraceful incident that eventually forced Frisk to retire despite having done nothing wrong.
Petulance was also responsible for Mourinho’s eye-gouging of Barcelona’s Tito Vilanova in 2011. A sulkiness he managed to make even more inelegant by later labelling Vilanova “Pito”, which just happens be Spanish slang for an appendage of the male anatomy of which every man has but one.
However these are merely the spectaculars, the headline acts in a long and persistent litany of insult and provocation that often serves only to contrast even further the undoubted efficacy of Mourinho’s abilities as a coach. “A fantastic coach,” the usually genial and laid-back Carlo Ancelotti once seethed. “But I’m not going to discuss his character.” Except with Mourinho it’s all but impossible to separate the two.
There’s a long list of sporting worthies whose professional abilities are as towering as their personal shortcomings are pitiful. But in performance of their jobs that becomes largely irrelevant. So much of Mourinho the coach gets tangled up in Mourinho the man, it only serves to highlight the most towering of all his considerable talents – which is as political self-promoter par excellence.
This is nothing new. Brian Clough played the fame game also, realised the currency of profile and its power. But it’s a vastly more sprawling media world now and Mourinho plays it like a virtuoso. He does so knowing that same world will largely play ball in a mutual moisturising exercise that embraces the ugly extremes of his behaviour rather than recoil from them.
Those preening, pouting displays on the sideline, press conferences that run from venomous glowering to grinning charm, strategically teased-out barbs that can be playful or downright belittling, incessant self-promotion poorly disguised behind a thin veil of supposed indifference are part of a package catered to service the same publicity machine that turns a blind eye to his disgraceful excesses. Mourinho has indulged in these over the years simply on the grounds of being “ a character, all right . . . always brings colour to the game”.
It’s a curio of digital media that it has ostensibly turned the world more democratic and transparent through supposed 24-hour accessibility. But in fact the opposite is the case.
The need to fill so much time and space has actually played to the interests of a relatively small group of people all too aware of the power of their own profile. Maybe narcissism is an inevitable consequence of that. But Jose hardly needs an excuse.
From Porto to Chelsea, Inter to Real and back to Stamford Bridge, he has never been to blame for anything. And this is as ridiculous as some of his posturing.
What he did to Vilanova wasn’t colourful, charismatic, or in any way psychologically complex. It was plain and simple assault, which in any sane world would have resulted in pariah-like shunning.
Money is the mantra
But this is the sporting world, especially the football world, where winning, and the attendant pay-offs, excuse
everything, especially when it comes with a coating of personal charisma and a copy-friendly willingness to play the bullshit game.
This is the same world the GAA has leapt into so enthusiastically, ostensibly in the hope of spreading the Gaelic games gospel, but in reality to test out the bottom-line edge that comes from expanding the lucrative television-rights market.
Since we know there has not been a county board Gael yet born who didn’t learn to read a balance sheet in the cot, the Sky deal probably makes long-term financial sense.
However, what’s gone in perpetuity is the illusion that the GAA was somehow about more than that, a community ideal of supposed Gaeldom. It never was. And only fanatics can believe it now.
The blinkers have come off.
And maybe they’re being discarded with Mourinho also. His great validation has always been a level of success that can’t be dismissed as coincidence, although neither is it the singular achievement he likes to effect. Various chequebooks have helped.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s cash, for instance, has expensively assembled a strike force that isn’t scoring. And, incredibly, the messiah manager is ducking any responsibility for that. He’s doing it in a typically headline-friendly and politically astute way.
It’s still about him. And it’s still bullshit.