Mourinhoball and myth of Special One punctured in Torres’ book
A fascinating study of Jose Mourinho explains why his winning formula has been coming up short
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho exchanges comments with referee Mike Dean after coach Rui Faria confronted Dean following what proved to be Sunderland’s winning goal in the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, Photograph: Chris Ison/PA
In November 2010, Diego Maradona visited Real Madrid’s training ground at Valdebebas. Madrid’s then coach, Jose Mourinho, spent a few minutes chatting with the legend. Their conversation was filmed by Real Madrid TV.
Mourinho explained the principle that had made him so successful: “I score and I win,” Mourinho said. “Sure,” Maradona said.
“And another thing – you score and you don’t know if you win!”
The anecdote appears in a book by Diego Torres: The Special One: The Dark Side of Jose Mourinho , which was published in English translation 10 days ago. Mourinho’s verdict on the book: “The person who wrote that book shouldn’t write books. He should write books for kids using his imagination”.
Another view is The Special One is one of the best managerial character studies in years, and certainly the best book yet written about Jose Mourinho.
Torres, who writes for the Spanish broadsheet El Pais , suggests that “I score and I win, you score and you don’t know if you win,” is the essence of Mourinhoball. If you score first, I might equalise. But if I score first, it’s good night, because I’ll shut down the game and only venture forward to prey on your mistakes.
There’s just one problem.
“If I don’t score? Only then am I forced to attack, but only gradually . . . What if I still don’t score? Then the limits of a model that fits into one slogan have been reached.”
Mourinhoball was a cookie-cutter formula that had already succeeded in three countries.
Torres: “He owed his fame and his fortune to his ability to get great results quickly in a range of different countries. Until then, his cocktail of virtues had been enough: his instinct for perceiving the vulnerability of his opponent, his gift of explaining to his players how to organise defensively and how to counter-attack, and his acute power of persuasion . . .”
Mourinho’s mission at Real Madrid was simple: stop Barcelona, by any means necessary. The style of play he introduced was equally simple. Madrid would sit deep, lure opponents forward, pounce on their errors and score with lightning counterattacks.
The problems began when it became clear that many opponents would not mount any attacks for Mourinho’s team to counter.
According to Torres, Madrid “trained to counteract imaginary adversaries who wanted the ball and who were prepared to put a lot of players in the opposition’s half. Throughout the entire summer [of 2010] he did not devise a single plan for static attacking” – that is, the kind of clever, patient, probing attacks that would unlock deep defences.
Madrid repeatedly failed to dispatch weak opponents that surrendered possession and territory. Each of these results was a slow puncture to the cult of Mourinho.