Marina Hyde: José Mourinho fast becoming much ado about nothing
The Chelsea manager is hardly the leading player in a Shakespearean tragedy
José Mourinho’s stabs at epic emotion always seem to come dangerously close to shrieks that they’ve all got it infamy. Photograph: John Walton/PA Wire.
I’m not saying there’s a camply comic element to the poignant posturings of José Mourinho. But the declaration that he felt “betrayed” after Monday’s loss to Leicester recalled precisely for me the moment Nathan Lane’s drag queen in The Birdcage is being given a crash course in acting straight. “How do you feel about that call today?” he is asked by way of a role play. “I mean the Dolphins! Fourth-and- three play on their 30-yard line with only 34 seconds to go!”
“How do you THINK I feel?” declaims Albert, hand to his bosom. “Betrayed, bewildered? “ A fretfully reflective pause. “Wrong response?”
And so with Mourinho, whose stabs at epic emotion always seem to come dangerously close to shrieks that they’ve all got it infamy. They say comedy is tragedy plus time but in Mourinho’s case the temporal passage is surplus to requirements. He is the managerial equivalent of the death of Little Nell, at which, I need hardly remind you, Oscar Wilde observed that one would have to have a heart of stone not to dissolve into tears of laughter. The thing about proper tragic heroes such as Oedipus or Darth Vader or Dick Dastardly is that you feel a sliver of sorrow for them in the hour of their demise. In Mourinho’s case, the tears fail to liquefy – not only in the eyes he may have gouged but in eyes everywhere.
Consider his capacity for self-reflection. According to DCI Mourinho, the main lead he’s working on to solve the case of why he’s having such a shitter is this: he’s TOO good. “Last season I did phenomenal work,” he explained on Monday night. “Sometimes I find myself thinking that last season I did such an amazing job I brought players to a level that is not their level and, if this is true, I brought them to such a level where this season they couldn’t keep the super motivation to be leaders and champions.”
Mmm. When the biographers come to anatomise this second chapter at Chelsea, I hope at least one of them considers entitling it something along the lines of: “Just Don’t Call It Shakespearean.”
That is likely to be very wishful thinking, however. The one thing of which you can be almost sure is that someone – perhaps many people – are already gearing up to posit that cliched old theory as soon as the curtain comes down on the drama. Even now, the poets of punditry are drafting thinkpieces or soliloquies that suggest Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge was akin to a Shakespearean tragedy.
And yet it so wasn’t. The really remarkable thing about Mourinho’s demise is the smallness of the man it has revealed. For a character who briefly appeared to have all the best lines, he now lacks even a timeshare on one of them.
Mourinho may have certain recognisable tragic-hero character traits but in each of these cases he lacks the complementary feature that gives the big-hitter epic complexity. Mourinho has the paranoia of Othello without the cultural isolation, the arrogance of Macbeth without the guilt, the self-absorption of Hamlet without the gift for self-satire, the madness of King Lear without the nascent humility. Or if you want to go seriously highbrow about it, he’s basically a 52-year-old Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. And God knows nobody wants to see that.
At the same time, I find myself beginning to question my ability to keep seeing it. Normally, I end up looking away. No matter how unappealing the central character in these rather ghastly falls from whatever constituted grace, there usually comes a point where one can’t really bear to watch any more and begins to feel something for the person taking the kicking.
There are plenty of steadily loathed politicians I ended up feeling rather sorry for when it went spectacularly tits up – and often for more than three seconds. Yet the longer this goes on, the more my failure to feel the same as far as Mourinho goes makes me wonder: am I becoming a complete psychopath or is he really just an irredeemable prick? Will the pleasure ever become a guilty one or will it remain merely pleasurable?
One for my second-string analyst, perhaps. In the meantime, having cast him from the tragic firmament, the spirit of the season demands we find another genre to provide a berth for Mourinho’s story. Could it not be a Christmas movie? At this time of year, I think we should all be looking at the tale through the eyes of Frank Capra.
My own hope is that as Mourinho hovers on the brink over Christmas, a kindly guardian angel from the managerial afterlife – played by Alex Ferguson – is dispatched to show him how things would look without his influence down the years. It’s been a wonderful Premier League life, all told – and very far from a tragic one. Guardian Service