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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Love or hate him, 'Mourinho' shows Jose really is the Special One


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There are times in this cruel cruel world of ours when desperate sad acts like myself look up to the heavens mournfully, unleash a shriek of despair before dropping our heads to the ground and mumbling incoherently about life being terribly unfair. In my case, it’s usually something to do with the price of Brussels Sprouts or the fact that the X-Factor is on my television again. You’re probably more familiar with the sorrow-drenched face of Arsene Wenger or perhaps Fernando Torres’ increasingly wearied and pained expression. The point is, some of us are not really cut out for the remorseless rigours of this thankless existence and would actually just prefer Roman Abramovich to write us a cheque for a couple of million and tell us to sod off.

One man who certainly can handle all the guff that life throws at him though is that pure embodiment of the ego Jose Mourinho (who ironically enough, was given a cheque for a couple of million and told to sod off by Roman Abramovich). You really can’t imagine ‘The Special One’ breaking down in the middle of Sainsbury’s clutching a packet of biscuits and yelling at the 17-year shelf stacker can you? It’s this inexorable will that convinced ITV to make the slightly ill-timed documentary Mourinho which aired last week charting the almost 10 year managerial career of the ex-Chelsea boss.

A host of stellar football names, and a couple of jobbers from Sunday Supplement, were invited on to either marvel at or chastise the achievements of the charismatic Real Madrid manager, as we were taken on his journey from humble “Interpreter” at Barcelona to the European mastermind of today. As you might imagine from a profile of Jose Mourinho, the hour long excursion contained more than its fair share of overwrought posturing and self-congratulatory whooping; but what was surprising was that it also demonstrated a great deal of introspective thought from both the man himself and the decorated acquaintances looking on.

Despite the popular and prevailing view we have of Mourinho as some tetchy pantomime dame, gouging at his rivals’ eyes and wagging his finger at anyone in authority; we were informed by the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, the late Sir Bobby Robson and some old fella who seemingly had an endless supply of private videos of Mourinho on his laptop (!?!), that Jose is actually a really nice guy once you take him away from the pitch, place a nice glass of Rosé in his hands and put on a DVD of Mamma Mia. Sir Alex did admit that he thought Mourinho was a “cocky bugger” but considering the United chief has been known to violently hurl football boots at his own trusted players, I’d say Mourinho’s getting off pretty lightly with that one.

The most gushing tributes of Mourinho though came not from his old sparring partners, nor any of his ex-players; but from the two journos invited along. Henry Winter, a name synonymous with self-important prattling was on hand to unleash a stream of sound bites such as: “Box Office!”, “he makes Machiavelli look like a beginner” and “ooh, isn’t he handsome?” This was tame stuff though compared to his Fleet Street colleague Paddy Barclay, who admittedly has a vested interest as Mourinho’s biographer, and chose to speak of him as some kind of biblical omnipotent wonder, who wields such incredible powers that our childlike game is not nearly worthy enough of his time. To be fair though, anyone who has seen or read any of Barclay’s forthright views on football will know that he takes the whole thing far too seriously and quite literally believes that football is the most important thing in the world – especially when book sales are involved.

I’ve always erred on the side of aversion when it comes to Jose Mourinho. The ugly half of his football anatomy often left a sour taste and his unwavering belief in his own abilities always seemed alien to someone like me with little or no genuine talent of my own. But Mourinho has done much to change my opinion.  What the man has achieved is quite remarkable, and the obvious time, thought and intelligence he gives over to the sport should not be derided or taken lightly. It’s no coincidence that teams win trophies when Mourinho is the manager; and it’s no coincidence that there is a queue of footballing royalty patiently waiting to pay tribute to his achievements. When asked whether he has changed in the ten years of his management career, Mourinho briefly paused, took a small breath then replied calmly: “I have more titles, more money… and even more desire”. A perfect summation of why we sometimes hate, sometimes love, but always begrudgingly admire the undoubted and only ‘Special One’.

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Chris Pettitt

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