Jose Mourinho, Enemy of Football. The long-standing slur might be excessive and ultimately meaningless, but the status is irresistibly melodramatic. It conjures images of intrigue, a plotter’s face captured for an instant in the beam of a spotlight, shone into shadow.
Reality, regrettably, is not that romantic. Mourinho is a professional irritant, a polemicist whose scripts are increasingly shallow. There is no nobility in his persecution complex, no redeeming factor in his role in a predictable pantomime.
Bitterness has replaced mischief; there are flashes of humour but a light rarely shines from those expressive eyes. The cycle of alienation, which has recurred in England, Italy and Spain, is accelerating. Today might just be the first day of the rest of his life.
Neutrals will appreciate the symmetry of the baton being passed to a protégé, Brendan Rodgers, at Liverpool, the club on which Mourinho doted as a boy. Should the Chelsea manager look to his right from the dugout and scan the Anfield directors’ box he will see Kenny Dalglish, a formative hero.
The innocence of those days, when a global interest in football reflected the liberalisation of Portuguese society following the so-called Carnation Revolution which ended the Salazar dictatorship, has long since dissipated.
The energy Mourinho channels is relentlessly negative. It creates a siege mentality which satisfies a superficial need to rationalise wider unpopularity.
Rodgers, by contrast, is a conduit of positivity. His passion reflects and regenerates the community his club represent. Liverpool play the sort of intelligent, uninhibited football which captivated Roman Abramovich when he watched the original Ronaldo destroy Manchester United with a Champions’ League hat-trick for Real Madrid in 2003.
Football managers are imperfect human beings. Their faults – vanity, duplicity, greed and self-aggrandisement – are mundane, but magnified because of what they do for a living. Mourinho is merely losing his mastery of the message. Valid points such as Chelsea’s right to expect co-operation in fixtures around Champions’ League dates are being lost. Some of his sloganeering – “I can’t say the truth because I don’t feel free” – befits fourth-form politics. His response to FA charges levied for a sarcastic attack on referee Mike Dean and his superior, Mike Riley, was the equivalent of a smirking teenager denying all knowledge of the stink bomb detonated in the teachers’ common room.
He cheapens words such as integrity and dignity. He speaks of dreams without recognising their naiveté. He demands respect for his club, and by extension his authority, without deigning to acknowledge that respect is a two-way process.
This is a man who, as Internazionale’s manager, accused the Italian media of “intellectual prostitution” for daring to challenge a deeply personalised campaign designed to belittle such Serie A rivals as Carlo Ancelotti, Luciano Spalletti and Claudio Ranieri. His return to Chelsea was based on a false premise. Ciaran Kelly, whose book The Rise of the Translator offers an invaluable insight into Mourinho’s mindset, noted that he used the word “happy” 18 times and “stability” on 22 occasions during his unveiling at Stamford Bridge on 10 June last year.
It was a typically contrived attempt to generate gravitas, which unravelled quickly. Constant complaints about the depth and quality of a transitional squad hint at a reckless impatience which undermines Chelsea’s attempts to develop a better corporate image. Players still speak with awe about the intensity and intelligence of his training sessions. It would be entirely in character for him to engineer a win in Wednesday’s return leg of the Champions’ League semi-final against Atletico Madrid. But the character flaws which prompted 15 of his Real Madrid squad to demand his sacking in a secret poll cannot be ignored. Jose Mourinho is no enemy of football, but he is his own worst enemy.
No such thing as a free launch for Le Tour
The Tour de France is one of the great free spectacles in world sport. It is a compelling cross between a travelogue, a psychodrama and a folk festival. Though such speculative figures should be taken with a container-load of salt, organisers suggest three million people will turn up to watch this year’s opening stages in Yorkshire.
The unlikely prospect of Bradley Wiggins supporting Chris Froome in his attempt to defend his title is one of many sub-plots. Yet the unerring ability of British sports administrators to reduce events with which they are associated to the lowest denominator of easy profit threatens to overshadow its purity.
The Team Presentation is one of the Tour’s great traditions. Riders are welcomed on stage and given due deference as warriors, about to go into battle. It has been free of charge for spectators until this year, when it is being held in the Leeds Arena. Tickets cost between £45 and £85, plus a £5.75 booking fee and £2.50 delivery charge. Organisers insist the money will be used to provide “the greatest ever” opening ceremony. But it is at best empty-headed marketing, at worst shameless exploitation. It should be abandoned immediately, and the event returned to the people.
Going for broke the Glasgow way
It is an everyday football story. Up to £70 million has been squandered in a year. The club concerned will only accept cash or cheques from fans wishing to renew their season tickets.
There is no scouting system in place and administration looms. Welcome, dear reader, to Glasgow Rangers’ nightmare.