Game feeds Jose's desire for control and attention

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Leaving behind a simmering verbal conflict of savage accusation and counter-accusation, Jose Mourinho will arrive in Israel today to promote peace and conciliation in the Middle East.

Leaving behind a simmering verbal conflict of savage accusation and counter-accusation, Jose Mourinho will arrive in Israel today to promote peace and conciliation in the Middle East.

You wonder whether the Chelsea manager appreciates the irony of such an event taking place just a few days before Uefa's Control and Disciplinary Body are due to meet and decide the fate of Mourinho and others over a series of accusations which will essentially paint him as anything but a model of conciliation. One would not for a moment impugn Mourinho's motives in becoming involved in the complex arena of Middle East politics, the Portuguese coach having volunteered to help the Peres Centre stage tournaments between mixed Arab and Israeli teams.

Yet you suspect that, as in most situations in which he is involved, there is an almost pathological desire to be setting the agenda - within sport, and, indeed, in the real world beyond. He is his own Alistair Campbell in that desire for control.

This column was originally designed to be a Mourinho-free zone, yet rather like the school prankster beloved by his fellow pupils (and despite some of the pious outpourings from his critics, this is no Flashman) but the constant bane of officialdom, Mourinho has been the centre of a renewed rumpus out in the playground and has forced his way once again on to these and other pages.

On a stop at a motorway service station last week, this observer noticed that a small crowd had gathered around a screen displaying the BBC's News 24 service. Normally, they would have wandered past, blithely ignoring the offerings; but not when the corporation are reporting the response of Uefa to the latest news from Stamford Bridge. Mourinho polarises opinion like no other. Probably no one manager has caused such intense fascination since Brian Clough was in his peevish pomp. It is The Da Vinci Code become reality.

What Uefa have seemingly failed to appreciate is that there is a touch of managerial Munchausen Syndrome about Mourinho. He craves attention, and directs it upon himself like a latter-day Federico Fellini, delivering surliness, belligerence or sardonic humour as the mood takes him.

This was the character who, when manager of Porto, grabbed the shirt of Lazio's Lucas Castroman and pulled him over as he was about to take a throw-in during a Uefa Cup semi-final in 2003. He was fined and banished to the stands by Uefa. Even then, he contrived a way to ridicule the punishment by having two assistants type his instructions into a computer and sending his missives to his coaches at pitchside.

In Mourinho's world, authority is there to be confronted, to be mocked. And if the finding is against him and he discovers himself in a corner, there will ultimately be a theatrical repentance, as we witnessed after that absurd posturing during the Carling Cup final victory over Liverpool.

Chelsea's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, may have gone on the public offensive last week on his behalf, with Mourinho adopting his Trappist habit, but there is no doubting the mischievous presence in the background.

In a sense, Uefa have allowed themselves, or certainly their grandly titled director of communications (they used to be called press officers), William Gaillard, to be goaded by Mourinho and his acolytes. Gaillard got his briefs in a twist and become not a mere conveyor of information but part of the debate itself.

Gaillard is quoted as stating, well in advance of Thursday's hearing at Nyon in Switzerland: "They [Chelsea] were basically using lies as a pre-match tactic [for the second leg at Stamford Bridge, which Chelsea won 4-2]. They were trying to qualify for the next round by putting pressure on referees and officials through false statements... We cannot allow the slandering of match officials or lies to become part of pre-match tactics.

"Chelsea were involved in a conspiracy to put pressure on the match officials. And what they were doing can lead to violent acts by supporters."

Chelsea's legal representatives will no doubt protest, in the likely event of their clients being found guilty, that those remarks are highly prejudicial. Whatever Chelsea's fate, Monsieur Gaillard should be asked to consider his position, too.

If his Football Association counterpart were to issue similar remarks ahead of a highly contentious hearing about, say, Arsenal or Manchester United, one may safely assume his P45 would be promptly in the post.

But to return to the truth, if there is such a thing to be found in the malign atmosphere created initially by the response of the London club in Barcelona, but to which Uefa have clumsily contributed. Why would Mourinho suggest that he and others witnessed the Barcelona manager, Frank Rijkaard, entering the room of the referee, Anders Frisk, at the Nou Camp at half-time in that now infamous Champions' League game if they hadn't?

Presumably their explanation will become clear on Thursday, or be withdrawn. The hearing will decide on Mourinho's alleged abuse of Frisk as well as other minor charges, including Mourinho's failure to attend the post-match press conference (something Sir Alex Ferguson is guilty of every week in the Premiership, incidentally), and his side being late back on to the pitch at half-time.

Frisk's subsequent "retirement" should not be allowed to disturb further the already raging seas of the disciplinary process. As this column has stated before, Mourinho's observations about the official were no worse than the majority of his peers' comments in any given season.

The probability is that Uefa, unless Chelsea appear with overwhelming testimony as to the veracity of their claims, will restrict any punishment to a substantial club fine and a touchline ban for Mourinho. To consider any more draconian sanction would merely propel this unseemly drama into the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Ultimately, despite assertions to the contrary, Mourinho will triumph. He is box office, and he knows it, English football understands it, television comprehends it. That is, as the good man said, fact, whether we choose to perceive him as a messiah or - to borrow from the immortal words of Brian's mum in the film of Monty Python's eponymous hero - as "not a messiah, just a very naughty boy".

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