Mourinho shrugs off slap on wrist

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The Independent Online

As the latest anointed diplomat for world peace, Jose Mourinho has already acquired a sense of the usefulness of brinkmanship in his feuds with football's institutions and, in taking on Uefa this season, he has revealed the impotence at the heart of the sport's governing bodies.

As the latest anointed diplomat for world peace, Jose Mourinho has already acquired a sense of the usefulness of brinkmanship in his feuds with football's institutions and, in taking on Uefa this season, he has revealed the impotence at the heart of the sport's governing bodies.

The total fine of £41,000 and the two-match touchline ban over the feud that began with Chelsea's visit to the Nou Camp on 23 February will prove to Mourinho his long-held suspicion that aggression in the face of resistance solves many problems. Or to borrow from the former American secretary of state Dean Rusk - who served during the 1961 Cuban Missile Crisis and was a devotee of the same diplomatic tradition - when Chelsea and Uefa went eyeball to eyeball, it was the latter who blinked first.

Mourinho has squared up to one of the most damning charge sheets in the history of Uefa's governance of European football and won a verdict that will only help contribute to his enduring quest to control the pre-match agenda before both legs of the Champions' League quarter-final against Bayern Munich. The allegations against him from Uefa were serious and profoundly stated, but from the moment they were set out it seemed unlikely that the punishment would be equally dramatic.

The brief from Uefa was that Chelsea had lied about the events that surrounded what must now be considered, at the very least, an apocryphal half-time conversation between the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, and the referee Anders Frisk in the official's private room. The fall-out from the feud which led, indirectly, to threats to Frisk that caused him to retire was Chelsea's contribution, Uefa said, to a "poisoned and negative ambience".

The scope of Uefa's condemnation was such that it must now be asked exactly what, short of a hostile occupation of their well-appointed Nyon headquarters, the governing body would consider action sufficiently inappropriate to warrant a severe punishment. If they were not prepared to carry through with their dire threats to Chelsea - and they could still have come up with a punishment more imaginative and less dramatic than expulsion from the Champions' League - then they should not have bothered in the first place.

If Uefa truly believe that banning Mourinho from the touchline will stop the Chelsea coach seizing centre stage at Stamford Bridge next week then they clearly have even less understanding of the man than we in England have acquired over the last nine months. Physically removing Mourinho from the dugout and, more crucially it would seem, the pre-match press conferences will only serve to make the Chelsea coach an even more integral part of the match.

Should it be his assistant Steve Clarke who is brought out to speak on behalf of his club on Tuesday, you can be assured that the value of anything said by Mourinho will triple in terms of interest and impact to the watching media. And you can be equally sure that those words will be allowed to leak into the public domain from somewhere, with all the mythical qualities of a dissident leader urging on his people from exile.

In normal circumstances, the Bayern Munich coach, Felix Magath, would not have relished his battle with Mourinho over the next two weeks but he will find an adversary who he cannot see even less manageable. The Bayern coach is a functional, unsmiling recruit from Stuttgart, not always confident speaking English, who has built his new regime on an exacting fitness programme. In other words, he is an ideal target for the biting criticism that Mourinho specialises in.

Mourinho has been banned from the touchline before, in the second leg of Porto's second leg Uefa Cup quarter-final against Lazio two years ago for a disgraceful intervention when one of the Italian side's players attempted to take a quick throw-in in the first game. He sat up in the stand with assistants either side of him who conveyed his orders to the bench via text message and, although Uefa have made it clear that will not be tolerated this time, it is hard to believe he will not try something similar.

Mourinho's most famous order that night was for his Porto players to look up at him in the stands in an act of collective defiance. Perhaps his Chelsea men will be told to gaze upon their indefatigable coach and their billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

As Mourinho established himself at Porto he seized every moment to talk - indeed, when he beat Manchester United last year he had to be asked to leave the Press room to give Sir Alex Ferguson time to speak. Now by banning him, Uefa will only begin to discover the true power of this extraordinary young coach. He no longer has to address his audience: they seek him out.

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