Tottenham become latest to declare Jose Mourinho old news

The signs have been there for some time with Daniel Levy finally pulling the plug on what proved to be a hugely expensive mistake on Monday

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Monday 19 April 2021 12:40
‘My coaching methods second to nobody’, says Jose Mourinho

Daniel Levy purposely went to Goodison Park on Friday, partly to finally convince himself whether it was really over.

The signs had been going that way for some time. More of the players had been talking up. Harry Kane - who had been one of the few remaining players positive towards Jose Mourinho - had declared his desire to leave. The fan response was almost unanimous.

The performance against Everton, in a hugely fortunate 2-2 draw, confirmed what many had warned Levy about.

Something had to change.

So, just as football moves into a new era amid the sensational announcement of ‘The Super League’, one of its “founder members” becomes the latest to declare Mourinho old news.

This is not the time to be on the wrong side of history, to be on the outside looking in.

The issue for the Portuguese is that had been precisely the problem with his management. It had been left behind, with every job ultimately seeing a pronounced decline in effectiveness and performance.

After Manchester United were the first club that saw Mourinho fail to win a league title, Tottenham are the first where he fails to win any trophy at all.

Many might quip that’s what Spurs does to you, but this is now what Mourinho does to teams. Any magic is gone.

It sums it all up that Spurs ultimately think they have a better chance of winning Sunday’s Carabao Cup final without him.

That might seem particularly callous timing. Some players would argue it’s precisely the attitude Mourinho would take himself.

Sources say the squad hadn’t gone into open rebellion yet, precisely because they wanted a chance of playing in the final. The unrest among the players was nevertheless unmistakeable. Even a figure as affable as Son Heung-min had grown weary of his “games”. It could all be seen in actual performances.

It could be seen in all the usual steps of the Mourinho end-game, that Levy had been warned about.

There was the unprecedented drop-off in results. Check.

There was the severe public criticism, that verged on the personal. Mourinho didn’t just seem to be questioning errors or performances, but also the very character and ability of his players. Check.

There were the drastic team selections, one of his few remaining responses to poor results, that still proved ineffective. Players were left baffled as they would suddenly be left out, called back in, or asked to play in a role they weren’t really familiar with. Check.

The treatment of Toby Alderweireld is said to have been a touchstone example. It caused some of the most corrosive problems.

Mourinho is known to have become enraged by some of the coverage, although the Belgian was just baffled by how he’d been managed.

This was another step - the Portuguese appearing to become more concerned with his public reputation than winning football matches.

It was as if he would set up teams to just try and defend points, rather than go and win.

It is no coincidence that many teams - Newcastle United being a prime example - were enjoying their best attacking displays of the season against Mourinho, as his Spurs began to make teams look good. It was all a world away from Mauricio Pochettino, and players are said to have fallen back on some of the attacking moves they had planned under the Argentine.

That’s how bad it was in terms of tactics, with Mourinho leaning his approach on the weakest area of the team. It could be said that’s inexplicable, but that is just the Portuguese’s nature.

It is dictated by caution and the football approaches of 15 years ago. Levy can’t say he wasn’t warned.

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho

The Spurs chairman inexplicably described Mourinho as one of the “two best managers in the world” in that Amazon documentary that represents something else now standing as an irrelevant relic.

Levy’s view was one that no one in football shared at that point, but the Spurs executive had seemed entranced by him. Many saw it as a “vanity appointment”. It all ended up rather ugly, not least the football, that has led to a sacking before a cup final.

They really shouldn't have sacked Pochettino for this, but Spurs will now look to another model, with Julian Nagelsmann the prime target, and figures like Brendan Rodgers idealised. They all play a more advanced form of football than Mourinho.

Whatever about old news, there is also the symbolism that his departure ended up as sideline news. It is the equivalent of David Cameron resigning on the day Brexit was voted through, relegated in many dispatches.

There is a new world to be looked at. It will surely burn Mourinho’s sense of pride that he is excluded from it.

It is just telling that there isn’t a club among the Super League 12 that would now consider him.

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