Archive for the ‘Jose Mourinho’ Category

Chelsea/Jose Mourinho Press Conference

Sitting there, I felt my eyes drying out, one molecule at time. My back and shoulders had slowly tensed and the dull, unrelenting pain of it nagged away at my consciousness, allowing no other thoughts in except: ‘Let me get out of here; I’ll do anything to be able to get out of here; why won’t you plleeease let me leave?’ And then, dear reader, I realized I wasn’t actually at Manuel Pelligrini’s first press conference as Manchester City manager, I was merely watching it on TV.

In what I feel comfortable in saying was the greatest moment in my life so far, I turned the TV off—the joy at being able to do so matched only by the joy at being able to turn it off a second time, after I’d turned it back on again, just to be able to turn it off. I repeated this process for hours, blissfully unaware of the growing pressure to stop from other people in the bar.

Partly, I think, the problem with these press conferences is the summer. Though we all heard about the international football being played a few weeks ago via the mass protests which surrounded it (a little harsh on the Spanish national side, I agree, but their time has come and the people of Brazil were right to express frustration), I am not yet ready to accept that anyone watches international football. And though there are the daily transfer rumours to get through as well, as far as I know or am inclined to find out, mainstream European football stops during the summer. Which leaves a void.

This summer, the most convenient answer to The Void has been ‘unveiling the new manager’ press conferences. Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, David Moyes at Manchester United and Manuel Pellegrini at City. Others may have occurred also, but it is hardly my fault if they failed to gain my attention.

You end up watching these non-event events out of necessity, not out of love. They were designed for reporting on by journalists, and now they appear on our TV screens because 24 hour sports news channels have minutes to fill and we have lives to live out. It’s a bad start in any relationship. Because yes, necessity is the mother of invention, but it also gave birth to monotony and resentment.

And we’re then stuck watching something which is innately dull. The purpose behind unveilings is, helpfully, in the title: they’re about unveiling the new manager. In terms of offering up entertainment, I hope you can see the flaw in this already. If Manchester City tell us that Manuel Pelligrini is their new manager and that really is all they want us to know, watching an hour of Manuel Pelligrini rephrasing the idea that he is Manchester City’s new manager will clearly not be a joy to watch—his way with words aside.

What’s more, I come with bad news: the more the non-event events are covered, the more precise an art they become, and the duller they become. The guy with the new job just reads a script. “”I know the last two years were not very good in the Champions League and I will try to improve that. That’s not the only thing, though, and I will try to get another Premier League title,” said Pelligrini, pointing out absolutely nothing. “I was shocked but also incredibly thrilled that I was given the opportunity to manage Manchester United,” said David Moyes, though of course what he meant to say was “nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing.”
We are watching middle-aged men reading out pre-prepared scripts designed specifically to be monotonous. These are our lives.

But I understand it. Oh, I understand it. We all know why we keep thinking it might be good. Jose Mourinho, Version One: The Special One Press Conference. “Please do not call me arrogant,” he said. Remember? Of course you do, you’re probably breathing heavily already. “Because what I say is true,” he went on, whilst many of us went for a cold shower. “I’m European champion, I’m not one out of the bottle, I think I’m a special one.” That was Mourinho’s first Chelsea press conference and, if we’re honest with ourselves, that is the reason—the only reason—why we could ever expect anything good to come of one of these things.

But look. Even the man who said those words back then wouldn’t say those words now. “”I’m the happy one,” was what he offered this summer, a watered-down parody of the original incident that has turned out to be singular exception in an otherwise all-conquering rule: managers being unveiled is not interesting.

Moyes, Mourinho and Pelligrini represent big new changes at big old clubs. Exciting things might happen whilst they are in charge of those clubs. But announcing their arrivals, and telling us what’s happening on their lucrative tours for that matter, is really, really boring. Either change the script or change the channel.

*And yes, if you want to read this entire piece as an excuse for the standard of coverage of these press conferences, by people like me, then you are free to do so. And also correct.


Jose Mourinho used to make you feel more alive. When he shushed Liverpool fans at the League Cup final, or did the handcuff gesture, or ran across the Camp Nou pitch, he occupied the particular moment he was in so precisely as to make everyone watching believe, like him, that there was only the now, nothing before or after—past and future would have been invited to leave without a fuss, had they been considered at all. In his re-unveiling as Chelsea manager yesterday his message was slightly different. ‘Death is coming, death is coming’ he repeated, over and over again.

Okay, it was in the subtext, but it wasn’t very deep in the subtext. One journalist asked early on about the differences between his first press conference as Chelsea manager and his second first press conference as Chelsea manager: Mourinho’s response began with pointing out that he’d recently turned 50. Everything he said, like everything he’s said for the past year and a bit, felt subdued, and here was his explanation: I’m getting older. Or, if you want to de-mystify it even further: I am slowly decaying, like all of us. The tone was set.

A bit later, he talked about having the “same personality” but a “different perspective”. The prizes on offer for guessing the exact makeup up of this new perspective are limited at best, because it’s obvious again: he’s realised that death is coming.

This can partly be explained by the fact that Mourinho was speaking on a Monday. No-one wants to have contact with anyone else on a Monday: that early in the week, you’ve not warmed enough to pretend that you’re not considering all the exit strategies currently available to you at this juncture (none, hence you are still around these people.) There’s good reason to believe that at different times and places this season Mourinho will put on a better show for everyone: one that doesn’t dance solely around the issue of mortality, or at the very least goes for the ‘I’m alive!’ rather than the ‘I’m a dead’ angle.

But the problem is one morbid encounter might well be enough. Yesterday Mourinho spoke about being calmer and the power of experience, or ‘death death death death’ as I heard it. What if all we can ever associate him with from now is the creeping inevitability; the slow-burn tragedy that is the fact that we’re all gunna die? He’s promised stability at Chelsea; four more years, he says: I can’t have four years’ worth of reminders that I’m not indestructible or eternal. Or that my legacy may, conversely, die even before I do.

Now for my theory. Before yesterday afternoon, I’d always assumed, like I think we all had if we’re honest, that Jose Mourinho was Jesus. There’s no shame in that—we all get tattoos we regret. But I’ve had to reconsider. I honestly think, as of yesterday, that Jose Mourinho might be Death himself. Hear me out. The mournful stares, the solemn smile, the mastery of all languages (you’d imagine Death would pick up most languages), it all suddenly started clicking: we were all sitting there watching Death being unveiled as Chelsea manager.

And then he started reeling off the names of other managers and it got worrying. He said that he regretted Alex Ferguson wouldn’t be around to face him next year: what did that mean? What could it possibly mean other than…well. He listed the names of his opponents: Manuel (Pellegrini), David (Moyes), Brendan (Rodgers), Andre (Villas-Boas) and Wenger. Why the surname for Wenger, to separate him from all the others? Do we assume that Mourinho has ‘plans’ for him too? I think it must.

If I’m right about Jose, the consequences are, it barely needs saying, multiple. Yes, multiple. First, what initially seemed like a relatively conservative managerial appointment from Chelsea—someone who’d had the job before—becomes a far bolder move. Appointing Death as your manager is a more dramatic statement than appointing David Moyes, for instance, whatever you think of either. Second, a literal interpretation of the ‘take Fernando Torres to the glue factory’ remarks has been taken on, which is to the credit of everyone involved. Third, we’re about to have to spend all season being reminded that death is coming.


What are press conferences for?

We know what they are. The anodyne Wikipedia definition is clear enough:

A news conference or press conference is a media event in which newsmakers invite journalists to hear them speak and, most often, ask questions.

One could argue that in the Age of Newspapers, press conferences provided real value to the public. After all, most households once subscribed to a single paper with its own staff of writers, editors and reporters. This made it imperative for each news organization to send their own reporter get quotes, ask questions, and file a unique story by deadline. It wasn’t redundant to have forty guys covering the same presser, because most readers had access to a single source.

It’s hard to say exactly when this began to change, but television certainly played a part. On January 25th 1961, US president John F Kennedy became the first president to hold a live televised press conference. Kennedy’s decision to read a prepared statement on the Congo and take questions from assembled reporters on TV wasn’t just a public service; as the 1960 debate with Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon demonstrated, Kennedy looked awesome on television, and that apparently mattered a great deal to voters. The press conference was a way for the president to be calm, assertive, knowledgeable, decisive, presidential.

Luckily for the press, this wasn’t a one-sided deal. In return for offering a potentially flattering platform to public officials, press conferences gave reporters an opportunity to ask prodding, uncomfortable questions, catch their subject in a lie, and try and best represent the views and concerns of reading/viewing public. The press corps got to play the part of the loyal (and rarely not-so-loyal) opposition. Press conferences became an elaborate game of one-up-man-ship, a quid pro quo arrangement which allowed democracy’s major players to look good doing their jobs.

This isn’t to say they were suddenly no longer a means to hold public officials accountable, but any actual truth to emerge was accidental to the main event: the Performance.

These Performances were, for a long time, justified because they still ostensibly provided the public with valuable information and kept public officials accountable. For a long time the media were still regarded as Fourth Estate, the last line of accountability from those in power. But with the increasing politicization and stratification of news organizations in a digital age of self-publication and live news, public trust in the media is eroding, and with it, respect for the purpose and importance of the presser.

Take for example the recent drugs scandal in Toronto involving the mayor. Large scrums of reporters insist on repeatedly asking him questions on drugs allegations they know he will not answer, and then report on this failure as “news.” This makes for okay television perhaps, but doesn’t have any purpose except to let partisans on either side draw their own obvious conclusions (“They mayor isn’t giving the liberal media the time of day,” “He’s stonewalling because he’s guilty”). Increasingly, the actual reporting takes place on the sidelines with an army of unnamed sources, an indication that many in power don’t feel any compulsion anymore to give honest answers to reporters.

In football, or sports in general, the press conference is even more removed from its original purpose. Witness Jose Mourinho’s performance today. A handful of accredited journalists attend and “live-Tweet” the proceedings in real time. There is little pretense to gleaning any interesting information from the new Chelsea manager, except for a few tidbits on player acquisitions. There are no questions on tactics. Most of the reporters ask about his priorities, his problems at Real Madrid, his ability to work with Abramovich again.

Mourinho’s answers don’t exactly jump from the page. When he first arrived at Chelsea, he called himself the Special One. Now he calls himself the “Happy One.” RT, please. How does he feel returning to a club from which he was sacked by Roman Abramovich? Well no, Mou says, he wasn’t sacked. His priority is winning trophies. He will make Chelsea champions again. He won’t play favourites with his former players. He will try to help out John Terry. He regrets not being able to face Sir Alex Ferguson once more. He didn’t damage Spanish football. He selected the players he wanted at Real Madrid based on merit.

The banal answers to broad questions didn’t matter though, because the press conference was really about celebrating/denigrating Mourinho’s personality. One reporter wrote that his “bravado” was “toned down,” and “the swagger subdued.” Another pointed out how he made a point of repeating he was “very calm” and “very relaxed.” The obvious subtext here is whether Mourinho can maintain ‘self-control’ or work on “repairing” his relationship with Roman Abramovich (the man who just hired him as manager), as if these were the things which Chelsea’s future success under Mourinho most depended on.

In the end beyond this armchair psychoanalyzing that will be forgotten in a week’s time, we learn absolutely nothing. In fact, the entire purpose of the exchange seems obscure. This is sports of course; it’s hard to tell most of the time if anyone has anything of interest to say to anyone ever. The logical question here might be, why bother? Surely asking if a manager who’s losing games is also “losing the dressing room” is a pointless exercise?

I think the answer is press conferences work best once reporters put off airs and understand that they’re an extension of football as entertainment. The tabloid press, with all their earnest, idiotic questions on wives as distractions or the desire to win seem to get this best. Beyond that, the press conference might eventually be transformed into a moment for various reporters to ask incredibly specific questions for their own targeted article, the wider public be damned.

We’ve reached peak presser, in other words. It’s hard to know where we go from here, but anywhere away from the po-faced notion that some public service is being provided by these events would be a good start.

Michael Ballack - Farewell Match

I’ve written all I can on Jose Mourinho’s record at Real Madrid, but it’s already been a bit of a challenge not to use epithets like “slobbering idiots” as I read unchecked comments on the Guardian live blog of his first official Chelsea presser like this one: “He was a complete failure in Madrid and treated everyone inside and outside the dressing room like dirt. Going back to Chelsea is cowardly. On paper he is the most successful manager probably in the last 10 years and yet the biggest institution in world football said no. That says it all.”

Mou treated “everyone like dirt”? Who? A few journalists he took issue with? A few players that were content to make their grievances known to the Spanish tabloids? The Real Madrid fans he took to the precipice of the CL final, and a league title to boot, in the same era as Pep’s Barcelona? Unfortunately, aided perhaps by a few journalists who had been personally burned by the Portuguese manager during his time there, the idea that Mourinho’s ‘failure’ at Real Madrid lingers on.

Jose Mourinho achieved a win percentage at Chelsea of 67% over 185 games. There is no one at the club who managed a similar achievement in so many matches. Ranieri’s over 200 games was 54%. Many managers with far fewer games played couldn’t come near to that achievement.

But the media (and many club presidents) measure their success in whether a manager behaves the way they like, or how many trophies they manage to win over a set number of seasons as a function of how much money they were paid. If you don’t believe me, read the pseudo-psychology passed off as commentary among those watching today’s show and tell. Mourinho seems bored, contrite, humble, his behaviour doesn’t reflect his words.

Is he an insufferable jerk whose words once hounded a referee out of a career? Absolutely. Does this make him a poor manager? Perhaps if your idea of what makes a manager good transcends the actual winning part. Maybe it does. If that’s the case, I’ve got a hundred inspiring, pitch-perfect opening press conferences for you to watch from a hundred actual failures.

The press conference means nothing. Nothing matters until the season is well underway.

From the original Special Ones (erm) FitbaThatba.

Hey now, hey now, Mourinho’s back!

Mouirnho had said earlier in the day that he would be the new Chelsea manager by the end of the week.

Ron Gourlay, Chelsea’s chief executive, said: ‘I am delighted to welcome Jose back to Chelsea. His continued success, drive and ambition made him the outstanding candidate.

‘It is our aim to keep the club moving forward to achieve greater success in the future and Jose is our number one choice as we believe he is the right manager to do just that.

‘He was and remains a hugely popular figure at the club and everyone here looks forward to working with him again.’

I have said it in the past; even after Mourinho’s departure in 2007 under acrimony and mutual distrust, Chelsea remained his team. The approach and style was squashed one way and then the other by various interlopers, but there was always a sense that Roman Abramovich hit the big time too early with Jose and was always in search of that lost magic.

The issue this time around will be whether the new charges at Chelsea will take to the man whose reputation now precedes him from his time at Real Madrid. In any case, one more reason to maintain interest in the Premier League. Mourinho in the Premier League with no Ferguson. Imagine that.

Ponferradina v Real Madrid - Copa del Rey

Just announced live by Florentino Perez on Real Madrid TV. So something everyone knew was happening is now official. The trick though is the mutual consent bit. As Rob Harris Tweeted (speculatively but this is a dirty business):

And that smacks of a gentleman’s agreement. So Mou moves on! Now all eyes on Stamford Bridge. At the risk of editorializing (ha!), I really think Real Madrid are out of the frying pan and into the fire here, but it was clear that Mourinho’s position was untenable. Good luck finding a manager that will manage his achievements with the club in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.