I think it’s safe to say that Jose Mourinho, whose departure “by mutual consent” was announced by Florentino Perez yesterday in a press conference on Real Madrid TV, was not universally liked in his time there. Graham Hunter’s particularly nasty epitaph is currently the lead at ESPNFC, in which he buries the Portuguese manager with quite a bit more sand than dirt:
Sendings off, insults, bullying journalists. Refusing to even go up to accept his loser’s medal from King Juan Carlos on Friday. Refusal to fulfill his club duties and communicate to the media on a regular basis. The coward’s finger poked in Tito Vilanova’s eye. The crowd booing and jeering him.
Set against one Copa del Rey and even what was a memorable, admirable league title in 2012, the balance is excessively negative.
Well, yes. Jose Mourinho can be quite the jerk. But it’s not as if this unfortunate personality trait was some sort of poison pill when Mourinho was first given a heap of money to join Madrid. Mourinho was a jerk at Inter where he lifted the European Cup, and he was a jerk at Chelsea where he won two back-to-back league titles, the club’s first in fifty years. Real Madrid knew this, and yet hired him anyway. Why? Because he’s a jerk who wins things. And when he doesn’t win things, he gets consistently close to winning things in a way that, in sporting terms, is fairly unheard of. Like three Champions League semifinals in a row.
Hunter’s other points are well-taken but maybe overstated. The charge that his approach exhausts players isn’t borne by Chelsea, who went on to ably win another league title under Carlo Ancelotti within a mere two years of Mou’s departure. And while it’s true that Mourinho didn’t get on well with his individual charges like Iker Casillas and now Pepe, the players must bear at least some of the responsibility for undermining a manager they didn’t like, in a club with a pro-player culture backed by a pro-player domestic tabloid media.
Oh, and yes, those italics up there are mine. Mourinho bullied journalists. Notoriously so. And here is where I believe Mourinho did fail, and where he might learn something from Borussia Dortmund’s coach Juergen Klopp, whose magnificent interview in the Guardian will stand for a long time as a wonderful testament to one man’s love of the game. When asked to explain why Mario Goetze wanted to leave such a tight-knit club, Klopp responded with this gem:
“It’s absolutely normal that people go different ways. At 18 I wanted to see the whole world. But I am only in Mainz and Dortmund since then and … [Klopp laughs] it’s not the middle of the world. It’s OK that they want to go to different places. But they get there and, shit, it’s not the same. Look, you work for the Guardian, and sometimes you see your colleagues and think: ‘Oh no, the same old thing every day.’ Maybe you want to go to the Sun? More money, less work. More photographs, [fewer] words.”
An analogy crafted for journalists. Empathy. Klopp reveals he’s has regular phone chats with Mourinho, and if the manager wants some advice from Kloppo he’d do worse than to pick up on his approach to the media. While the Ferguson method when dealing with journalists worked well for him (they fawned over him even as he told them to eff off or banned them from asking questions), Mourinho doesn’t have Ferguson’s gift of words or aura of invulnerability.
In any case, a softer touch with the assembled press might do wonders in preventing players from approaching them to peddle their every little grievance. A little love mixed in with the respect and fear among his players might give them second thoughts when things don’t go their way. Just an idea, of course.