José Mourinho, the new man in the Tottenham hot seat, is back in the English Premier League with a point to prove.
The Portuguese is a serial winner across Europe but his reputation was badly tarnished in the final few months of his Manchester United reign, which ended late last year. The man who charmed English football when he arrived as a fresh-faced manager at Chelsea in 2004, labelling himself the “Special One”, left Old Trafford last December under a dark cloud.
Now Mourinho has a chance to prove his doubters wrong at a club without any silverware since 2008 but with a sparkling new stadium and a squad of players who reached the Champions League final in June.
“I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters,” said the 56-year-old, hours after Mauricio Pochettino was shown the door.
“The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me. Working with these players is what has attracted me.”
Mourinho’s arrival in English football from Champions League winners Porto had a seismic effect.
He put Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s billions to spectacular use to end the Arsenal-Manchester United duopoly, winning the Premier League title in his first season and repeating the feat the following year before things turned sour.
Next stop was Inter Milan, which became the first Italian side to complete the treble of league, cup and Champions League.
At Real Madrid he tussled with Pep Guardiola’s great Barcelona side, winning the league title in 2012.
He failed to lead them to European glory, although he did take them to three consecutive Champions League semifinals after six years without winning a knockout tie in the competition.
In June 2013, Chelsea appointed Mourinho — now the “Happy One” — as manager for the second time.
He won a third Premier League title in his second season in charge before a poor start to the next campaign cost him his job. Even though he failed to win the league title at Old Trafford, he still added the Europa League and the League Cup to United’s trophy cabinet.
However, in the irritable final months of his tenure there, Mourinho fell out with senior squad members, including Paul Pogba; blamed his superiors for a lack of backing in the transfer market; and oversaw a drastic deterioration in performances and results. Mourinho did little to help himself, particularly in his short-lived third season, which has become an unwanted hallmark of his managerial career.
Although he suffered damage to his reputation, the Spurs appointment shows his stock is still high, with chairman Daniel Levy hailing him as “one of the most successful managers in football”.
But he now brings baggage as well as trophy-winning nous. Will Spurs fans get to witness the “Special One” or, perhaps, the “Surly One”?
When the Portuguese joined United, there were questions about how his pragmatic approach would fit in with their famous culture of attacking football nurtured under Alex Ferguson. Those questions did not go away as he failed to recapture the Premier League title.
He will face the same issues at Tottenham, with the club wedded to a tradition of flair and exciting forward play, summed up in their slogan, “To Dare is To Do”.
Mourinho has slipped down football’s managerial pecking order in recent years, behind Manchester City boss Guardiola and Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp.
But he has been handed a golden chance to rediscover the magic formula that brought him an avalanche of honours earlier in his career and give fans the silverware they crave. — AFP