THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

After José Mourinho and his Real Madrid side received hefty criticism upon their Champions League elimination at the hands of Barcelona, just how special is "The Special one?"

It has been a great month for conspiracy theorists. The death of Osama bin Laden has offered more questions than answers, the timing of the AV vote so soon after the Royal Wedding was viewed by some as a cunning Conservative ploy and José Mourinho, football's chief polemicist, has been ruminating and ranting about the injustices of the world.

Given the quality of the opposition, Mourinho's results against Barcelona in the four recent clásicos were fairly respectable. He won one, lost one and drew two. Crucially, however, his team were effectively knocked out of the Champions League in the first leg of their semi-final, against the very team Mourinho has been employed to beat. He sent his team out to defend at the Bernabéu and, although his tactics seemed to work for the first hour, Madrid crumbled to defeat after Pepe, one of his many defenders, was sent off.

Never one to blame himself or his players, Mourinho claimed his team had been cheated by refereeing decisions so one-sided they must have been concocted in alliance with UEFA – a matter that could have been influenced by Barcelona's support of Unicef. The injustice was too much for Mourinho, who camply proclaimed he was "disgusted to live in this world".

In fairness to the Special One – now renamed "the Preposterous One" by the Times' Matt Dickinson – his graceless ranting was at least in keeping with the match it described. Despite all their fine football, Barcelona's players spent much of the game diving and feigning injury in a bid to draw the inevitable red card. Dani Alves was particularly guilty, as noted by Steven Howard in the Sun: "He is a serial offender when it comes to corny death scenes that would disgrace your local amateur dramatic society."

Many viewers in England, who have never witnessed a dive, were appalled by such behaviour. Harry Redknapp deemed the match "horrible, disgraceful rubbish". Redknapp claimed he knew fans who had turned off their TVs in disgust as the game bore more resemblance to "WWE wrestling from America" than the football England gave the world. "You wouldn't see those scenes at Hackney Marshes," said a rueful Redknapp. Tony Pulis, another exponent of the beautiful game, believed that: "Both teams' attitude to the game was appalling."

The fraught nature of the match gave sub-editors the chance to include a few puns in their coverage. Hell Classico, El Crashico, El Pathethico, El Farcico and the more prosaic Shame in Spain all featured in match reports. Henry Winter of the Telegraph opted for the more refined "Antics Road Show". The newspaper columnists eschewed such flippancy, opting instead to engage in their favourite pastime: loving to hate Mourinho. Simon Barnes wrote his character assassination for the Times: "He is not a loveable eccentric or a maverick genius. He was just the loony on the Tube: change carriage at Aldgate East because he's going all the way to Barking." Chris Waddle outlined the failures of the two-time Champions League-winning coach in the People: "José is not fit to run a Sunday pub team."

Mourinho not only managed to provoke the ire of the football writers, but also some of his more esteemed colleagues. Alfredo di Stéfano, Madrid's honorary president, criticised his tactics: "Barcelona play football and dance while Madrid just run back and forth constantly, tiring themselves out. Barcelona were a lion, Madrid a mouse." Guus Hiddink was similarly withering in his assessment of Mourinho's defensive approach: "Barcelona were like the bullfighter and Madrid the rather feeble bull who never attacked." Ottmar Hitzfeld waded in with a more personal barb: "I've met him at UEFA meetings and his behaviour is faithful to his image: arrogant, haughty, chewing gum and somewhat of a boor."

Amid the acres of newsprint devoted to Mourinho, Kenny Dalglish paused to note that the manager's power of personality should not overwhelm the onfield spectacle. Dalglish was forced to acknowledge, however, that sensationalism sells: "The story of ‘Man gives money to charity' will never get as much publicity as ‘Man steals from charity'. We've all focused on the bad (Mourinho) rather than the good (Messi)." Dalglish made a sound point, but perhaps he could have chosen a more appropriate metaphor. After all, the ever-contrary Mourinho was actually taking issue with the men who give to charity.

A few writers admitted that despite Mourinho's crass pronouncements and unsporting behaviour, he is missed in the Premier League. Jamie Redknapp illuminated: "He is box office and star quality... We miss him for the column inches he fills, not his style of play." Martin Keown warmed to the theme: "Of course we would want him back – the newspapers would love it." Writing in the Sun, Steven Howard wistfully imagined the greatness Mourinho could bring to English clubs: "If José was boss of City, Arsenal of Chelsea they would win the League... What a scramble there will be when he finally decides to return to these shores."

Most reporters believe that Mourinho would like to return to England and manage Manchester United when Alex Ferguson retires. "Mourinho would clearly walk up the M6 and along the Chester Road for the chance to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United," claimed Ian Ridley in the Express. The adversarial Mourinho has never picked a fight with Ferguson, and has instead adopted a deferential tone around the man he calls "the boss" and "his only friend in football".

However, Mourinho's chances of succeeding Ferguson may now be in danger, warn some reporters. "After his semi-delusional diatribe he should stop wasting his time," said Oliver Holt in the Mirror. Sam Wallace of the Independent echoed this thought in a piece entitled After years courting United, one night of Mourinho madness has hurt his plan to follow Ferguson. United would not approve of a manager who spouts wild conspiracy theories like "a man out of control and capable of saying anything" said Wallace.

Of course, United would never employ a myopic manager so crazed by the pursuit of success that he defends his players blindly, criticises referees repeatedly, insults governing bodies relentlessly and ends up losing his dignity and watching his team play from the stands.

From WSC 292 June 2011

Related articles

Bobby Robson film offers smiles, tears and plenty of fond memories
Embed from Getty Images // Watching the elegantly put together More Than A Manager highlights why Robson was so revered by fans, players and...
Zidane: The biography by Patrick Fort and Jean Philippe
Ebury Press, £12.99Reviewed by Jonathan O’BrienFrom WSC 379, September 2018Buy the book It was often said of Daniel Passarella that...
The Duellists: Pep, José and the birth of football’s greatest rivalry
by Paolo Condo 
(translated from Italian by Anthony Wright)DeCoubertin Books, £12.99Reviewed by Paul KellyFrom WSC 372, February 2018Buy the...