14 January ~ Portuguese sports daily Record played rather awkwardly on words with its front-page headline: Now he’s not only the Special One, he’s Number One. Rival A Bola did slightly better with a simple Rei Mou (King Mou) over a shot of, well, Mou fondling the new trophy honouring the FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football, his tie jauntily askew, his expression suggesting that while he might not be chucking this one into the crowd, he might have trouble finding a spot for it on the shelves in the garage.
If José Mourinho had a dewy eye at the presentation in Zürich, it didn’t come when he picked up the bauble but when he heard Wesley Sneijder bigging him up on the stage; later on they would have a moment. It was this apparently mutual respect and affinity with players that helped Mourinho to this title: his efforts with Inter (Italian Scudetto and Coppa, the Champions League) won him 35.92 per cent of the vote (from national team coaches and captains, and France Football journalists) to Vicente del Bosque’s 33.08 per cent. Of the 35.92 per cent, 12.9 was from players and 10.12 from coaches, whereas Del Bosque had 8.08 and 11.97 respectively.
He is not the best loved public figure in Portugal. His perceived arrogance (some would say clever manipulation of minds) does not always sit well. And the generally utilitarian nature of his teams is maybe not for the purist. But as football tactics guru Luís Freitas Lobo wrote in A Bola this week: “In 20 or 30 years, we’ll all remember Barcelona 2010 (like we remember Ajax from the 1970s), but no one is going to remember how Inter 2010 played. On the other hand, we’re all going to remember their coach.”
Not necessarily the best loved in Portugal, then, but certainly one of the most admired. An online poll run by A Bola showed 96 per cent of readers happy that Mourinho had won the award – surprising, perhaps, given the paper’s Benfica slant and Mourinho’s history with their arch-enemies FC Porto, notwithstanding his promising but ultimately ill-fated two-and-a-half-month spell at Benfica in late 2000.
Mourinho’s award is not going to drag this small country out of its current perilous economic situation. But for a moment this week, "Portuguese" was synonymous with "quality", and the hairs will have stood up on the back of millions of Portuguese necks as Mourinho the polyglot, no doubt pressured behind the scenes by FIFA to use English or Italian or Spanish (bow your head in shame, Luís Figo), collected his award with: “Peço desculpa por falar em português, mas sou um orgulhoso português” (I apologise for speaking in Portuguese, but I’m proud to be Portuguese). Phil Town