Football continues to evolve, new tactical concepts and methodologies rise to prominence, elevating their proponents to the highest echelons of the Beautiful Game. The most successful modern managers or head coaches are also impressive motivators, able inspire and command great belief in equal measure, often unquestioningly followed with an almost religious sense of zeal by their players.
Then there’s Jose Mourinho, who boasts an incredible background and track record for achievement during the early half of his illustrious career, although this once great managerial mastermind seems to have lost his way. Previously hailed and revered for his personality and undoubtedly, the aura of success following his every step, this once the iconic Portuguese coach now appears to have become the relic of a bygone age.
According to Jonathan Wilson, respected football writer and columnist at The Guardian, his capacity to inspire by charismatic authority is fading fast. Mourinho is quick to criticise everything and anyone, rather than himself, which has become indicative of a doom cycle which has grown shorter at each of his most recent clubs. Another toxic endgame could be looming on the horizon, as Roma continue to underperform under his leadership.
Rise and fall of the Special One
From the glorious achievements at FC Porto, to his arrival as the “Special One” at Chelsea in 2004, this was a man seemingly incapable of doing any wrong and loved by the media. After winning two Premier League titles and the FA Cup, plus the EFL Cup twice and the FA Community Shield, disagreements with club owner Roman Abramovich increased. The inevitable departure of Mourinho came via “mutual agreement” in September 2007.
Nevertheless, the pathway ahead of Mourinho continued to be paved with gold. This was a manager who remained at his most successful prime, still in huge demand at ambitious clubs with serious ambitions to fill their trophy cabinets. June 2008 saw the arrival of Mourinho at Inter Milan, which he still often regards as one of his favourite managerial posts. No wonder, considering his triumphant period at the club, making them the first ever treble winners in Italian football, claiming the domestic double and the Champions League in 2009-10.
Within 24 hours of that monumental achievement, Mourinho was already thinking of his next challenge and on 28 May 2010, Real Madrid announced he would be their next manager. The three campaigns in Spain may have led to the Mourinho we are more accustomed to these days, having experienced the most intense and constant pressure of his career, pitted against Pep Guardiola and the most dominant Barcelona side of all time. He departed in June 2013 with only limited success, leaving a toxic environment in his wake at the Santiago Bernabéu.
The beginning of the doom cycle
The return to England was initially met with delight from adoring Chelsea fans, although his tenure would ultimately last fewer than three full seasons. This was perhaps the beginning of what Jonathan Wilson referred to as the doom cycle, in his critique of Mourinho in recent years, which can be observed in three distinct phases. There is the honeymoon period of positivity and team building, the success of winning silverware, followed by the recrimination and rancour when things inevitably go wrong.
Mourinho won the Premier League and EFL Cup double in his second season back at Chelsea, although early in the subsequent 2015-16 campaign, everything went downhill fast. After losing 9 of 16 Premier League matches, amidst scathing criticism of his players and anyone else but himself, Mourinho was fired in December 2015. His tenure at Manchester United was almost a mirror image, winning the Europa League and EFL Cup double in his first 2016-17 season, finishing second in the Premier League and reaching the FA Cup final in 2017-18.
Then the inevitable fall came with an utter collapse in 2018-19, as Manchester United won just 7 of their first 17 games to start the campaign. The Red Devils fired Mourinho in December 2018, leaving yet another toxic atmosphere behind at Old Trafford. By November 2019 Mourinho was entrusted with taking the helm at Tottenham Hotspur, although the doom cycle was now spinning faster. After a promising start, Spurs finished the 2019-20 campaign sixth in the Premier League. 2020-21was full of promise and a good start, yet shortly before the end of the season, trophyless and with squad morale at rock bottom, he was fired in April 2021.
Jury still out at Roma
After what appeared to be a promising start, inconsistent results and frustrating displays have followed swiftly. Mourinho has already been quick to eviscerate player performances, rather than seek to motivate. The blame game once again focuses on everyone but himself, with the 58-year-old coach even directing fire at journalists and media outlets, some of whom now boycott his press conferences. Few bookmakers regard Roma as being anywhere near the top four, while many are even offering odds that his tenure won’t be lasting much longer.
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Although this would generally call into question a manager’s position, the capital club have reiterated that Mourinho will be given plenty of time to help cultivate a long term winning project—a sentiment that Roma supporters share.
Fans welcomed Mourinho with open arms when he arrived, considering him the club’s most prominent managerial coup since Fabio Capello. So despite the less than stellar results in the first half of the campaign, most Romanisti continue to support and back the Portuguese technician—fully aware that the roster still requires a dramatic overhaul.