Like a storm, his duration was brief but his impact has lasted long since he left.
Picture the scene; a Premier League manager is having a meeting with his assistant manager and reserve team manager. During the meeting, the chief scout enters to hand the manager a dossier on their next opponents. Now, apply that scene to Chelsea in 2006 and you have Jose Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke and Andre Villas-Boas all in the same room working for the same club. Three players who worked under Mourinho are now managing top flight clubs; let’s not also forget how he is still viewed in the Stamford Bridge dressing room. It’s quite amazing that someone who spent just three full seasons managing in England has left such a lasting impression. Like a storm, his duration was brief but his impact has lasted long since he left.
Only Alex Ferguson can match the statistic that Mourinho can boast regarding the amount of managers they can claim to have had a major influence on. While the managers who worked under Ferguson played for him, the disciples of Mourinho were his coaches. In Clark, Rodgers and Villas-Boas you have arguably the three most exciting young managers in the league; all have spent time learning from the Special One. It’s no wonder the Chelsea team were so successful! What struck me while realising this was how different the coaches are from Mourinho. I’ll take Steve Clark out of the equation here; he has only managed a few games so judging his managerial style at this stage would be very premature.
Jose Mourinho is a pragmatist, nobody can deny this. He is not afraid to change his style depending on the situation put in front of him. For me, this is the mark of a great manager. Against Barcelona (specifically at the Camp Nou) can this be seen the best; with both Inter and Real Madrid he adopted a defensive style. Striking characteristics were playing the striker on the left to pin back Daniel Alves and playing defensive players in midfield. Now, comparing this to his so called disciples is startling. Let’s start with Rodgers. He openly talks about his style of play, a style that he has tried to implement at all clubs he has managed. It would be very reasonable to say that he has a style, and he picks the players that fit his style whereas Mourinho would assess his players available and the situation they are in; only then choosing how to play. Watching a Rodgers team play, you see few characteristics of a Mourinho team and in fact it seems that Rodgers’ approach is the polar opposite of the Mourinho approach. Now let’s look at Villas Boas. His style at Porto was to pressurise the opposition by pushing the defensive line up. Trying this at Chelsea led to poor results; clearly John Terry was not suited to playing this style, however he continued to stick with his system. You can also point to his treatment of Didier Drogba and ask if Mourinho would exclude a player of his quality. You might also rightly ask the same of Andy Carroll and Rodgers. It seems that despite first appearances of these being copies of Mourinho, there can be little doubt that these are their own men.
Focusing particularly on Villas-Boas and comparing him to Mourinho, their biographies are almost copies. Winning a European trophy at Porto in a very successful period, making an expensive transition to Chelsea, Portuguese, young, speaking good English and looking pretty cool; can you tell which I’m talking about? Looking at their managerial styles draws a very different outcome. Mourinho stresses the importance of man management, having a relationship with your players and bonding with them. Villas-Boas was famously aloof and distant from the players at Chelsea, clearly not placing much value in bonding with them. Again you can look at Drogba and compare how they utilised him. Mourinho paid £24million for him and used him as the focal point of the attack, turning him into a devastating forward. Such was the different style that Villas-Boas wanted to implement that Drogba had no place in the team. Villas-Boas also marks Pep Guardiola as his idol. I find it fascinating how so many coaches can spend time with Mourinho and go onto become managers at the top level, yet can bear little resemblance to his style of management. The Special One must have had an effect; I just can’t see it yet.
I think the most famous and well documented effect that Mourinho had on English football was his effect on the playing staff at Chelsea. It was reported that Drogba cried when Mourinho left, Frank Lampard was considering joining him at Inter Milan and Terry walked into the training ground to demand that the club reconsider removing him. Still to this day, Mourinho admitted that they still call him ‘boss’. You have to draw references to the Damned United when imagining training at Chelsea whenever a new manager arrived; a few powerful figures in the dressing room not reacting well to a new way of playing and wishing that their old boss was back. These players that I reference (do I really need to name them?) were attributed to being the main reason behind the downfall of Villas-Boas. This is something that I have personally never comes across before, players still having strong allegiances to a manager who left five years ago. Clearly Mourinho is still present at Stamford Bridge; constantly hanging over the current manager and hanging in a picture frame of most players’ lockers. I never said his legacy would be a positive one!
Reportedly wanted the board to reconsider letting Mourinho go
For me, what I remember most about when Mourinho came to England (more than his ‘special one’ proclamation) was the debate over the new system he was playing. They called it 4-3-3, a system that had previously been viewed as a kamikaze ‘play-3-strikers-and-score-more-than-them’ formation. With playing Robben and Duff on the wings, Mourinho introduced a formation that was 4-3-3 when attacking and 4-5-1 when defending. This challenged the typical 4-4-2 and made nonsense of the fact that playing with one striker was negative. You may see it in different forms now, but the vast majority of Premier League teams play with one striker, two advanced wide players and three central midfielders. Call it, 4-3-3, 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1; it was brought to English shores by the Special One.
It would be very bold to say that Mourinho has had a bigger effect on the Premier League than Alex Ferguson, despite being a massive fan of his I don’t think I could say it. What I can confidently say is that I doubt Ferguson will still have a legacy in the Premiership after a period that extends to double his time in the league. You may question the extent of the effect he had on his ex-coaches who are now managers, but for me you cannot question the legacy he has left on Chelsea as well as the 4-3-3 formation. All this for a man who reigned from 2004-7 is something that astounds me. Personally, I cannot wait for him to come back and see what he does again.