Mourinho, Herrera and Leadership

Jose Mourinho... in the news for all the wrong reasons.-AP

Jose Mourinho has seldom been a good loser. Chelsea started the season as strong favourites to win the Premiership. But now there seems to be a cold wind closing around Stamford Bridge, and something strange going on in the psyche of Mourinho himself. By Brian Glanville.

Days after his explosive response to his blameless medical team, the Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho refuses to back down. They were not used against Manchester City, but things could change in the future as it seems that he has come down to earth. A stem of angry protest from medical experts and authorities greeted his fulminating tirades against the club doctor Eva Carneiro and the senior physiotherapist Jon Fearn for daring to treat the prostrate attacker Eden Hazard in the very last moments of injury time against Swansea City at Stamford Bridge. Television footage showed that from his seat on the bench there had poured forth a torrent of expletives.

The score at that moment was for Chelsea a disappointing 2-2; they were reduced to 10 men, their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois having been sent off for a “could be on the edge of his box” foul, conceding a penalty; from which Swansea had scored.

In normal circumstances it might have been thought that Mourinho, never averse to pleading injustices by referees, might have concentrated on that somewhat ambiguous incident but untypically he refused to discuss it and instead inveighed against the hapless Dr Carneiro, a pretty Gibraltarian, who in fact had been in office when Mourinho returned to The Bridge to take charge.

Logically and morally, Mourinho didn’t, surely, had a leg to stand on. In the first instance Carneiro and Fearn, as he claimed even in his later Press conference, were not remotely impulsive. They were called on by the referee, apparently at the behest of the player himself. In the event it transpired that Hazard, who to the fury of Mourinho then had to go off the ground, was not severely injured, though of course it meant that in these concluding minutes of injury time Chelsea were reduced momentarily to nine men. The rules in such instances are beyond dispute. The competent Carneiro had no alternative than to get on to the field.

If anybody had been impulsive, not to say irrational, it was surely Mourinho, and at least one leading sports columnist speculated on his current psychological condition. “Sources at the club say he has been in a foul mood for some weeks now, berating staff members, barking at players, and working them hard even by his own demanding standards… a smouldering, seething Mourinho is nothing particularly new to seasoned observers of the often petulant Portuguese. Particularly, when a poor pre-season is followed by a performance as unimpressive as last weekend’s.” Mourinho gave his players a couple of days off after the draw with Swansea, but worked them exceptionally hard in training when they returned.

Abdul Baba Rahman, the promising Augsburg left back, and Barcelona forward Pedro are just about the only valid acquisition Mourinho has made this summer for his squad. I do not count the ever expensive Colombian striker Falcao as any kind of bargain. Paid around a quarter of a million pounds a week at Manchester United, where he looked a busted flush, still far from getting over the severe injury which kept him and his goals out so long, he has cost Chelsea less — though still plenty — now that his loan from Monaco has been extended to them, but it still looks like very bad business to me.

His fleeting appearance, as a substitute, has given no suggestion that he is on the way to his old prolific best. As for Petr Cech, the giant Czech veteran keeper, Mourinho made no secret of his desire to keep him, even as back up for Courtois. The last thing he wanted to do was to see Cech sold to their London rivals Arsenal, but for his part Cech didn’t want to move his family out of England and as we know the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich, went over Mourinho’s head and facilitated the move to the Gunners.

It might have been some slight consolation to Mourinho after Arsenal had, following endless defeats, at last beaten Chelsea to the Community Shield at Wembley with Cech dominant in goal, that at Arsenal’s first home match at home to West Ham in the Premiership, Cech so untypically should have blundered on both Hammers’ goals. But Mourinho has seldom been a good loser. He seems still to have bitter memories of Chelsea’s defeat to Liverpool in that second European Cup semifinal at Anfield under Rafa Benitez, when Mourinho insisted that Liverpool’s winning goal had never crossed the line. This perhaps was arguable, but beyond doubt a Liverpool attacker was fouled in the box in that frenetic action and a penalty could certainly have been given.

The late Hekebui Herrera, an Argentine brought up in the slums of Casablanca, a competent footballer, which Mourinho never was, a flamboyant but successful manager with Barcelona and Inter. He was known to be a tyrant like Mourinho.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

As for the Wembley defeat, it was surely crass of Mourinho afterwards to criticise Arsenal of allegedly after scoring, placing the emphasis on defence and counter attack. I couldn’t help remembering the words of that ever combative Liverpool manager Bill Shankly. He said after his team had been thrashed in Amsterdam in a European Cup tie by Ajax, “It’s terrible to see a team playing at home go so defensive,” he declared. Ajax, in fact, had won 5-1.

Chelsea were anything but impressive on their pre-season tour of the USA, even losing to the New York Red Bulls and having initially been made strong favourites to win the Premiership, as they did with such ease last season, there seems to be a cold wind closing around Stamford Bridge, and something strange going on in the psyche of Mourinho himself. Unquestionably a great manager as he has proved in his native Portugal, Italy and Spain, but the Carneiro affair seems worryingly symptomatic. Of what we can only guess.

Mourinho’s behaviour sometimes calls to mind the explosive career of the late Helenio Herrera, an Argentine brought up in the slums of Casablanca, a competent footballer, which Mourinho never was, a flamboyant but successful manager with Barcelona and Inter, a highly paid manager at Roma.

At Barcelona, before a European Cup match there was a pseudo religious ritual in which the players were whipped into a transport of emotion, finally touching a football and swearing the Cup would be theirs.

At least Barcelona played exciting football. But when Herrera left there for Inter it was catenaccio and massed defence, goals scored on the breakaway.

A tyrant but a successful one. Mourinho is far more likeable, but what next?