Mourinho too timid to match Fergie

Jose Mourinho... a graceless loser?-AP ?

We could pick holes in Jose Mourinho's character all day but it is the lack of courage in his footballing tactics that marks him down as a man who would struggle to fill Alex Ferguson's chair, writes Frank Malley.

A lot of people would welcome back Jose Mourinho to the English Premier League.

Some argue it has missed his colourful presence. Some, Chelsea fans predominantly, believe it needs his winning mentality.

Others, mainly in the media, miss the easy quotes and ready storylines that come with a character who is a walking, talking, squabbling, posturing blend of arrogance and charm.

Yet a lot of people would be wrong. The Premier League is better off without Mourinho. All the evidence to support that statement was demonstrated before, during and after Real Madrid's 2-0 semifinal first leg defeat at home to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League when Mourinho proved he is not fit to take the job he covets, namely succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson as manager at Manchester United.

Okay, Mourinho's apologists will say, what was so different about his behaviour to that of Ferguson?

After all, Ferguson regularly indulges in mind games, just as Mourinho did when he launched a calculated attack on Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola for ‘criticising correct decisions of referees' in the pre-match press conference.

Ferguson is no stranger to being sent from the touchline as Mourinho was at Bernabeu. In fact, Ferguson has only just completed a five-match touchline ban.

Neither is Ferguson averse to a conspiracy theory, although Mourinho's post-match assertion that Barcelona receive favourable treatment from referees and that the club had yet to win a “clean” Champions League title under Guardiola was clearly risible.

Mourinho is a graceless loser, but he is not alone in a profession in which good losers invariably find themselves queuing at the jobcentre.

We could pick holes in Mourinho's character all day but it is the lack of courage in his footballing tactics that marks him down as a man who would struggle to fill Ferguson's chair.

Could you imagine Manchester United fans, weaned on swashbuckling football, standing for their manager playing what amounted to a 4-6-0 formation at home in the most important match of the season? No, neither can I.

True, Barcelona are the world's best footballing side without question. But Real Madrid have attacking players, too, players of pace and imagination in the finest traditions of the club that once dominated Europe.

For much of the semifinal Mourinho kept them on a chain, like guard dogs, snapping and yelping at Barcelona's talent but yanked back sharply if they dared venture as far as the halfway line. A goalless draw the pinnacle of their ambition.

Where is the style in that? Where is the recognition of a great club's principles? Where is the duty to the game of football? Where is the honour? The truth is there was none.

Make no mistake, while Barcelona are not averse to a spat, Mourinho was the architect of a squalid, tetchy, ugly match that contained so much that brought shame on football.

How stark, too, was Mourinho's pragmatism when set against the beguiling individualism of Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Is Messi the best footballer who ever lived? Gordon Strachan, commentating for television, believed he was after seeing him score both Barcelona goals, the second in the finest dribbling traditions of his Argentine predecessor Diego Maradona.

Such comparisons are unscientific and largely meaningless. What is beyond doubt, however, is that Messi plays the game with a verve and a bravery and a magic that is unparalleled.

There is no over-elaboration or selfishness in the manner of Real's Cristiano Ronaldo. Messi is the ultimate team player as well as the sublime individual. It is a potent blend.

The Premier League would be fortunate and proud to have him. Could the same really be said of Mourinho?

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