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Is Jose Mourinho still the special one?

Jose Mourinho

So, according to the man himself, Jose Mourinho will soon be back in football management. Moreover, he’s apparently already chosen his next club, after rebuffing the advances of Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas.

A person whose ego really does know no bounds, he’s a manager who has failed in the last two jobs he’s been in, leading us to question just how special the ‘Special One’ still is. Let’s be honest. He talks a good game. As a TV pundit he is engaging, witty and acerbic. Just what you want from your analyst. After all, no one likes a wallflower.

But his bread and butter is in the dugout, and it’s there where he should be doing his best work, not in front of a TV audience of millions. When Lyon sacked Sylvinho after a string of poor results, Mourinho seemed an obvious choice for a replacement. He was available for a start.

Jose had espoused many times since his departure from Manchester United that he would wait for a club that “understands there is a structure in place.” In plain English, one where he’d be given carte blanche to run the team as he saw fit, without interference from above.

“I don’t want an internal conflict, I want internal empathy.”

He also noted that any potential new employer had to share his ambitions of success, even if they weren’t quite at the level he required of them at the time he was prepared to assume the hot-seat.

Lyon are the proverbial sleeping giant in France, but this season they’re way off the pace and are currently sat in 14th position in the Ligue 1 table. Ideal for Mourinho to have come in and shook things up a bit. Right club, wrong time.

That’s what he does though. Shake things up a bit. And not always in a good way either. There’s only so long you can dine out on past successes before you begin to sound like yesterday’s man. For the 56-year-old has lost quite a bit of his lustre.

The cocksure demeanour might be just about intact, but the orations that once held a room full of media in his thrall have been replaced by the meanderings of a tired old has been.

One can only infer what it must be like having to listen to it in the dressing room. Football has changed. Footballers have changed.

Although it’s only been 15 years since he uttered the immortal words; “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one,” the manner in which the game has moved on is beginning to leave people like Jose Mourinho behind.

Clearly, he still has cachet, at least for those clubs willing to offer him employment. Players talk, boards listen, and there have been many of the former that have spoken openly on how brilliant Mourinho’s training sessions are and how he inspires them to go to war for him.

Less ready to come out to the press are those players who dare to question Mourinho’s way of doing things. Paul Pogba stuck his head above the parapet, and though his spat with Jose eventually saw the latter’s removal, the Frenchman hasn’t really come out of the situation smiling either.

In any event, that takes focus away from the fact that Mourinho hasn’t been really special since leading Real Madrid to the La Liga title in 2012. A number of records were set that season but within a year he was gone.

No longer able to motivate his players, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas were three dressing room heavyweights to criticise his managerial style. Poking Barcelona coach, Tito Vilanova, in the eye didn’t endear him to supporters from the Catalan club or Real either, though it kept him in the spotlight.

And there’s the rub. He loves the limelight, but can’t stay in it long enough for the right reasons. A Premier League title at Chelsea (2015) was won in spite of him not because of him, and in his third season he was gone within seven months of lifting the trophy.

Manchester United might well have expected much more than they eventually got, and an EFL Cup and Europa League title notwithstanding, history repeated itself for the third consecutive occasion. Three years and out.

It’s blindingly obvious that his overly defensive tactics, that rely heavily on the physical aspects of the game, are rooted in a different era.  Players that prefer to express themselves within the team dynamic have often been publicly torn off a strip by Mourinho too.

What does it all mean? No real extended periods of success recently… managing by fear and intimidation to cover his own shortcomings? That isn’t really special at all.

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