By Graham Gillespie
Two hundred and one years ago Napoleon made his return from a brief exile to rule over France once again and he swiftly set about trying to rectify the losses from the wars that led to his banishment. However, this spell was ill fated ending at the Battle of Waterloo having only lasted one hundred days resulting in Napoleon’s permanent expulsion from France. Fast forward to now and the French general’s spiritual successor José Mourinho looks set to make his own comeback from his brief management exile and he will be hoping his return goes more smoothly.
Ken Early once said on an episode of Second Captains that if Mourinho was born in a different era he would have been a military leader, and to me it seems the military general he most resembles is Napoleon. In many ways Mourinho and Napoleon are kindred spirits. Both of them began as outsiders with Napoleon hailing from the island of Corsica and Mourinho having never been a top level player. Also, both men’s ascents were made through ingenuity and their paths to success would not be replicated easily.
Starting out as a P.E teacher, Mourinho was not an individual who stood still. As he became translator for Bobby Robson in Portugal and at Barcelona, he also gradually got more and more involved in a coaching dimension. Mourinho could definitely argue that his achievements have all come through his hard work much like the little Corsican general who rapidly prevailed through the ranks of French military.
His lack of a playing career is not the only manner in which Mourinho can be seen as an outcast, and the other reason why Mourinho can be described as such has a lot to do with his time at Barcelona. With the Blaugrana, as Jonathan Wilson in The Blizzard writes, Mourihno was not as deeply attached to the “Barcejax” (Barcelona and Ajax) style of playing as the other coaches and players who mostly had playing experience with one of these two clubs. Like Napoleon, who was essentially an autocrat fighting for republican ideals, Mourinho found himself often in an ideological conflict with the club that fostered his coaching career.
Furthermore, following him being overlooked as Frank Rijkaard’s successor for Pep Guardiola, it seemed as if Mourinho’s whole career became about rallying against Barcelona and their ideals. Mourinho became the heretic in the “Church of Cruyff”.
As much as Mourinho’s successes are about him, the blame for his failures must also be placed upon the 53 year old himself. Another thing Napoleon placed a huge emphasis on was the idea of a meritocracy. A meritocratic system is of course is what nearly every football manager should strive for in their teams, but with Mourinho players are sometimes not given enough time to prove themselves, such as Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, or more worryingly other non-footballing factors play a role.
The relationship between Mourinho and “super-agent” Jorge Mendes has often precipitated the signing of players to Mourinho teams solely because they are clients of Mr. Mendes. Diego Torres in his book on Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid made many allusions to this type of transfer behaviour. A striking example of this from his time at Chelsea was the signing of walking medical bill Falcao who has made just ten appearances scoring a solitary goal so far in his spectacularly well compensated time at Stamford Bridge.
Despite winning league titles at both of his most recent clubs, it cannot be understated how calamitously his spells at Real Madrid and especially Chelsea ended. Mourinho’s last three months at Chelsea was less like watching a car crash in slow motion and more akin to watching an oil tanker explode at one tenth speed. Mourinho’s individual struggle was equally as enthralling and his complete loss of composure and control culminated in his attack on team doctor Eva Carneiro, and in a bizarre eight minute rant following Southampton’s dominant display over last season’s champions.
An excruciating final nail in the coffin came with Chelsea’s defeat at the hands of old adversary Claudio Ranieri and this year’s champions Leicester resulting in Mourinho’s second sacking from the south west London club. Having previously gone from in his own words “the special one” to “happy one”, the Portuguese man now finds himself at a point where his stock is the lowest it has been in over a decade and he may well mould into the “vengeful one” seeking redemption.
Whilst it does appear that after three seasons in a job Mourinho becomes weary and his methods start to become rather ineffective, José does not strike one as an individual who particularly relishes his time out of work and the spotlight that follows leaving his post. Anyone who has seen Mourinho give an interview recently will have observed dishevelled, unkempt and presumably extremely bored man who looks already totally sick of what life outside of management has to offer. The same inability to stay static was probably partially the reason why Napoleon felt convinced he constantly needed to wage war and dominate Europe, the latter something that Mourinho no doubt has aspirations to achieve once more.
Out of employment he resembles a man whose key decision of the day involves whether he should watch the Jeremy Kyle Show or Loose Women, of course that is if he manages to get out of bed in time for either of them. As much as Mourinho will have you believe that Football needs him, it appears he equally needs the sport to be truly fulfilled. The Setúbal native looks to be at his most happy and is in his element when in charge of a winning team built in his image, whilst gleefully attempting to provoke rivals to the point of outburst or breakdown. He revels in being the villain in the over the top ceaseless pantomime of the football world.
With his imminent appointment at Old Trafford, Mourinho will finally get his opportunity at one of his dream jobs after being overlooked as Alex Ferguson’s successor. Despite his clear desire for the job it is not exactly obvious whether the three time Premier League winner is a correct fit for Manchester United. Louis Van Gaal found criticism with the United faithful mainly for his style of play and it is difficult to envisage Mourinho being the individual to bring free flowing football back to the red half of Manchester.
He might not have as much leeway with the English press in the past and his allure may have depreciated to a degree but it would be foolish to write off Mourinho transforming United back into an unrelenting winning machine. José Mourinho may well flourish but if his time does goes awry at Old Trafford, his period at the club may well become his “Hundred Days”.