Jose Mourinho: The decline of the “Special One”

17 years ago, a young dynamic manager Jose Mourinho took his FC Porto squad to battle against a ruthless Manchester United led by the great Sir Alex Ferguson. Surprisingly, the Portuguese side triumphed.

Porto won the first leg of the round of 16 tie 2-1 in Portugal, a slim advantage which meant the odds were stacked against them with United tipped to advance to the next stage. Ferguson’s mighty team were on course for victory when Paul Scholes broke the deadlock but in the 90th minute, Costinha equalised, a goal which drew wild celebrations at Old Trafford from the visitors.

Mourinho ceased the opportunity to announce himself to the world. He left his dugout, fists punching the air as he sprinted down the sideline near to his celebrating players.

Jose went on to win the 2004 Champions League trophy.

The unprecedented success opened the door for big opportunities for Jose. He was signed by Chelsea that summer, and in his first press conference he delivered the famous quote, a quote that no doubt earned him his moniker; “The Special One”.

“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”

Ferguson, Wenger and the likes could not contain the ‘Special One’ as he won back-to-back Premier League titles.

But, European success eluded Jose at Chelsea probably forcing him to leave the club in 2007.

His next destination, Inter Milan, was a surprise one. The 2020/21 Serie A winners were seen as a struggling side at the time.

However, Mourinho proved himself by winning the treble including Champions League building his side around the solidity of Maicon and Lucio, creativity around Wesley Sneijder and finishing around Diego Milito. The team, was in fact complete in all aspects.

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He replicated his famous Old Trafford result at the Camp Nou when Inter Milan eliminated Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate.

Pep’s Barca were unstoppable at the, with a young Lionel Messi playing his best football. But Jose found a way to stop them. He won the first leg 3-1 at home and lost the second leg 1-0. After the game, the Portuguese tactician described the loss at Camp Nou as the “best loss of his life” to the Italian media.

Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu was the venue for that year’s final, so Madrid fans were extremely happy when Mourinho stopped Barcelona from progressing to the final. It would’ve been heartbreaking for Madridistats to watch their arch-rivals lift the European trophy at their backyard.

After beating Bayern Munich 2-0 in the final, Jose was rewarded by Madrid with a contract. The highlight of his three year stay in Spanish capital was his rivalry with Barcelona’s Pep Guardiola.

He managed to end Guardiola’s domestic dominance in 2012. This team that year was quite stacked, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain and Mesut Ozil among others in their prime. Each game that season was an excellent demonstration of Mourinho’s devastating counter attacking football.

Unfortunately, he could not guide Madrid to the ultimate; the Champions League trophy despite reaching three consecutive semi finals.

Chelsea came calling again, so he returned to the Premier League in the summer of 2013. Mourinho brought league title back to Stamford Bridge in 2015. This time, he had Hazard as his main man with Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas in support.

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The season afterwards was unexpectedly disastrous. Jose fell from grace to grass in the space of one year as Chelsea fired him after a series of poor results.

He was offered an opportunity by Manchester United to bounce back strongly. He showed signs of the old Mourinho in his first season by winning a double, including the Europa League in 2017.

Four years on and Mourinho seems to have past his prime. He has not won a trophy since 2017, but instead has been sacked twice. His most recent sacking was handed by Tottenham Hotspur.

Nobody had imagined Mourinho would end up at Spurs but he took the job. Spurs was to many the perfect chance for the serial winner to rewrite the wrongs and prove to critics that he remains ‘Special One’.

Unfortunately, critics had the last laugh, with Mourinho sacked after just 18 months of failing to improve the team.

On Tuesday, May 4, AS Roma announced him as their new head coach. Nobody saw that coming, but it is not a surprise because Mourinho has seemingly lost the plot.

His recent failures has made him unattractive to the big boys, who have financial power to spend and buy him the needed players to compete at the top.

Roma, historically, are a big club, but currently, they are not a force to reckon with. They are a selling club, with their best players leaving for bigger clubs. 10 years ago, Mourinho would have laughed over, even being linked with such a club. But as things stand, Mourinho is desperate to save his declining career.

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Italy won’t be easy. Antonio Conte just won the league title and has what it takes to dominate that space again. Maurizio Sarri is set for a return to make the league very competitive.

This means Mourinho must rediscover himself to survive. Should he be successful, a bigger club may come knocking on his door again.

By Enoch Fiifi Forson||Ghana