He is known as “the Special One”, a derivative adaptation of his first press conference at Chelsea wherein he introduced himself with, “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European Champion and I think I am a special one.” As a player, he was not special in any respect, but as a manager he is what he said. Earlier today his Real Madrid team won La Liga, giving him seven league titles in four countries. He has lifted the Portuguese Cup, The FA Cup, The Tim Cup and The Copa Del Rey (before Sergio Ramos dropped the damn thing). He hoisted the now defunct UEFA Cup and twice the Champion’s League trophy. In total, he has won 19 trophies, and didn’t lose a league home game in a 150 matches over a 9 year span.
The story is the manner in which all of this has been accomplished. Mourinho’s first significant break was serving as a tranlator for Sir Bobby Robson at Sporting in Portugal. He followed Robson to Barcelona where his developing tactical acumen complimented Robson’s man management. Mourinho survived Robson at Barca and retained a similar position with Dutchmaster Louis Van Gaal. Soon he reached the dilemma of all assistant coaches, the learning curve is complete and there is nothing left, but to do.
Mourinho returned to Portugal initially as an assistant at Benfica, and was promoted to manager during the season. Mourinho’s Benfica was a success on the field, but internal politics went against him. He selected his own assistant over the board favorite of whom he said, “This could be the story of a donkey who worked for 30 years and never became a horse.” On the heels of an election unseating the President that hired him, Mourinho demanded a contract extension and was turned down. He resigned immediately.
His first full season as manager was at Uniea De Liera whom he promptly guided to a fifth place finish in the league, their best ever. He moved to Benfica rival Porto, and in his two full seasons won the Portuguese Cup, the league twice, the UEFA Cup and The Champion’s League. Porto had never won The Champion’s League, but did so under Mourinho with a budget 1/10th that of Man United and other rivals. This was Gordan Hayward’s half court shot falling at the buzzer to beat Duke. From this period, two trademark Mourinho quotes stand to represent his supreme confidence, “The only thing that I want to say is that we are the best ones and in normal conditions we are more than the best ones. In normal conditions we will be champions. In abnormal conditions we will still be champions.”, and his sense of provacation by media, “I understand why he [Alex Ferguson] is a bit emotional. He has some top players in the world and they should be doing a lot better than that….You would be sad if your team gets completely dominated by opponents that have been built on 10% of the budget.”
At Chelsea, he became “the Special One” ending a 50 year title drought and winning the FA Cup with a sturdy pragmatic team who’s core has again reached the Champions League final this spring. Despite an acrimonious departure, Mourinho remains the standard by which his six Stamford Bridge successor’s are measured.
In 2008, Mourinho took over at Inter winning the Scudetto in his first season with an elderly team incapable of playing his favored style. The following season, he made substantial changes to the roster and won the Treble (the Scudetto, the Tim Cup and his second Champion’s League). It was his second career Treble and Inter’s first Champion’s League in 38 years.
For the last two years, Mourinho has stalked, prodded and now finally beaten the juggernaut that is Barcelona, quite possibly the greatest team in the history of football.
He is the quintessential cult of personality manager. He has seemlessly transitioned through club and country cultures across European football’s biggest stages. He has adroitly used the media to insulate his players, provoke his opponents and purvey his legacy. His tactics, criticized as negative or bland, have adapted to suit his available talent and trouble his opponents. His player management has elevated many players to the best form of their career, and garnered their enduring respect and gratitude. For all of the above, he is loved and hated, and for all of the above he should be respected.