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Jose v Bale: History suggests there will only be one winner


Jose Mourinho consoles Son Heung-min after the loss to Everton. Photo: Reuters

Jose Mourinho consoles Son Heung-min after the loss to Everton. Photo: Reuters

Jose Mourinho consoles Son Heung-min after the loss to Everton. Photo: Reuters

Jose Mourinho has built his glittering career on challenging superstars and making sure he is the biggest figure at any club he manages.

In his wake, he has left a litany of disgruntled players, casting aside some of the most talented footballers of their generation, often seemingly just to prove he can.

Gareth Bale is in danger of becoming his latest victim. Apparently brought in over Mourinho’s head by Daniel Levy in the summer, Bale has started just four matches in all competitions this season. He was hauled off on the hour mark after a flat display in the defeat against Brighton last month and hasn’t been seen since.

After Wednesday night’s enthralling 5-4 FA Cup defeat against Everton, Mourinho appeared to question the Welshman’s attitude, saying: “I would not say an injury, not at all, just some feelings he was not happy with so it was better to stay back and work with the sports science guys.”

So is there any way back for Bale? History tells us that once Mourinho picks a fight with a player, one of the two is heading for the exit door.

Mario Balotelli

Mourinho sought to nurture a young and tempestuous Balotelli during his time at Inter, but a falling-out was inevitable.

As with Bale, the primary source of Mourinho’s frustration was his attitude in training: “As far as I’m concerned, a young boy like him can’t allow himself to train less than people like [Luis] Figo, [Ivan] Cordoba or [Javier] Zanetti.”

Disciplinary issues on the pitch followed and Mourinho later declared the striker “unmanageable”. After a dramatic falling-out between the pair prior to their visit to Chelsea in the Champions League in 2010, the writing was on the wall and Balotelli was sold to Manchester City that summer.

Iker Casillas

Perhaps the most significant rift of Mourinho’s entire management career, club captain and Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas was unceremoniously dropped during the Portuguese manager’s final season at the Bernabeu.

In December 2012, Casillas was benched for a league match against Málaga in favour of the vastly inexperienced Antonio Adan, a game which Madrid would lose 3-2. Mourinho justified the decision by saying: “It’s a technical decision. The coach analyses the situation, looks at the players at his disposal and chooses his team. At the moment, for me and my coaching staff, Adan is better than Iker.”

This decision led to a civil war in the Real dressing-room, with Sergio Ramos, Pepe and other Galacticos siding with the veteran keeper over their coach. This time, it was Mourinho who was sacrificed and he was sacked at the end of the season.

Cristiano Ronaldo

As part of the collateral damage from the Casillas row, Mourinho reportedly had a behind-the-scenes disagreement with his compatriot Ronaldo.

While Mourinho was wise enough to not publicly call out the global icon while he was still employed in Madrid, Mourinho wasted no time lambasting Ronaldo as soon as he was hired by Chelsea.

“When I criticised him from a tactical point of view because I felt he could still improve, he did not accept what I had to say,” Mourinho said. “That might be because he thinks he already knows everything and the coach cannot help him grow anymore.”


Gareth Bale is facing an uncertain future at Tottenham under Jose Mourinho. Photo: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

Gareth Bale is facing an uncertain future at Tottenham under Jose Mourinho. Photo: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

Gareth Bale is facing an uncertain future at Tottenham under Jose Mourinho. Photo: Matt Dunham/PA Wire

Kevin De Bruyne

Perhaps the greatest mistake in Mourinho’s management career was his misdiagnosis of Kevin De Bruyne’s talent. During the Portuguese’s second spell in West London, he offered an incredibly short rope to the young Belgian.

After a quiet display by De Bruyne in a League Cup tie against Swindon Town, Mourinho singled him out for criticism, saying: “The next time Kevin is on the pitch, he has to think he’s playing for his next appearance. At Werder Bremen he played every game. Here he’s not playing every game.”

De Bruyne hardly featured in a Chelsea shirt again, as he was demoted to the U-21s for a few days then sold to Werder Bremen in the January of that season.

“With De Bruyne, if you have a player knocking on your door and crying every day he wants to leave, you have to make a decision,” Mourinho later said. “If you think his sale is my mistake, then it’s also my mistake that Eden Hazard is worth more than £100 million.”

Your mistake indeed, Jose.

Paul Pogba

Mourinho is not the only Manchester United manager to struggle with the mercurial Frenchman. The relationship began to break down after France won the 2018 World Cup and Mourinho bizarrely took it as an opportunity to go on the offensive.

“I don’t think it’s about us getting the best out of him, it’s about him giving the best he has to give. I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give the best. Why? Because it’s closed for a month, where he can only think about football.”

From there, Pogba was stripped of the vice-captaincy, before Mourinho reportedly chastised the midfielder in the dressing-room after a draw against Southampton: “You don’t respect players and supporters. And you kill the mentality of the good honest people around you. You are like a person with a flu, with a virus in a closed room – you pass that virus to the others.”

Eighteen days later, Mourinho was sacked.

Tanguy Ndmobele

Perhaps the one ray of hope for the ‘Gareth Bale redemption’ narrative can be found at Tottenham, in the form of record signing Tanguy Ndombele.

Ndombele was the target of frequent public attacks by the Portuguese manager. After a disappointing performance in a draw against Burnley in 2020, Mourinho said of the Frenchman: “He’s a player with great talent. He has to know he has to do much better and know I cannot keep giving him opportunities to play because the team is much more important.”

However, the tough love approach appears to be paying off. Despite Ndombele calling it “like a war in my head”, he has bounced back to become a fixture in the Spurs starting XI this season.

"It was not enjoyable of course, but it was not unmerited criticism,” the 24 year-old said.

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Online Editors