| 2.4°C Dublin

comment The once-mighty and cocky Jose Mourinho increasingly resembles yesterday’s man


Tottenham's manager Jose Mourinho

Tottenham's manager Jose Mourinho

Tottenham's manager Jose Mourinho

Like a DVD fundamentalist thrashing about in a digital world, Jose Mourinho looks ever more floored and anachronistic, a citizen of a lost football age.

Mourinho clings to his Xtra-Vision loyalty card long after the rest of the planet has moved on to Netflix.

Even as the shutters come down on the Special One School of Coaching Philosophy, the Portuguese rails against all notions that the marketplace in which he was once the alpha male has been transformed beyond all recognition.

"My coaching methods are second to nobody else in the world," offered the Premier League’s Comical Ali last weekend, even as the bailiffs tossed the last time-expired Chelsea Golden Years Blu-rays onto the skip.

His thesis that he remained cutting edge could not have seemed more like an exercise in slapstick had he taken out one of those ancient, concrete-block sized analogue Nokia phones and offered to call Jimmy Hill for corroboration.

In a rapidly changing world, Mourinho is paying a heavy price for what is either a stubborn unwillingness or, more alarmingly, an inability to adapt.

Next to the modish doctrines peddled by Pep Guardiola, Hans-Dieter Flick, Thomas Tuchel and, even if he is enduring a nightmare run, Jurgen Klopp, Jose appears like a flat-earther, a climate-change denier.

Spurs, despite having at their disposal an advanced precision nuclear warhead called Harry Kane, have the rag-tag appearance of an army so shrunken and devoid of a lucid battleplan that they might be inclined to retreat in panic if confronted by a single platoon of the FCA.

Mourinho’s deeply-ingrained adversity to risk-taking, the tactical straitjacket in which he uniforms his teams has not just fallen out of fashion: It is unfit for purpose.

The numbers do not lie.

Tottenham are spinning in a no-man’s land 23 points below Guardiola’s imperious Manchester City. The gulf to smaller, streamlined Leicester is 13, while, in the wake of Sunday’s humiliating loss to David Moyes in the battle of the Old Trafford coaching flops, they sit nine behind West Ham.

Even Liverpool, last year’s imperious champions having suffered a spectacular engine failure to rival that of the 777 over Denver, one that has reduced them to a titan in turbulent freefall, remain at a higher altitude to nose-diving Spurs.

Five Premier League defeats in their most recent six games, averaging a goal every two hours in that downward half-dozen game lurch, have reduced the Londoners to mid-table irrelevance.

Scarcely 20 months after basking in the sodium glow of the Champions League final spotlight, Tottenham’s points total is closer to doomed Championship-bound West Brom than Guardiola’s weightless, thrilling force of nature.

What is for this that Daniel Levy cut down Mauricio Pochettino and recruited the one time master of the earth?


Jose Mourinho won the Premier League three times during two spells at Chelsea (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Jose Mourinho won the Premier League three times during two spells at Chelsea (Rebecca Naden/PA)

Jose Mourinho won the Premier League three times during two spells at Chelsea (Rebecca Naden/PA)

The tiny consolation prize of a League Cup final – where City lie in wait – or their continued involvement in the unwieldy and largely ridiculous Europa League cannot silence a growing and pitiless consensus.

It is the one announcing that Mourinho increasingly resembles yesterday’s man.

Only in his capacity for spin and self-delusion, his refusal to face-up to his own inadequacies, his shameless attempts to deflect blame and to present his clueless, incoherent fumbling as something other than catastrophic, does Jose embrace the post-Covid age.

He is the Premier League’s Stephen Donnelly: Bouncing around on his trampoline, lost in his own conceits, making loudhailer proclamations about his eminence, oblivious to the fact that, in the eyes of his vast audience, he is the definitive portrait of a man who is not up to his brief.

There is, of course, a marked difference with Ireland’s embattled Health Minister: Mourinho was once truly great, a Caesar of the dugout who ruled a world he bestrode like a colossus.

Eight league titles in four countries, a brace of Champions League masterclasses with Porto and Inter, Jose was a coaching chameleon who could effortlessly change appearance to suit the requirement: the charming matinee idol one moment, the ruthless game-changer the next.

A bottomless well of tactical innovation, he could stare down the best that Ferguson, Wenger or Guardiola had to offer.

But the chameleon has lost the ability to change colour at will. He has fallen into a monochrome slump, relentlessly grey, the narrowing dimensions of his world drably shaded.

Mourinho’s uber-conservative, one-dimensional approach no longer appears fit for purpose.

Contemptuous of calls to adapt, he has made no effort to attain even a moderate fluency in the new languages of tactical innovation.

The old Caesar fiddles - and proclaims his enduring magnificence - as his empire burns. And so, Nero is reduced to zero.

When the crowds eventually return to the brilliantly reimagined White Harte Lane, it might be to find Kane has left the building or, is, at least, in the process of packing his bags.

At 27 and in the prime of his athletic life, he has carried Tottenham this season: Despite the evident restrictions of Mourinhoball and a recent injury absence, only Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandes have scored more EPL goals.

Kane’s game has evolved, the Englishman taking up deeper positions and spraying the battle around like a 21st century Glenn Hoddle. Remarkably he leads the Premier League in assists, ahead of Kevin de Bruyne and Fernandes.

Yet Mourinho’s watchful approach has reduced Kane to a bystander in the Premier League battle, his prospects of Champions League football in 2021/22 dependent on Spurs winning the Europa League. Or a transfer.

Once this season limps to a conclusion, Mourinho will be facing into a seventh season since his most recent league title and a 12th since he stood atop the Champions League summit.

He is living on the fumes of the past.

Mourinho’s functional approach (a football euphemism for a style that saps the will to live) might be tolerable if it guaranteed success.

But he is failing at Tottenham even as his outdated low-octane, football-as-sedative approach sends the disciples of the glory game into a catatonic sleep.

His football is bankrupt of both style and substance. His approach to his chosen code summoned from the Jurassic age.

As the rest of the world tunes into Netflix, the best Jose can do is offer Spurs fans a take-it-or-leave-it membership to the last Xtra-Vision store on the planet.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Online Editors