When Jose Mourinho arrived Chelsea in the summer of 2004 and announced himself as the ‘Special One”, football fans and journalists were salivating at the prospect of the drama that would follow that declaration.
Indeed the young Mourinho’s reputation was already ahead of his presence in English football. Prior to his arrival at Stamford Bridge, the then 41-year-old had made one of the iconic images to go down football history when he sprinted down the sideline near to his celebrating players, fists punching the air after his team, FC Porto scored a last-grasp goal to eliminate Manchester United in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Porto went on to lift the title that season after beating Monaco 3-0 in Germany. This admirable feat made him one of the sought after young managers at the time.
Mourinho was born José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix to José Manuel Mourinho Félix, popularly known as Félix Mourinho, and wife Maria Júlia Carrajola dos Santos in Setubal, Portugal in 1963.
Mourinho wanted to follow in his father’s footstep and joined Belenenses youth team. He graduated to the senior team and went ahead to play for Rio Ave where his father was coach as well as Belenenses and Sesimbra. But it soon became apparent that becoming a professional footballer was not his calling and he decided to focus on becoming a football coach instead.
Against his mother’s wishes, Mourinho attended the Instituto Superior de Educação Física (ISEF), Technical University of Lisbon, to study sports science. He then studied coaching courses held by the English and Scottish Football Associations before he became youth team coach at Vitória de Setúbal in the early 1990s.
However, his first big opportunity came when he took up a job as a translator for a top foreign coach Bobby Robson who had been appointed as the new manager of Lisbon club Sporting CP and needed an English-speaking local coach to work as his interpreter. Mourinho learned a great deal from Robson, following the Englishman to FC Porto and Barcelona where they won prestigious European League titles.
Mourinho’s first chance to become a top-tier manager came in September 2000 when he was appointed as a replacement for Jupp Heynckes who was sacked as Benfica manager.
After his abrupt departure from Benfica, Mourinho was appointed FC Porto boss where he won his first Primeira Liga and Champions League title amidst his memorable celebration at Old Trafford.
On 2 June 2004, Mourinho was made Chelsea boss where he made his famous declaration in a media conference, “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”
This statement resulted in the media dubbing him “The Special One.” And he went ahead to prove that he was special to Chelsea. Basking in his resounding success at Porto and strong financial backing of Roman Abramovich which enabled him to sign first class players like Tiago (£10 million) from Benfica, Michael Essien (£24.4 million) from Lyon, Didier Drogba (£24 million) from Marseille, Mateja Kežman (£5.4 million) from PSV, and Porto pair Ricardo Carvalho (£19.8 million) and Paulo Ferreira (£13.3 million), Mourinho turned Chelsea into an overnight success, helping the Blues to win every domestic league titles available.
He left Chelsea for Inter Milan where he won the Champions League with the Italian giants. Then, he moved to Spain to manage Real Madrid, again winning every domestic leagues.
However, his magic touch began to wan when he joined Manchester United and later Tottenham Hotspur which ended up getting him unceremoniously sacked. Even his return to Chelsea where he recorded his most successful managerial career, did nothing to restore his “special one” status.
Perhaps, his most glaring flaw is extreme impatience with players. The 53-year-old has no problem dumping underperforming players on the sidelines. Other managers will likely give their players second chances, like Brendan Rodgers did for Kelechi Iheanacho at Leicester City but not Mourinho. One needs to know his relationship with Andriy Shevchenko, Paul Pogba, Dele Alli, Gareth Bale, among others, to understand that patience is not the Portuguese manager’s virtue.
Regardless of his recent underwhelming managerial performances, Mourinho’s impact in the Premier League are remarkable. He trademarked the 4-3-3 formation, a far cry from what other elite clubs had done in world’s most popular league. Under Mourinho, the Blues conceded just one goal in the opening eight matches, also registering the most clean sheets and least goals against tally in Premier League history.
After Chelsea registered a record-breaking 95 points in Mourinho’s debut season, other managers began to adopt his 4-3-3 formation style which continued for over a decade. And that is not all.
Although the Premier League had witnessed an increase in foreign players, Mourinho added a slightly more continental players to English football without neglecting home football. The result was Chelsea rivals were motivated to make England stronger than ever in European leagues. More significantly, the Premier League will witness eight Champions League finalist in Mourinho’s first season as Chelsea manager.
Mourihno’s stint in the Premier League may be finished when he was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, but as long as there is Premier League, the “Jose feel” shall always remain.