Jose Mourinho was once the man whom every top club would look to, he was the saviour in his first term at Chelsea, an iconic figure in Milan and a brooding but brilliant malcontent in Madrid, yet now it seems that his days of success are finished in club football at the top level, but it’s not completely his fault.
Football in 2021 is an awful lot different to how it was when Mourinho burst onto the scene with FC Porto, winning the 2003 UEFA Cup.
He was at the peak of his powers and was wanted by clubs in strong situations: Chelsea had built a strong squad under Claudio Ranieri with Roman Abramovich’s first year of investment, he then moved to Inter where he inherited a group of mentally strong, veteran players who he could identify with, and next with Real Madrid he took on an expensively assembled squad with star players, and perhaps one of the greatest to ever play the game in Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mourinho’s success with those clubs was sensational, despite failing to win the Champions League with either Chelsea or Real Madrid, but it is the second half of his career where things have gone wrong.
Since leaving the Spanish capital, Mourinho has been the coach for a crisis, rather than the name the elite turn to in order to move to the next level.
Chelsea rehired him after exhausting all their other options, and he won another Premier League with a lot of veteran players left over from his first term.
However, his two jobs since then have been at disaster-struck clubs in Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, both looking for an enigmatic pick-me-up, but that isn’t the Portuguese coach’s modus-operandi.
The problem he finds now is fans aren’t patient enough to accept his negative football, and the style and pace of the modern game means his teams are always just soaking up pressure and waiting to concede, even against far weaker XIs.
Mourinho is still able to galvanise small sections of a club’s fanbase, who he keeps on strings waiting for the day he finally gets ‘his players’ but in 2021 that day never comes, because the players he desires make no fiscal or long-term sense.
At Manchester United he was desperate to add ageing winger Ivan Perisic, a player who in truth would have improved the first-team at the time, but not for a long period.
It would also have been dead money given the Croatian’s age, United appeased him by signing an equally ageing Nemanja Matic, but wouldn’t keep doing so.
He grew wildly frustrated at these deals not going through and would eventually create an unliveable situation where he had to leave the club.
At Tottenham he is currently in a similar situation, he isn’t happy with the defenders at his disposal, or the creativity from wide areas.
He will likely target a defender over the age of 29 and perhaps even Perisic again, but there is no way Daniel Levy will sanction deals with no fiscal upside for Spurs, especially at a time when Manchester City have such a monumental financial advantage anyway, that the likelihood of the classic Mourinho tactics bringing a league title are incredibly slim.
So, we are once again entering the end game, perhaps it will play out in the summer, when Levy won’t give Mourinho the veteran players he wants, and thus he will then sulk until his inevitable departure.
Mourinho can’t escape this cycle of working with struggling teams and then not being able to sign the older players he wants, and he now won’t ever be considered for the real top jobs which need little work to the squad because of his awful, dreary football.
Can you imagine Manchester City or PSG hiring him? No, and that’s the point. Those financial behemoths, backed by a state, have made it so to win a league title you have to be incredibly strong, and teams just aren’t willing to spend money to get to that level, at least not in the short-term.
International football is the only avenue of potential success left for Mourinho, with his in-game tactical nous likely to benefit from the nature of tournament football within the microcosm of a month with his players, but at club level, I wouldn’t bet on any more major trophies.