Jose Mourinho and the Business of Being Negative and Combative

H AndelAnalyst IIIDecember 24, 2013

MourinhoShaun Botterill/Getty Images

What is it about Jose Mourinho that causes his teams to produce and revel in an atmosphere of negativity?

This is not a reference to their preferred ultra-defensive tactical approach to games—as was seen last Monday in the Premier League Week 17 match against Arsenal and as has been displayed by most of Mourinho's teams—but rather to his players’ insidious and cynical on-the-pitch antics.

For example, Pepe deliberately, if purportedly accidentally, steps on Messi's hand during one of the El Clasico matches—an act that exemplifies the unruly and toxic behavior and atmosphere that characterized and shrouded the El Clasico matches during Mourinho's tenure as manager at Real Madrid.

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Conveniently coded by the press in the term, "mind games," it appears that this behavior is an inevitable overflow of the master's cynical nature that manifests in pronouncements that contravene conventional, communal code of behavior—which, though unspoken, are nevertheless understood by all players (the press and managers) as sacred and binding.

Thus, as part of his "mind games," Mourinho would deem it not ungentlemanly, irresponsible or an action in bad taste that does not figure in any way as an example to millions of impressionable young viewers, to poke a finger in the eye of Tito Vilanova—then assistant manager at Barcelona FC, during one of the El Clasico matches.

Such pronouncements as calling a managerial colleague a voyeur or incessantly claiming that national and international referees are against his teams—instead of pondering why his players get the red cards they often receive and deserve—are rather natural to this man. Even as claiming that a player, who has received a crunching  and potentially career-ending tackle from two of his players, and one more player, who has been taken clean off the ground by a diving tackle, are crybabies.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23:  Referee Mike Dean in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on December 23, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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This is not to mention a cynical foul in the penalty box against another player of the same team that took the feet of the player off the ground (that is, a deliberate trip), a player in control of the ball when this happens.

All of these acts the referee failed to punish appropriately, which, had they been committed against this man's team, would have been lamented over and over again, magnified upon and declared as yet another example of how the entire world is against him and his teams.

The product of this cynical bubble, a life that thrives on negativity, appears to justify the behavior.

If it is calculated to cow the referees, then it has worked twice already in the 2013/14 Premier League season. First against West Brom when his team received a phantom penalty to tie up a game they were losing and gain a point instead. Then again, when referee Mike Dean failed to award a clear penalty or send off a player who plainly deserved to be sent off for a dangerous tackle. All this in the Arsenal-Chelsea match mentioned above.

If it is calculated to deflect and hoodwink a hero-worshiping press, then the English media has fallen head over heels in love. The deal about English players versus foreign players in the face of a red-card offense was calculated for just this effect.

Read Mourinho's comments:

You know, they like to cry. That's tradition. But I prefer to say, and I was telling it to the fourth official, that English people – Frank Lampard, for example – would never provoke a situation like that. Players from other countries, especially some countries, have that in their blood.

If you have a contact or the opponent was aggressive, let's go, keep going, this is English football. Foreign players are bringing lots of good things. They come here because they are talented. But I prefer English blood in football. English blood in this situation is ‘Come on, let's go’.

Should the English tackle recklessly?
Should the English tackle recklessly?Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Such comments generate headlines, stories often reported without any critical examination.

Are we to understand that it is in the nature of English players to make dangerous tackles as though this tackle was made by an Englishman?

Or that because they are English they should, without protest, receive dangerous tackles? Is he saying that if his players are to receive potential career-ending tackles it would be okay with him because his players are English?

Or still, that if his team deserves a penalty it shouldn't protest because his players are English?

There is no indication from the evidence so far that either the Premier League referees (who also referee FA and the League Cup games) or the English press is going to wise up to this man's antics any time soon.

It did not take very long for the Spanish referees and press (and even his own players eventually) to recognize the man for what he truly is—a poisonous man who delights in contaminating relationships.

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(Refer to the voyeur and crybaby comments as well as the poke-in-the-eye incident above. Also read this article originally published by CNN.) But his players—as long as they remain in his good graces—and the fans of his latest club will of course not agree.

Therefore, expect rash and insidious behavior to continue to characterize his players—for rather than curbing or condemning them (even if diplomatically as convention might dictate), he will continue to affirm them in utterances such as the ones that followed the Arsenal match, and in affirming them, they will only continue grow.

And why will they not grow? Is this behavior not simply a reflection of the man himself?