Jose Mourinho: Is He the Enigmatic Genius We Thought He Once Was?

Nick Miller@NickMiller79Featured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Jose Mourinho the Chelsea manager braves the elements  during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Chelsea at St Mary's Stadium on January 1, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

It's all in the clothes with Jose Mourinho. Well, not all. But during his first spell as Chelsea manager, the clothes were very much part of his image. The sharp suits, the shiny shoes and, of course, the coat. He was a suave man about town as much as he was a brilliant football manager.

This time, however, we have seen Mourinho wearing tracksuits much more. Tracksuits! And he's even been spotted wearing Chelsea-branded anoraks rather than the Sherlock-esque long jacket of before. How the mighty have fallen.

Of course, the clothes do not have any real bearing on whether Mourinho is still the enigmatic genius he once was. But just as his fashion sense appears to have declined, so has his aura.

One of the key points about Mourinho's first spell at Chelsea, and indeed, his time at Internazionale, was the "us against them" attitude that inspired such fierce loyalty in his players. He would defend his squad against anything, creating an atmosphere of togetherness that made his charges follow him blindly, whatever he did or said.

Mourinho made sure that he got the core of the Chelsea squad on side, which meant John Terry, Frank Lampard et al, with the perfectly reasonable assumption that the rest would follow.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14: Juan Mata of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on December 14, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

That's slightly different this time. And indeed, one of the first things he did was to make very clear that Juan Mata, the club's player of the year for the previous two seasons, was not quite his cup of tea.

Oscar was his No.10, rather than the man who'd made the position his own since arriving from Valencia in 2011. It wasn't quite divide and conquer, but it felt like a "statement," making sure everyone knew who was in charge, and that he wouldn't be taking the previous guy's team with him.

And now, Mourinho has made it pretty clear that not only is Mata not his first-choice No.10, but he would be open to selling the Spaniard should a suitable offer arrive.

He said this week, as quoted by James Riach of the Guardian:

"I want to keep him, I don't want him to go. That's my wish but my door is open and the club's door is open too. When a player wants to speak with us we are there waiting for them."

Far from from creating togetherness in his squad, this sort of move makes clear to Mourinho's players that everyone is at risk.

So will it work?

He tried something similar with Iker Casillas at Real Madrid—something that would eventually contribute to the disillusionment both on his and the club's behalf with his tenure at the Bernabeu—so it will be interesting to see how this tactic fares in the long run back at Stamford Bridge.

LONDON - NOVEMBER 12:  Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho sits in front of the new Chelsea badge during a Chelsea Football Club press conference on November 12, 2004 at Stamford Bridge, London. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Another difference between now and Mourinho's first tenure is Chelsea's defence. In his first season, back in 2004/5, they conceded an astonishingly miserly 15 goals all season. The season after that, it was 22. This term, after just 20 games, they have already let in 19, and passed the 2004/5 total after 15 games.

Of course, he has inferior players at his disposal—John Terry and Petr Cech are not the players they were nine years ago, while Gary Cahill is no Ricardo Carvalho—but it is also a consequence of a changing approach.

Before, his teams were very much built on his defence, with the attack to follow. This time, having added Willian and Andre Schurrle to Mata, Oscar, Eden Hazard and the army of other attacking players in the Chelsea squad, it is the other way around.

Finally, the aura around Mourinho is different.

When he arrived in 2004, brash and cocky, he was something new and different, a novelty that, for a while at least, most people found pretty entertaining. Since then, he has shown the more unpleasant sides to his character, and people have grown weary of his schtick and wise to his "mind games." What worked back then will not have the same impact now.

Mourinho may well win the title this season with Chelsea, but they are not the force of nature they were before, and neither is he.


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