Define mind games.
Bleacher Report's very own Guillem Balague argued a good case against them in his column this week.
For Balague and some, they're a myth, a notion created by the media to inspire sensational headlines and fuel debate. For others, they're very real and a cunning way of stealing an advantage over an opponent.
He claims to fall into the former, but Jose Mourinho is very clearly a man who celebrates the latter. He's benefited too much from them in the past not to.
This season, Mourinho has picked up where he left off in English football when he departed Chelsea in September 2007. Back then he was often found goading his rivals and it's no different circa 2014. Only now it's with more of a smile than a scowl, coming as the self-proclaimed Happy One.
The Portuguese may have changed tack slightly, yet his intentions are the same—to rile and frustrate the opposition to breaking point.
It's calculated, it's manipulative, but above all, it's successful. It's part of Mourinho's genius.
Manuel Pellegrini was sometimes the subject of Mourinho's affections during their time together in La Liga when both managers coached Malaga and Real Madrid, respectively.
Now that Pellegrini is at Manchester City, it's intensified.
From the outset, Mourinho has heaped pressure on Pellegrini—continuing to push until he got a reaction from the Chilean.
The line has been that City are favorites for the Premier League this term, that Mourinho's Chelsea are a mere little horse in comparison. Mourinho has been deflecting attention and pressure from his players, instead heaping it on City and Pellegrini, waiting patiently for cracks to appear.
On the back of Chelsea's 1-0 Premier League victory at the Etihad Stadium last week, he may well have got exactly what he bargained for.
"[Chelsea] is the team that spends most money in the last 10 years," the City boss was quoted by BBC Sport on the back of Mourinho's claims the Blues are not in the title race. "It is the team that spends most money this year and the team that spends the most money in the [January] transfer window, so [it is a] little bit rich."
Known as the Engineer, the Chilean is a man with little time for soundbites and cheap jibes across the press room. He prefers to have his team do the talking on his behalf.
It may have taken six months of rhetoric to get a rise, but Mourinho has got what he wanted. Eventually.
And how does Mourinho react? By poking fun further at his opponent, turning the screw, letting him know that he knows he is feeling the pressure.
It wasn't enough that the Chelsea manager should question the maths of Pellegrini on the back of his comments; he sought to attack his character too.
"The only thing that is funny [is] that he keeps saying he never responds to Mourinho," was the Chelsea manager's retort in the same BBC Sport report. "He never comments about Mourinho. He said that in Spain, too. So he's changed."
Indeed, we've seen it before where even the calmest characters are backed into a corner by Mourinho's manipulation of the media for his own gains.
While at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola rarely escaped Mourinho's attentions, and he eventually cracked in April 2011 when Madrid and Barca prepared to lock horns in the semifinal of the Champions League.
"Off the pitch he has already won," claimed Guardiola, as per ESPNFC.com.
"In this room [the press room], he's the f*****g chief, the f*****g man, the person who knows everything about the world and I don't want to compete with him at all. It's a type of game I'm not going to play because I don't know how."
Guardiola may admit to not knowing how, but Mourinho certainly understands the ways in which the modern game works.
There are two battles to be won in any encounter—the one on the pitch and the circus that precedes it.
To win the former, though, it's in every manager's interest to ensure he's gained an advantage before the referee has blown his whistle.
It stands for so much: deflecting attention from the shortcomings of a team, questioning match officials, adding to the media storm and forcing his opponent to consider his own qualities in a way he may not have previously.
Mourinho's pulling a number on them.
It's not about Chelsea versus Manchester City, Real Madrid versus Barcelona. It's more personal than that—it's them versus Mourinho—and when his team wins, he knows he has come out on top.
This week, Moruinho's old foe, Arsene Wenger, attempted a few tricks of his own when he turned the title race debate on its head. Chelsea are not making up the numbers in the way Mourinho claims, he said. It's more than that—this is the Blues' title to lose.
"[The title race] is very open, only Chelsea can lose it now because they are in front and all the other teams can win it," Sky Sports quoted the Frenchman as saying.
"[Mourinho says otherwise as] it's a fear to fail."
Wenger's slight grin let on that he was fully aware of what he was saying. Perhaps he wasn't aware of the ensuing response.
"If he is right and I am afraid of failure it is because I didn't fail many times. Eight years without silverware, that's failure," said Mourinho, as per BBC Sport.
"[Wenger's] a specialist in failure."
It's about more than headlines. Mourinho's acid tongue is throwing down the gauntlet, and given he remains undefeated against Wenger in the 10 times they have faced one another in English football, it's clear who is winning the battle.
Suddenly, the title race isn't about who has the best team, the biggest squad or even the best form. It's become about character, and when their manager is showing it, so too will his players.
Mourinho knows it. It's why he relishes this stage of the season more than any.
On the back of Chelsea's win against Manchester City on Feb. 3, Gary Neville was salivating in the Sky Sports studios.
"Mourinho. Big matches. He always comes to the party [...] He's good and he knows he's good," he said.
He's right, too. Mourinho's tactics were exceptional that night, but his mind games are even better.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes
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