Friday, 27 May 2016

Mourinho - the most hated man in football

While the next Premier League season promises to be unusually riveting for followers of football, it may be even more so for students of psychoanalysis.

José Mourinho is back, nominally to manage Manchester United, but also and more intriguingly to address a time-honoured conundrum about the human experience: are we truly capable of fundamental change, or are we inescapably shackled to patterns of behaviour that will inevitably repeat themselves? The pattern that has defined the Portuguese's remarkable career is wearyingly familiar. Early success in a new job goes hand in hand with a simulated warmth and twinkly-eyed mischievousness which encourages a slavish media. But by his third season at a club, the players appear to be exhausted and sick to their eye teeth of his ravings. As the results deteriorate and the pressure intensifies, the cocky charmer facade evaporates to reveal a hissing puff adder, randomly spraying his venom at any perceived opponent who wanders into his range.

Such targets have included referees, like the Swede Anders Frisk, who retired after allegations of collusion with Barcelona that elicited death threats from Chelsea's notoriously good-natured fan base, Tito Vilanova, when assistant coach of Barca - behind whom with typical grace in defeat - Mourinho snuck up and poked in the eye while at Real Madrid in 2011, and most recently the Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro, whom last season Mourinho publicly criticised for her eccentric decision to attend to a player in accord with rules mandating urgent medical treatment for players with possible head injuries.
Mourinho - the most hated man in football
As his situation deteriorates and the sack heaves into view, Mourinho unleashes ritualistic mutterings about betrayal - by the chairman, his players, the Mossad, the people who faked the moon landings, David Icke's giant lizards, etc. Finally, in lieu of a straitjacket, he is handed a multimillion pound pay-off cheque and departs for a disappointingly brief spell of wound-licking, before re-emerging to reprise the psychodrama at another club.

The one cause for optimism about the coming reinstatement at Old Trafford is that it may be his last. At the very highest level of European club football, this could be his final chance. The aggression may remain undimmed, but his astounding talent seems to be waning. Genius - and however soporific the football with which he achieved it, he has shown a genius for winning - seldom endures for long. His recent form (two league titles in six years) compares dismally with the six titles and two Champions League triumphs in the previous eight.

In stylistic terms, Mourinho and Manchester United are such a mismatch that the hiring looks more desperate than inspired. A club with such vaunting self-regard for its flamboyant traditions that it styles its home ground (yeuch) “the Theatre of Dreams” has hired a grandmaster of mechanical, formulaic counter-attacking play, who offloads his most creative talent and abandons rare forays into progressive football at the first sign of defensive frailty.

Renewal of hostilities with Pep Guardiola, new coach of Manchester City, lends a cheaply Manichean air to the melodrama. Once, Guardiola was hired by Barcelona in preference to the “Special One”, who lobbied almost as long and hard for it as he did for the United job. He was outraged to be overlooked, and more so when the inexperienced Guardiola created arguably the greatest and most thrilling club side the world has seen.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is one analogy this rivalry brings to mind, and Jesus vs Satan another, though one writer more accurately compares it with Sherlock Homles and Professor Moriarty. If these two are destined to go to the Reichenbach Falls, please God the Spaniard in the deerstalker is the survivor come next May when they're handing out the Premier League trophy.

Yet such a reference flatters Mourinho. Hatred, envy and implacable resentment are grandiose flaws that add texture to any conflict. You would not wish every coach to be as saintly and adorable as Claudio Ranieri, whom Mourinho replaced at Chelsea in 2004 and routinely ridiculed thereafter (though not so much this season, curiously, when Leicester's 1-0 win over Chelsea preceded his firing by three days). Every drama, sporting and otherwise, needs its anti-hero.

But peevishness, petulance and footling paranoid delusions are niggly failings that serve only to demean football. If Mourinho regards himself as a coaching rottweiler, the endless yapping casts him more as one of those toy dogs he keeps as pets. Nothing wrong with those, of course, especially in a bap with a squirt of mustard and ketchup. But the noise does tend to grate on the nerves. Of all the complaints about Mourinho, the gravest is not the accusation that he is a nasty, egomaniacal hysteric of the kind you would do anything - possibly short of taking hemlock, and quite possibly not - to avoid sitting beside on the top deck of a bus.

It is that, with the unceasing whining about treachery and conspiracy, and the consequent creation of a siege mentality which binds a squad together for a short length of time before the battle fatigue sets in, he is an even more crashing bore than the football he produces. – The Independent