|'Mourinho can never love a club more than he loves himself'.|
Standing room only for his first press conference since The Return. And early on, he gave the throngs what they came for, a few morsels thrown to the masses. But with the following day's headlines quickly out of the way, it became clear that Mourinho 2.0 was short on sound-bytes. The pout replaced by the slouch. He looked tired, bored, beaten? The talk of 'love' seemed cheap, disingenuous. The body language, the mood hinted at a stale relationship, devoid of passion and energy. He was 'happy'. Ouch. It seemed the new/old partnership was in place, well, because it seemed logical. Ouch again. As a football Lothario, Mourinho's arrogance, brazenness, brashness and success made him the most desirable bed-fellow. His high-octane trysts at Chelsea and Inter were refreshing, his style outrageous, the adoration infectious. But in Madrid, a sobering conclusion early on. Mourinho can never love a club more than he loves himself.
For Mourinho, it's been a frustrating realisation. It's why he's back at Stamford Bridge. It's why the pageantry at that press conference seemed tinged with melancholy. He eyed up a different girl at the party. She left with someone else. And a Lothario can never go home alone. The old flame made eyes from across the room. She loved him, needed him. Easy.
Mourinho's pride was dented when Manchester United didn't come calling. For a manager specialising in short-term stints, attempting to emulate an icon would be the stuff of fantasy. It would be a long-term project, no boardroom back-stabbing, back in a country where he's beloved. The energy. The freshness. The challenge. The biggest job. And he didn't get it. His CV counted for nothing more than a few customary conversations between the Old Trafford top-brass. Perhaps what hurt most of all was that Fergie wanted someone else. The old, wily dog played one final trick. Mourinho always the pretender, never the master.
Mourinho, of course, is unable to help himself. Last weekend, there was the finger-wagging at Paul Lambert. There was the post-game posturing and patronising, Lambert's in-game behavior reminiscent of a younger, sillier, immature Jose apparently. There were more lectures on Friday, pointedly, at his former stats-man, Andre Villas-Boas. Referring to Chelsea's poaching of Brazilian midfielder Willian from under the noses of Tottenham, Jose instructed the North Londoners as how best to conduct a player's medical. Funnily enough, no mention of Roman Abramovich's relationship with Anzhi Makhachkala owner Suleiman Kerimov at the press conference.
In Madrid, Mourinho was held accountable for the gobby, impudent brat he was. Held accountable by his employers, he didn't like it. Held accountable by his players, he didn't like it. His legacy in Spain is that of a coach so thoroughly frustrated by his inability to beat another team, he resorted to mindless thuggery to make himself feel better. But in Mourinho's head, he broke Barcelona's dominance. At his Chelsea unveiling, he claimed to have 'hurt' Barca. Recounting Madrid's Cup wins and 'historic championship', Mourinho was over-reaching to an incomprehensible, almost pathetic, degree.
Many were excited by Mourinho's return to Premier League management. But where once was a sharp, refreshing, unique personality there's now a stale, old-hat performer. Where once was the young, cheeky, runt-of-the-litter, there's now a grey, sombre, know-it-all. Reveling in this faux-role as a calmer, more mellow 'veteran', his dispensing of advice and opinion to all and sundry is tough to watch.
His comments about how David Moyes should be held responsible for Wayne Rooney's unhappiness at Old Trafford were bitter, ill-informed and mis-guided. But it's box-office, so that's okay. The pre-match narrative is set. The fancy TV graphics are being readied as we speak. IN THE RED CORNER: DAVID MOYES! IN THE BLUE CORNER: JOSE MOURINHO! There are those who identify this type of bullish behaviour as Mourinho unselfishly moving the spotlight away from his players. But it's too much of a coincidence that he has jeopardised each of his managerial jobs by failing to control his mouth. His opinion matters most. He shouts the loudest. It's about him. The problem for Jose though is that he's been here before. We've seen the jaded act before. And we know how it ends.