We talk about stars a lot in football and, whilst I claim have no great understanding of astrology, astrophysics, the universe or anything really, I do have access to Google and, in this day and age, that’s just about enough to get me by enough of the time to make me question the material value of my degree.
Nonetheless, back to the important things in life, and Tottenham host Chelsea at White Hart Lane this Saturday lunchtime as two top Portuguese managers go head to head in a battle for the spotlight and, what’s more, they used to friends, sort of, and certainly colleagues.
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas worked as a scout for Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho for seven years at Porto, Inter Milan and Chelsea – the Spurs manager spoke candidly about the breakdown of his relationship with his elder compatriot this week.
"I don't lose any sleep,” he said.
"Our break-up point was because I was full of ambition to give him something extra and I wanted further involvement from the job I was doing at that time.”
"I felt I could give him much more. But he didn't feel the need for somebody near to him or in another position as an assistant, and because of that it was decided that it was time, after Inter Milan, to continue our careers (apart)," he added.
The 35-year-old former Chelsea manager also conceded he was no longer ‘close’ to his former mentor and revealed their professional relationship, formerly respectful, was no more. 50-year-old Mourinho, ‘the special one’, is a very special character indeed – one of the most successful living managers who will surely go down in history as one of the great practitioners and personalities in the sport.
But, on the topic of history, all of Mourinho’s achievements are in the past and, one would expect, the majority of Villas-Boas’ will come in the future, whether at Tottenham or further afield. Mourinho has won the Portuguese title twice, the Premier League twice, Serie A title twice, La Liga once and the Champions League twice with two different clubs.
Villas-Boas has won the Portuguese title once and the Europa League title once, both with FC Porto in 2010/11 prior to his takeover at Chelsea which, ultimately, was a low-point in his career when he was sacked after just 8 months in charge at Stamford Bridge and, subsequently, took up his current post at Spurs.
Mourinho, meanwhile, left Chelsea in 2007 after three years and remains the Blues’ most successful manager in history. His time at Inter Milan was equally as successful but his three years in the Spanish capital saw his stock plummet for the first time in his managerial career. He became something of a hate figure in Spain, had numerous fallouts with a number of high-profile Spanish stars and left with his tail between his legs, as it were, to return to his home from home in West London this summer.
In North London, Villas-Boas finds himself in a prosperous position, having spent more than £100 million on new players in a re-investment project financed by the sale of the world’s most expensive footballer in Gareth Bale.
It’s a work in progress over at the Lane just as much as it is down at the Bridge but, on early impressions, it would appear Villas-Boas is the rising star and Jose Mourinho’s special light has not been shining so brightly. Villas-Boas had been courted by super-rich French champions Paris Saint-Germain this summer – he’s a wanted man – compared to Mourinho who was overlooked for a number of high-profile positions, including Manchester United.
Mourinho’s return to Chelsea is a wonderful welcome change to the fans but, for the neutral observer, it’s harking back to the past – it’s not a move forward. Mourinho’s career trajectory is moving, dependent on your viewpoint, of course, backwards or sideways and perhaps has even plateaued. Villas-Boas is on the up.
When a star runs out of fuel, in simple terms, its core will expand and cool into what is called a ‘white dwarf’ – Jose Mourinho has achieved incredible things in his career and I don’t doubt he will be successful at Chelsea but, after a well documented fallout in Spain from which he is now effectively exiled, he seems to have run out of steam, that fire in his eyes, that fuel he had at Porto, Chelsea, and Inter Milan, seems to have disappeared.
Flash back to 2004 and Mourinho inherited a squad that Roman Abramovich had invested £153.45 million in, in the prior 12 months to his appointment and he was given a further £59.85 million to spend that season, and £111.9 million to spend the following season. He was 40 years old and in charge of one of the most revolutionary clubs in the world, breaking records and making history. Now, the man who is doing both of those things is his young former colleague and friend, Andre Villas-Boas.