Is the Chelsea boss today's version of Leeds United legend Don Revie?
Before the 2010 World Cup final the Johan Cruyff said that it didn’t matter whether Spain won or lost, their place in history was assured already by the brilliance of the football they had played before then.
Cruyff was speaking from experience as an influential member of the 1970s Dutch team that failed to win two World Cup finals but was canonised by football fans regardless.
His comments also demonstrated the acute awareness that lies within the footballing community about the legacy they are creating through their actions on the field, and that history isn’t only about by those that win.
Step forward Jose Mourinho, a hugely successful but divisive character, his medals are numerous but so too are the criticisms of his style of play and disrespectful attitude. His teams are the modern day epitome of efficiency with flair and finesse playing second fiddle.
The major triumphs of his career have all largely been defined by a ruthless determination to win regardless of entertainment or aesthetics. Porto’s champions league win, Chelsea’s back to back titles and Inter’s treble, were all achievements characterised by displays of dogged defending, a punishing counterattack and the ability to win ‘ugly’.
So how will history portray Mourinho? Beyond a an individual teams support in the wider footballing consciousness it’s memories rather than medals that really matter.
Although efficiency is applauded it takes real style or drama to be remembered. Managers whose teams are defined predominantly by their ruthlessness fade faster than those who play expansive football. Looking back at examples of this there are few better than Don Revie.
A hugely successful manager both in England and on the European stage Revie doesn’t receive recognition of a Shankly, Busby or Clough, of course he never won a European Cup but there was enough silverware to warrant a place amongst the games legendary managers.
What’s interesting about the comparison is that both managers have had a reputation for winning at all costs, producing tough, largely defensive teams that bullied and ground their way to the top. Revie’s Leeds teams were like Mourinho’s sides, admired and despised by neutrals in equal measure.
Both men are also defined by their rivalries with a coaches who prefer a more ‘beautiful’ brand of football. Revie’s rivalry was of course with Brian Clough whilst Mourinho’s has been with Pep Guardiola.
This is perhaps the most dangerous area for Mourinho because such comparisons distort the historical perspective which was clearly the case with Revie. It is Clough that is remembered more fondly by the footballing community (outside of Leeds of course).
On his return to the English game there was a noticeable change in tact from Mourinho, perhaps he has one eye on the history books or maybe he watched the Damned United on the plane over, either way it is the style of football his team plays that will have the most influence on how history portrays him.
image: © Chris Robertshaw