Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

So, just why is Jose Mourinho the Special One?

Jose Mourinho

Love him or loathe him — indifference isn’t really a runner — Jose Mourinho is the most talked about football manager in the world.

That’s mainly because what he says — and to a slightly lesser extent what he does — gets people talking.

From the moment he set foot inside Stamford Bridge when appointed as manager of Chelsea in June 2004, Mourinho was a talking point — as well as making them.

His first press conference is probably remembered just as much as the back-to-back Premier League titles and FA Cup victory which he led the Blues to during three-and-a-half years at the club.

None of your wishy-washy talk a lot but say nothing, standard statements from Jose.

Just a few weeks before being unveiled at Chelsea, Mourinho had guided Porto to Champions League glory — and he wanted to make sure everyone knew.

“I'm European champion and I think I'm a special one,” goes the famous quote.

That was it, he was immediately dubbed ‘The Special One’ and the tag has stuck so much that six years on he’s still known by that famous, or infamous, moniker.

Aside from instantly going about spending Roman Abramovich’s millions, one of the first things that Mourinho did at Chelsea was head-hunt Carnlough-man Brendan Rodgers, who had successfully built up Reading’s academy over a period of almost a decade, to front the club’s youth system.

That was the start of a relationship that quickly grew into friendship and Rodgers has had a close insight into just how special Mourinho — who will attempt to make history by winning the Champions League again tomorrow night, this time with Inter Milan — really is.

“He simply has the X factor. There isn’t just one small thing that makes him who he is. Special, if you want to call it that. There are many aspects of his work that have gone into making him a success,” said Rodgers.

“He’s a winner, first and foremost, he prepares thoroughly, he is good with people and very importantly, his players play for him.

“He taught me many things. A big part of what he believes in is respect. He had respect for what I was doing and what we wanted to achieve and he was very well respected by everyone at the club.

“His attention to detail was amazing. I thought I was well prepared until I met him. He takes it to another level entirely.

“People will fight for what is right and will battle for a cause. He finds the cause — even if he has to manufacture one — and his players will fight for it.

“If you talk to his players, the likes of Frank Lampard, he promised that he would make them better players and make them winners because up until he arrived at Chelsea those players hadn’t won anything. And that’s exactly what he did.”

It wasn’t always sweetness and light during the three seasons that Rodgers had Mourinho as his boss. The setting of high standards meant that others had to meet them or they would face the wrath of the Portuguese.

“He is hard to work for — and he would admit that himself — but only because he puts high demands on his players and staff,” revealed Rodgers.

“He expects you to be able to deal with the pressure to perform your role and big players respond to that kind of pressure.”

So behind closed doors in the privacy of the dressing room and without a television camera, a radio mic or a journalist’s tape recorder in front of him, is Mourinho still the same man?

“Behind it all he is just a really great man who loves football,” said Rodgers. “He says what he feels, whereas a lot of people don’t and don’t like people who do.

“That’s why he rubs people up the wrong way.

“I think in this country we’re taught not to say what we feel in case it offends people, but he’s a breath of fresh air and a lot of people love that he’s outspoken — especially the media because he writes their stories for them.

“I saw his first press conference when he came in at Chelsea and it was funny watching it.

“The ‘Special One’ line is the one that has followed him ever since. I think the point he was trying to make was that he’d won the Champions League, not many have done that and he was coming in as a winner.”

Only two men — the great Austrian Ernst Happel and German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld — have won the Champions League with two different clubs.

That will become three when Mourinho’s Inter take on Bayern Munich in Madrid. Munich are managed by Louis Van Gaal, who won the trophy with Ajax 15 years ago before joining Barcelona, where Mourinho cut his teeth as the Dutchman’s number two.

Amazingly Mourinho is on the verge of such an amazing achievement 10 years after taking up his first managerial appointment.

“He has a wonderful opportunity to go out on Saturday night and create history,” said Rodgers.

“It will be interesting, because Louis Van Gaal is one of his mentors from their time at Barcelona and he looks up to him.

“I think Jose will beat him this time though.”

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