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Page last updated at 07:19 GMT, Wednesday, 28 April 2010 08:19 UK

The making of Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

Champions League semi-final, second leg
Venue: Camp Nou Date: Wednesday 28 April Kick-off: 1945 BST
Coverage: Text commentary on BBC Sport website, live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and live on ITV1

By Sam Lyon

For a man with a CV that bursts at the seams, Jose Mourinho remains something of a polemical figure in football.

Few would deny he can be an inspirational, astute and effervescent coach, even fewer that he is one of the game's winners.

But still the 47-year-old can divide opinion. If it's not the Portuguese's brash approach in the media, it's the accusation that he values substance over style.

He may be able to boast five league titles, seven other domestic trophies, a Champions League and a Uefa Cup, but some are less convinced he upholds the values of "the beautiful game" or that his media performances do not occasionally lean too far towards football's dark arts.

Mourinho has managed to get himself on the wrong side of the Italian press more than once this season - he is refusing to deal with them at the moment - while Italian football expert Gabriele Marcotti once commented that the Inter boss "overdid it a bit in terms of focusing on results" in his first season in Serie A.

Yet talk to those who have worked in and around Mourinho and it is difficult to find someone with a bad word to say against him.

What Mourinho does from day one, and is absolutely key, is that he gives the players a cause to fight for

A former Chelsea insider

A former Chelsea insider describes him as "an absolute gentleman who is always happy to lend an ear, always willing to offer advice and help, and a man who works unbelievably hard for his club."

And stack up the testimonies of those willing to pay tribute to Mourinho, and the less convincing his critics become.

Argentina legend and now manager Maradona calls Mourinho "the complete trainer" who "has everything: he knows how to talk to the players, the press, the dressing room. For me he is the best."

And as for those who consider the Portuguese one-dimensional tactically, the Chelsea insider, who worked closely with Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, says: "Look closely and you realise style is hugely important to Jose.

"The two times he won the league with Chelsea, he did so in the main playing cracking football, with pace and width, and scoring more goals than anyone in the league.

"When that flowing football wasn't possible - because of player availability or the opposition, perhaps - then you saw his teams grind it out."

That has been borne out this season with Inter.

In Mourinho's first season, a lot of Inter fans were underwhelmed with his stewardship despite him leading them to the league and cup double, in part because of the style of football on show, but also because he was unable to lead them past the quarter-finals of the holy grail - the Champions League.

The last time Inter won the European Cup was back in 1965.

This season, though, Mourinho has won over the Inter fans and then some, with John Foot, author of Calcio: A History of Italian Football, claiming he is now a god in the eyes of Inter supporters.

Jose Mourinho
DOB: 26 Jan 1963
POB: Setubal, Portugal
2000: Benfica
2001-02: Uniao de Leiria
2002-04: FC Porto
2004-07: Chelsea
2008-: Inter Milan

And that is down to Inter's improved football this term.

Selling Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the summer was something of a turning point for Mourinho, with the Portuguese using the income to purchase Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder.

Inter have moved to a more fluid 4-3-3/4-5-1 this season - and in doing so underlining a flexibility in terms of tactics and team shape for which Mourinho is not always credited.

Inter have scored more goals than any other side in Serie A this season, averaging just under two a game.

"When Mourinho arrived in England from Porto he was pretty quickly labelled as a 4-4-2 coach but he is actually very fluid tactically," says Foot. "He proved that at Chelsea when he settled on the 4-3-3 formation that helped them to two titles and he has done similarly at Inter this season.

"He assesses the squad and outlines a formation and style of play that suits the players at his disposal."

As Inter's quarter-final defeat of Chelsea in the Champions League showed, Mourinho is fully capable of altering his team and their philosophy if he believes it will give them an advantage over the opposition.

On that occasion, it was a case of attack being the best form of defence as he deployed Eto'o, Milito, Goran Pandev and Sneijder in an ambitious starting line-up that confounded not just the critics but the opposition.

Inter won 1-0, 3-1 on aggregate, but it could have been more against their exalted rivals, and it prompted the Guardian's Richard Williams to compare Mourinho to the most successful Inter coach of all time - Helenio Herrera, the man known simply as "Il Mago", the magician.

Just like the team his side face on Tuesday, Mourinho insists his players press the opposition all over the pitch, stretch their backline at every opportunity, and refuse to give the opponent's best players room to play.

"Mourinho's teams are always so fit, so strong," says Foot. "Mourinho is the ultimate believer in earning the right to play football. The work he expects players to do without the ball is just as important as their work with the ball, definitely."


European football expert Graham Hunter says: "He is completely calculated, very scientific and very deliberate about everything he does. He is utterly thorough in his analysis, preparation and thinking ahead of a game."

You can bet, therefore, that a plan will have been devised about how to stop Barca playmaker and arguably the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.

"What Mourinho does from day one, and is absolutely key, is that he gives the players a cause to fight for," the Chelsea insider tells me. "Players go that extra yard for him because of that cause.

"If you buy into it Mourinho will back you all the way, if you don't, there's no place for you at the club. The team always comes ahead of the individual."

The talented Mario Balotelli has found that out to his cost, after he was excluded from the squad by Mourinho after a falling-out. Only after a public apology following a month as an outcast did Mourinho bring the youngster back into the Inter fold.

The Inter players' belief has swelled under Mourinho and the confidence that the Portuguese instills in his teams has given them the feeling that they are capable of beating anyone.

"We have worked so hard on our mental approach under Mourinho to convince ourselves we are a great team," reveals Dejan Stankovic, while Sneijder says: "Jose is a fantastic trainer. He knows exactly how to manage both on an individual level and for the whole team.

If there is a psychological advantage to be gained, Mourinho will pursue it with a magical verbal slight of hand like no-one else

European football expert Graham Hunter

"That is why I am not scared about the semi-final. He will give us information nobody else can give us. That is the power of Mourinho."

Alongside all of this, as well, comes Mourinho's public persona.

Mourinho's spats with the Italian media have only served to increase the affection held for him among Inter fans, a group of supporters used to their status as public enemy number one among opposing clubs.

And all of it, as with everything he does, is deliberate, says Foot. "Mourinho loves the dealings with the press, mainly because he's so good at manipulating them. He uses them to deflect attention from his team's failings, to ease the pressure on his players, or even to pile the pressure on officials."

Hunter adds: "Nobody courts the media attention in the same way as Mourinho. He has got it patently wrong in the past at times, yes, but he does not do anything by accident.

"When confronted by a tie like the one on Tuesday, Mourinho will bring into play anything that he thinks will give him a competitive edge, or his players a competitive edge, or distract the opposition.

"If there is a psychological advantage to be gained, Mourinho will pursue it with a magical verbal slight of hand like no-one else."

No slight of hand will detract from the importance of this Champions League semi-final, though.

That elusive European Cup remains a priority for Mourinho and will ultimately be the measuring stick against which he is judged whenever his time at the San Siro comes to an end.

If any manager is capable of halting the juggernaut that is Barcelona at the moment, that man must be Mourinho.

Part I: Clash of the Titans

Part III: Guardiola the conqueror

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see also
Mourinho taunts 'obsessed' Barca
27 Apr 10 |  Europe
Barcelona 1-0 Inter Milan (agg 2-3)
28 Apr 10 |  Europe
Clash of the Titans
19 Apr 10 |  Europe
Guardiola the conqueror
28 Apr 10 |  Europe
Inter Milan 3-1 Barcelona
20 Apr 10 |  Europe

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