By Andrew Warshaw
November 21 – As charm offensives go, it was pretty impressive. He said he felt re-invigorated, insisted he was now a more “humble” human being and that, during his 11 months out of the game, he had analysed his career and learned from past mistakes.
Jose Mourinho certainly talked a good game when he was unveiled to the media as the new head coach of Tottenham Hotspur in place of Mauricio Pochettino.
The shock, anger and sheer disbelief among Tottenham fans that Pochettino, worshipped by most of them, has been shown the door will take a long time to heal following a golden period in which he helped the club restore its pride and punch massively above its weight.
Such feelings were only heightened by reports (though to be fair nothing to do with Mourinho) that Pochettino was apparently not even given time to say good-bye personally to his players and had to leave a scribbled note on a training blackboard.
Mourinho, despised by Spurs fans when he was at Chelsea and who has only once in his career ever joined a club in mid-season, was quick to pay tribute to his predecessor, using the start of his first media appearance to try an endear himself to the Spurs faithful by heaping compliments on Pochettino.
“I have to congratulate Mauricio for the work he has done. This club will always be his home,” Mourinho said. “This training ground will always be his training ground. The door will always be open for him. He will have a great future.”
But will the new man ever be able to strike up the same emotional rapport with the fans, regardless of whether he can motivate his players? Football is a fickle game and Spurs crave trophies, perhaps more than any other leading English club given the lack of silverware in recent years. Mourinho, throughout his career, has won loads of them all over Europe.
The question is, can he keep it up? As one post on social media tellingly pointed out, if you look at his last four jobs (Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Man Utd), the level of success has decreased each time while the chaos he left behind has increased each time.
Not a promising pattern but at least he made a decent fist of his first appearance as Tottenham boss, public relations-wise if not on the field. That will have to wait until a tasty Saturday lunchtime kickoff at London rivals West Ham.
“I am humble, humble enough to try and analyse my career – not just the last year, but the whole thing, the evolution, the problems and the solutions. Not to blame anyone else,” said Mourinho.
“I went really deep with that analysis. A break was very positive for me. It was the first summer I did not work and I felt a little bit at a loss during that pre-season. I was always humble, in my way. The problem is you didn’t understand that.”
“You never lose your DNA, you never lose your identity, but I had time to think about many things. I am stronger, I am relaxed, I am motivated, I am ready. This is not about me. It is about the club. I am here to try and help everyone.”
Fine words though only time will tell how long it will take for him to revert to type and become the fractious ego-driven figure that has infuriated so many in the game.
And then there is investment. Mourinho spent nearly £400 million on 11 players during his two years at Manchester United. He believes he has already inherited a strong enough squad at Spurs. “The best gift for me, I don’t need players. I am happy with the ones I have.”
Maybe so but that might change if he doesn’t get results quickly. Whether he is provided with funds in January by Tottenham’s notoriously cautious chairman Daniel Levy is one of many intriguing questions. As is whether he can make a success of what is almost certainly his last job in England, especially given the five mostly fruitful years the club enjoyed under the much-admired Pochettino, highlighted by reaching last season’s Champions League final even though, since then, the Argentine had clearly lost his way.
“I think they have to see me as Mr Inter, Mr Real Madrid, Mr Porto. I am a club man, but a many clubs man,” Mourinho replied when asked about whether he could win over the fans. “I am not Chelsea, I am not Inter, I am not Real Madrid, I am all of them. I gave everything to all of them and that is what I am going to give here.
Initially, at least, he insisted he would not make any major changes, simply minor tweaks, but gave more than a few hints that anyone disagreeing with his philosophy would not last long. “If you are happy by losing football matches it’s difficult to be a winner in any moment of your career.”
“People who work with you have to learn how to share your principles. I have principles that I will keep for the rest of my career and that I cannot change. One of these principles is I don’t like to lose.”
Reminded that the club’s motto is ‘To Dare is To do’ Mourinho was asked if Spurs, under his management, could win the Premier League for the first time since 1961.
“We can’t win the Premier League this season – we can win it next season,” he said. “Not will, but can.”
Even by Mourinho’s standards of self-belief and confidence it was the boldest of statements. Yet self-belief is what Spurs, languishing in 14th place in the table after their worst ever period under the now-departed Pochettino, need more than anything right now.
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