A look at why the Premier League needs The Special One The Happy One
This is the Premier League. We not only need our stars, we need them to be entertaining stars. We need our fair share of glamour and controversy. Cristiano Ronaldo thwacking a free kick into the top corner is not enough. We need that wink. Didier Drogba’s powerful centre-forward play has to be accompanied by the occasional dive. How entertaining would Paul Scholes be if his long, raking passes were not peppered with the odd mistimed lunges at opponents, followed by a cheeky grin? We want the pre-match tunnel fights between tough Irishmen and lanky Frenchmen. We crave a whole bunch of Arsenal defenders ganging up on Ruud van Nistelrooy after the Dutchman has missed a stoppage-time penalty. And the shocking display of team spirit was clearly evident when Newcastle midfielders Lee Bowyer and Kieran Dyer decided to have a melee on the pitch only to be separated by their teammates.
What the Premier League misses
This is admittedly the dirty side of the game, but most of us secretly love these controversial moments. The Premier League has dulled over the last season. We have quality and lots of it, but we need the drama. It appears Luis Suarez has been working overtime carrying the controversy mantle by himself. Even Joey Barton’s pathetic stunts are missed. This is where things are right now – missing Joey Barton in the Premier League.
Manchester United may have won the Premier League last season with games to spare. But there was little or no excitement among the neutrals. There was very little controversy, not much in the way of a sustained title challenge and no last minute “Aguerooooo!” moment like the season before. The least a neutral fan could’ve asked for was more drama. Where are these characters? Fireworks happy Mario Balotelli has left. So has punching machine Joey Barton. Sir Alex Ferguson will no longer be seen going purple, screaming and chewing gum at the same time, no mean feat. Arsene Wenger too seems to have finally matured – he isn’t throwing water bottles, he’s not having confrontations with managers on the touchline and hasn’t said “I didn’t see that incident” in a really long time. Carlos Tevez will no longer be seen sulking on the bench. The Premier League was so boring last season that Rafa Benitez must have been surprised when he got back from his really long vacation. He grew restless at all the well behaved managers around him, and one evening, reminiscing fondly his spats with José Mourinho, decided to have a go at the Chelsea supporters instead. The man just wanted some good old action!
And amongst all this, we see a glimmer of hope – the return of “The Special One”. José Mourinho is back. The hair is greyer, the eyes look wiser and wrinkles carved through experience do appear, but he is back all the same. Fans of the Premier League in general would welcome his return. Like the sequel to a richly entertaining movie, we wonder in hushed tones if the second part will live up to the expectations built from the original. There is always certain unease, even amongst the most ardent supporters, about the return of a favourite to the old hunting ground. Many Thierry Henry fans were worried his return would diminish the legend of the great man. No one wanted to see the older Theirry Henry pale in comparison to the magnificent statue of their all time leading goalscorer. Well, that turned out well. However, skeptical echoes can be heard again at the return of Mourinho, now the “Happy One”. Nothing but winning the Premier League will compare to what Mourinho achieved in his first season at Chelsea. So the expectations are definitely high. But if there is a man who can cope with such high expectations, it is José.
What makes José tick?
Mourinho’s first stint with Chelsea was incredibly successful, and even though the Londoners have since added the Champions League and Europa League trophies to their cabinet – successes Mourinho couldn’t deliver in his three years in charge at Stamford Bridge, he is considered as the talisman of the team’s recent successes. For it was Mourinho who built a team around talent he recognized as the club’s backbone – John Terry and Frank Lampard. Brashly outspoken and charmingly witty, Mourinho took the Premier League by storm in 2004, challenging the old masters of the league and fighting his team’s battles off the pitch so that his players could fight them on it. Very rarely has there been a manager so eloquent in the staunch defence of his players that he has brought out respect from them wherever he went. These players would give their all for Mourinho’s cause. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Wesley Sneijder and Materazzi have all been vocal about their admiration for the Portuguese manager. Zlatan Ibrahimovic declared that he would “kill for Mourinho” on the pitch. And while it is slightly creepy that Michael Essien would refer to him as “daddy” at a press conference, the verdict is unanimous: the players love Mourinho and will fight for him every time they play.
The fans love Mourinho. He is considered to be one of their own. The journalists love Mourinho. He gives them their headlines. The man is an entertainer. From arrogantly naming the entire Barcelona eleven before their Champions League clash, to joking about bird flu being his biggest concern ahead of a match, to calling Arsene Wenger a voyeur for reportedly peeping around at Chelsea’s training sessions, Mourinho has been mired in controversy. He famously ordered Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso to get themselves sent off in the Champions’ League group stage match against Ajax, so that they would have a clean slate to start with, in the knockout phase. Some might consider these to be underhand tricks but that is Mourinho for you. He wants to win within the rules of the game. There is no room for sportsmanship or niceties. The players respect that and respond to his ways.
Even the football is an illustration of this philosophy. The football is direct and simple – lesser step overs, more getting the ball into the net. And once the ball has been in the net, keep possession and kill off the opposition. None of Mourinho’s teams have been known for attractiveness or style of play. These have been ruthless teams good at finishing off games. Sure, Mourinho has been criticized for this negativity. But the man has always done things his own way. His response to the critics is the incredible amount of silverware he has won – the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Champions’ League and many more. There have been a lot of haters too. Mourinho’s brash style wasn’t well received in Italy or Spain. In fact towards the end of his time at Real Madrid, a few of the players had turned against the coach. And this feeling of ill-will is understandable. Mourinho would go to any lengths to win a game, at the cost of sportsmanship. He has riled up many opposition managers in the past – Rafa Benitez, Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola and half the Serie A, but Mourinho is a man who won’t change.
That is the hope at the very least. England is the only country where José has been well received by fans and reporters alike. Although Mourinho is now wiser and better travelled than when he first arrived in England, for the sake of entertainment we don’t want him to change. But change is inevitable and a hi-tech Mourinho can be seen supervising training, armed with a tablet. As he grows older, he might be a bit more patient, more prone to compassion, less eager to rise to the bait, but we hope none of this is true. The Premier League needs drama and here it is. What would we not give to see José Mourinho and Paolo Di Canio duke it out in the mother of all confrontations? Here’s to a more entertaining Premier League and a more Special José Mourinho.