Jose Mourinho is one of the biggest names in modern football history and one of the best managers of the 21st century, having won major trophies with six different clubs – including domestic league titles with four of them and the Champions League with two.
An intelligent and confident observer who occasionally doubled as a scout for his own father, himself a manager following a semi successful professional career, Mourinho knocked playing football on the head relatively early in order to focus on coaching instead.
A young Mourinho was on the books at top flight clubs Rio Ave and Belenenses under his father’s watch in the early 1980s, without ever progressing beyond reserve level and later turned out for lower division teams in Portugal until hanging up his boots aged 24.
Working as a PE teacher in the late 1980s but studying coaching on the side, Mourinho’s big break in professional football came in 1992 when he was hired by Sporting CP to work as a translator on Bobby Robson’s staff. From there, Mourinho followed the legendary Englishman to Porto and Barcelona, taking on increasingly more than just interpreter duties. He remained at Camp Nou even after Robson had move on, developing under Louis van Gaal, before branching out on his own.
As of January 2024, Mourinho has held ten managerial positions since his first job in 2000. Here, 90min ranks his success in each and every one of them.
As the ultimate pragmatist and ‘win-now’ coach, Mourinho was supposed to be the manager that finally ended Tottenham’s trophy drought that had been ongoing since 2008. He was filling big shoes too, in Mauricio Pochettino, unceremoniously sacked within six months of taking Spurs to their first ever Champions League final in 2019.
The squad was in need of a rebuild and the club only went backwards with a lack of investment. One highlight included his 300th Premier League win, but an FA Cup defeat to Everton in 2021 was also the first time one of his teams had ever conceded five goals. Ultimately, despite taking Spurs to the 2021 Carabao Cup final, Mourinho was sacked just days beforehand.
Shortly after arriving at Benfica as an assistant coach in 2000, Mourinho was promoted to the top job when Jupp Heynckes was sacked. It was deemed surprising at the time for a coach of 37 with no prior experience as a manager to suddenly be handed control of one of Portugal’s (and Europe’s) most prestigious clubs and it was a steep learning curve.
Despite a short stint, Mourinho’s time at Benfica was positive – including a derby win over Sporting. But politics, rather than football, led to a swift parting of ways after only 11 games, with an election bringing in a new club president and the young boss asking for a new contract that was refused. In a bold statement, he chose to resign immediately.
Uniao de Leiria have been out of Portugal’s top flight since 2012 but were an ambitious side preparing for a fourth consecutive Primeira Liga season when they hired Mourinho in the summer of 2001.
It promised to pay dividends when the team began moving towards the top end of the table. But Leiria were arguably too successful under Mourinho as he was poached by powerhouse Porto just halfway through his first season.
Mourinho’s legacy in Rome will forever be the inaugural Europa Conference League in 2022, lifting UEFA’s tertiary club competition in its maiden season and giving Roma continental silverware for the very first time. The club hadn’t even reached a European final of any kind since 1991.
Everything is relative though and the positive is also balanced by Roma failing to particularly kick on in Serie A, not improving from sixth place between his two full seasons in charge. It is also the only time in his lengthy career where win percentage has dipped below 50, albeit only just (49).
In the context of Manchester United post-Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford was a relative success, despite being unable to lift the club back towards a Premier League title challenge. The acrimonious nature of his departure has tended to cloud perception looking back.
He remains the only United manager since Fergie’s 2013 retirement to win more than one trophy, collecting both the Carabao Cup and Europa League in his first season, or to reach 80 Premier League points. His presence was also key to attracting several big name signings to Old Trafford who started well – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku – even if their long-term success at the club was ultimately limited under successors.
Nearly six years after his first spell at Chelsea (more on that soon) came to an abrupt end, Mourinho sensationally returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2013 and immediately turned the Blues into title contenders again after falling off the pace domestically in previous seasons.
The “little horse that needs milk” as he put it during the 2013/14 Premier League run-in, went on to claim the title the following season after Chelsea had already won the Capital One Cup, as it was known at the time, in 2015 too. Yet only a few months after Premier League glory, things imploded and Mourinho was dismissed before the end of the calendar year.
Real Madrid won La Liga with 76 points under Fabio Capello in 2007, so it was unfortunate that Mourinho was up against Pep Guardiola and the greatest ever Barcelona team during his time in Spanish football. But he still laid down one of the all-time great seasons in 2011/12, putting up 100 league points as his side plundered an astonishing 121 goals in 38 games.
Mourinho had won the Copa del Rey in his debut campaign, one of only three Madrid have lifted in the last 30 years, while he consistently reached the Champions League semi-finals every season but couldn’t go any further to deliver the elusive Decima that came just 12 months after his exit.
It was at his unveiling as Chelsea manager in 2004 when Mourinho uttered one of his most iconic lines: “I think I am a special one”. He certainly was special, riding on Roman Abramovich’s cheque book to win the club’s first English league title in 50 years and making world class stars of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben.
Chelsea’s 2004/05 points tally of 95 remained a Premier League record until Manchester City broke it 13 years later, while just 15 goals conceded is still a record even now. The Blues went on to retain their title the following season in almost as spectacular fashion, while Mourinho also picked up two Carling Cup trophies and the FA Cup during those three years.
No Italian club had ever won a treble before Mourinho’s Inter class of 2010 and still no Italian club has won the Champions League since. After a sudden departure from Chelsea in the autumn of 2007, San Siro was where he wound up after taking his first break from football in decades.
Only the Supercoppa Italiana found its way into Mourinho’s hands in his first season in Italy, but he was building for the following year when Serie A, the Coppa Italia and his second career Champions League all did. The latter was made possible by an epic two-legged win over Guardiola’s Barcelona – winners of a 2009 sextuplet – in the semi-finals.
Sometimes, original is best and it doesn’t get better than Porto Mourinho.
Winning the Champions League with Porto, long after Portuguese clubs had been resigned to a supporting role in elite European club competition, remains his single greatest achievement and one he will never surpass.
In his first full season as a manager – not forgetting that his Benfica and Leiria spells had lasted mere months each – Mourinho won the Primeira Liga, Portuguese Cup and UEFA Cup. Porto had gone four years without a league title at that point and hadn’t won a European trophy since 1987.
In his second – and his first attempt at the Champions League – Mourinho created immortality for himself and that generation of Porto players. Manchester United, as well as supremely talented Lyon and Monaco sides were among the scalps claimed, with Chelsea soon poaching the boss and the rest of his team quickly carved up as well.
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