EPL

Spurs appoint Mourinho: Without superclub baggage, Jose might prove he isn't yesterday's man

By Sports Desk November 20, 2019

As football fans in the United Kingdom awoke bleary eyed to take in the Premier League story of the season, one word stood out in the statement announcing Jose Mourinho's appointment as Tottenham's head coach – a ghost of hubris past.

"I am excited to be joining a club with such a great heritage and such passionate supporters," Mourinho said.

Heritage. Football heritage.

This was the subject of Mourinho's self-pitying soliloquy in the aftermath of Manchester United's limp Champions League last-16 exit at the hands of Sevilla in March 2018.

A much-trumpeted union that returned two trophies in its first season was going south and Mourinho tried to circle the wagons.

During a 12-minute address where "heritage" was mentioned 10 times, his general point was he had been dealt a duff hand at United. Other rivals were better equipped, having spent more money more effectively to breed cultures of sustained success.

One of the flaws in his argument – there were a few – was the reality of him talking as the manager of Manchester United, the 20-time champions of England. He selected an £89.3million midfielder on the bench for the 2-1 loss to Sevilla at Old Trafford, where he trudged the technical area forlornly under the glare of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.

Much as he would talk in reverent terms of his second-place in the Premier League that season, 19 points behind champions Manchester City, Mourinho failed at United.

Another press conference rant, where he exited the room demanding "respect" from those present, came after a 3-0 home loss to Spurs five months on from the Sevilla debacle. Mourinho was a man who had lost the thread and any notion of him succeeding Mauricio Pochettino, who so comprehensively bested him that night, felt beyond absurd at that moment.

Underdog, not top dog

Similarly, the 2011-12 LaLiga title triumph at Real Madrid took a heavy toll upon coach and squad alike, with his Santiago Bernabeu tenure concluding unsatisfactorily 12 months later. When in charge of greats of the game, clubs familiar with prolonged and recent success, Mourinho's schtick came up short.

His greatest deeds played out in sharply contrasting circumstances.

No team outside Europe's "big five" leagues had won the Champions League in the eight years before Mourinho masterminded Porto's march to glory in 2003-04 and none have since.

Chelsea were flushed with Roman Abramovich's riches but had not won an English championship since 1954-55. The self-proclaimed Special One delivered two in two seasons after arriving at Stamford Bridge as a freshly minted European champion.

Mourinho reacquainted himself with the continent's big trophy at Inter. The 2009-10 Champions League was the Nerazzuri's third win in the competition but first since 1964-65.

That triumph symbolically came at the Bernabeu, with the big job lying in wait for a man who had defined a decade in European club football. It concluded Mourinho's imperial period.

The rancour and recriminations of the past nine years leads to an understandable conclusion Tottenham have appointed a downgrade on Pochettino, replacing one of football's brightest contemporary minds with yesterday's man.

But if anything should encourage tentative enthusiasm for the third act of Mourinho's coaching career at the elite level, it is that Spurs bear more resemblance to the Porto, Chelsea and Inter teams he took hold of than Madrid or United.

Pochettino's sustained excellent over the past five seasons in north London does not mean the scars of "Spursy", "St Totteringham's Day" and other mockery do not still sting a little for a club starved of trophy success. Spurs feels like a place where Mourinho can promise the world and demand everyone falls into line far more effectively than when in charge of a superclub.

Those are the jobs Mourinho aspires to – and probably the roles Pochettino will grace soon enough – but it is hard to escape the feeling he has always been better suited to the rung below, with a point to prove and the spite to fuel a siege mentality his men will buy into. 

Alli as Lampard, Kane as Drogba?

So, what of that squad? That all important heritage.

It feels safe to say Mourinho is far happier with his lot than when he walked into Old Trafford. Not least because the likes of Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Harry Kane were all touted as United targets when he was in Manchester.

His best teams have featured a potent striker willing to work hard for the cause, hard running wingers and a goalscoring threat from attacking midfield. Kane, Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli in tandem could feel instantly more "Mourinho" than anything he threw together at United.

Behind them, a combination of Dier and club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele feel equipped to provide the power and control his most dominant engine rooms boasted.

As for an aging Tottenham defence, they will probably welcome the defensive line being dropped a touch deeper, in line with their new boss' more reactive principles. Indeed, a squad featuring seasoned, maturing professionals arguably come under Mourinho's charge at the right time – no longer the all-action, do-or-die tyros who served Pochettino so well until recently.

"It's a privilege when a manager goes to a club and feels happiness in relation to the squad that he's going to have," a suited and smiling Mourinho told Spurs TV. The smile won't last over the course of a three-and-a-half year contract – it never does – but in the meantime, he might just have found the right place to earn a little more of that respect he craves.

Related items

  • Talking Point: Can Jamie Vardy break his own consecutive Premier League goals record? Talking Point: Can Jamie Vardy break his own consecutive Premier League goals record?

    Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has 14 goals for the Foxes this season with nine in his past seven Premier League games.

    Vardy's form has sparked talk of a title challenge for Brendan Rodgers' side, with Leicester currently occupying second place - eight points behind leaders Liverpool.

    The 32-year-old's current sequence has also drawn comparison with another of his hot streaks when Leicester last won the league. 

    Vardy's incredible run of scoring 11 matches in a row, which broke Ruud van Nistelrooy's record of 10 goals in consecutive matches, was one of the most memorable moments of Leicester's championship-winning campaign of 2015-16.

    "I don't think he is," Rodgers said, when asked if Vardy was thinking about breaking for the record again. "I think he just looks to the next game."

    VARDY'S GOALS ECHO 5000-1 TITLE SEASON

    When Vardy is flying, so are Leicester. There is something more than reminiscent about his current ruthlessness in front of goal. Or is there?

    Vardy seems to be attempting fewer dribbles this time around – his tally of 13 so far is proportionally lower than the 33 he made in those record-breaking 11 matches. A sign, perhaps, his style is not quite as tenacious and direct as a few years ago.

    He is marginally down on the number of shots on goal, too. He has attempted 24 shots in the past seven games versus 49 in 11 during 2015.

    Vardy does, though, have two assists to his name during this streak against none last time around. An indicator of his experience, intelligence and awareness.

    "I love his energy," said Rodgers. "I love his passion. He actually loves football, which helps. He knows the game."

    HIGH-OCTANE VARDY STILL HUNGRY FOR GOALS

    The well-documented pre-match routine has remained the same for Vardy under Rodgers.

    Vardy still downs three cans of Red Bull, sips a double-expresso coffee and munches on a cheese and ham omelette ahead of kick-off.

    He also remains as committed and hungry as ever, even though he turns 33 next month. It was only eight years ago he was working in a factory before turning professional for Fleetwood Town.

    In the build up to the campaign, Vardy came back leaner and meaner than he has ever been. The Telegraph reported his pre-season his fitness statistics were 21 per cent better his best score in 2012, the year he joined the Foxes.

    He has also been more accurate during this goalscoring streak. Vardy has a shooting accuracy of 72.7 per cent and a shot conversion of 37.5 per cent in his present run compared to 62.2 and 26.5.

    FIVE GOALS FROM GREATNESS

    Five goals in five games would see Vardy break the record he set in November 2015.

    Leicester's next five games are Aston Villa (a), Norwich (h), Manchester City (a), Liverpool (h) and West Ham (a) and Vardy will be a near-certain starter provided he does not pick up an injury or suspension.

    On paper, Liverpool and City might present Vardy's biggest test but he actually boasts an impressive record against the Premier League's top clubs.

    His seven goals in 10 games against Liverpool is only bettered by the nine he has scored facing Arsenal in the same number of matches – no wonder they wanted to sign him in 2016! 

    Against defending champions City, he has four goals in 10 appearances, one in four against Villa, one in two versus Norwich and three in nine against West Ham.

  • Chilwell? Sancho? Zaha? Who might Chelsea sign in January? Chilwell? Sancho? Zaha? Who might Chelsea sign in January?

    Chelsea can press on with their January plans after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) halved their transfer ban on Friday.

    The Blues were barred by FIFA from registering new players for two successive windows in February, having been found guilty of breaching rules relating to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18.

    However, CAS has reduced that ban to one window, which the Blues have already served, giving Frank Lampard the green light to make fresh acquisitions next month.

    We take a look at who could be arriving at Stamford Bridge during the mid-season market.

     

    BEN CHILWELL

    Left-back would seem the obvious place to start for Lampard.

    Club captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri have been deployed there this season, but the latter has been linked with a move to Juventus.

    With Marcos Alonso out of favour and Azpilicueta now 30, Chelsea might want a younger option in line with the parts of their first team now thriving.

    Leicester City's Chilwell, 22, fits the bill, although he would not come cheap. Valencia's Jose Gaya is another mooted target who would likely command a smaller fee.

    JADON SANCHO

    Willian and Pedro are both out of contract at the end of the season and they appear destined to depart.

    Teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi will be expected to have a bigger role and Christian Pulisic has impressed in recent weeks, but Lampard would welcome more attacking firepower.

    Borussia Dortmund winger Sancho's time in Germany seems close to ending and the Londoner might relish a return to the capital.

    However, if Sancho is to depart over the next two windows, Chelsea will be in a long line of interested suitors.

    WILFRIED ZAHA

    A move away from Crystal Palace failed to materialise in the close-season window for Zaha.

    The former Manchester United winger is undoubtedly talented and proven in the Premier League.

    However, Zaha's situation is complicated by the fact he signed a five-year contract in 2018.

    Arsenal and Everton were reportedly keen a few months before the demises of Unai Emery and Marco Silva, but Chelsea represent a more attractive option.

    NATHAN AKE

    Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma have been Lampard's preferred central-defensive partners, though the Blues have kept just three Premier League clean sheets in 2019-20.

    Germany international Antonio Rudiger is due back soon but it is a former Blues defender who may be of interest in January.

    It is believed Chelsea included a £40million buy-back clause in Ake's deal when he was sold to Bournemouth in 2017.

    As was the case with Nemanja Matic, Ake has developed considerably during his time away from Stamford Bridge and could prove a relative bargain at his buy-back price.

    MOUSSA DEMBELE

    With 11 goals in 14 Premier League games, Tammy Abraham has shown he is capable of leading the line.

    However, there are limited options behind him and they will be depleted further if Olivier Giroud, 33, leaves as expected.

    Lyon striker Dembele, once of Fulham and Celtic, is thought to be of interest to the Blues.

    The joint-top scorer in Ligue 1, Dembele is having a fine season. But would he be happy playing second fiddle to Abraham?

  • Messi's retirement hint not a worry for Barcelona boss Valverde Messi's retirement hint not a worry for Barcelona boss Valverde

    Ernesto Valverde is not concerned about Lionel Messi retiring anytime soon after the Barcelona star suggested he was beginning to think about bringing his playing days to a close when he received a record sixth Ballon d'Or.

    Messi, 32, overtook long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d'Or stakes on Monday when he beat the Portugal forward and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk to the individual gong, despite the latter being many people's favourite.

    During Messi's acceptance speech, he remarked that he is "aware of how old I am, everything happens very quickly and I know that the moment of withdrawal is approaching".

    Barca team-mate Luis Suarez insisted Messi's comments had been misinterpreted by many, adamant the Argentina great will "continue for a long while yet".

    And Valverde says he sees Messi's state of mind as entirely normal, convinced his comments have been blown out of proportion.

    Speaking ahead of Saturday's visit of Real Mallorca, Valverde said: "It seems natural [to think about retirement]. It seems normal.

    "Leo is 32 years old and, although I don't think he is thinking about retirement, it is something that is there [in the future].

    "When a player goes over 30 [years old], he always sees the end closer than when he starts, but come on, I think it goes around too much.

    "You have to see it naturally. It happens to everyone as the years go by. To think about it doesn't mean it's going to be in three days."

    The privilege of coaching Messi is not lost on Valverde, though he expects the honour to become even more apparent in the future.

    "One is aware of that, but sometimes the day-by-day does not let you enjoy it at all," Valverde said.

    "I think they are things that are valued more over time. I am aware that I have the great fortune to be able to say in a time that I have trained Leo.

    "In the same way that the elders talk about [Real Madrid great Alfredo] Di Stefano, we can tell those who come after we were in Messi's time and we enjoyed it, some as close as me."

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.