Jose Mourinho and Tottenham: An unlikely union of contrasting philosophies
In Jose Mourinho, Tottenham have signed a winner with a proven track record but the union does come with its own set of challenges.Updated: Nov 20, 2019 17:45 IST
It is not common for Jose Mourinho to stay away from football for long. The ‘Special One’, whose shortest managerial spell, post his successful stint at FC Porto, lasted 726 days with Inter Milan, has always been at the thick of things and it came as no surprise that his untimely sabbatical gave rise to a number of rumours. Since parting ways with Manchester United in December 2018, Mourinho’s association with football was strictly as a television expert but that did not stop rumour mills from working overtime. Arsenal and Tottenham emerged as the top suitors for one of the most successful managers of the modern era and not a week passed without stories of him meeting officials from the two clubs.
The questions were finally answered on Tuesday as he was appointed Tottenham manager after the sacking of Mauricio Pochettino and was handed a deal that extended to 2023. The North London club, who are currently 14th in the Premier League table, have won just one of their last four games in all competitions and a managerial change seemed inevitable. This was the team that impressed everyone with their free-flowing football last season and even made their way to the UEFA Champions League final under the tutelage of Pochettino. But, that has not been the case this time around and the slew of bad defeats resulted in a negativity that engulfed the management as well as the footballers.
In Mourinho, Tottenham have signed a winner with a proven track record. With the exception of Manchester United, he won the league within the first two seasons of his every full-time top tier stint and even at United, he guided them to the Europa League title in his very first season. In his managerial career, the 56-year-old has already won league titles in four countries and the Champions League title with two different teams. So, when it comes to pedigree, Tottenham have signed an absolute winner in their hour of need.
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However, the union does come with its own set of challenges. Mourinho is known for his aggressive transfer market activities and that will be at loggerheads with the North London club’s past policy of not going for big money targets. The Spurs have spent £322.3 million in transfers between 2013 and 2018 and the new season saw them spending a mere £66.5million which included club-record signing of Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon.
The other big challenge for Mourinho in Tottenham is the situation with their wantaway stars. According to media reports, Christian Eriksen was tipped to leave in summer, but stayed. Toby Alderweireld had a £25million release clause as he entered the final year of his contract, but stayed. Jan Vertonghen also entered the final year of his current deal, with no news of a renewal forthcoming and he also stayed. Mourinho, during his time as an expert, was quite clear about the stance that the club should take and he believed that the club should not keep players who do not want to stay.
“I always felt that the biggest investment Tottenham could do is what they did in previous seasons, which was to keep their best players. That’s the best investment you can do,” he told Sky Sports.
“Some clubs can do both - keep the best players and buy other top players. Some, they don’t and they have to make a choice. I feel Spurs showed clearly that they felt the group was fantastic, with a lot of English players, and they were close to creating history.I don’t like to keep players who don’t want to stay at the club. I’m not even thinking of the economical perspective, but the emotion of the player.”
However, the decision will also rest on club chairman Daniel Levy and his relationship with Mourinho will also define his stint at the club. Tottenham have traditionally relied on Levy to complete major deals and his negotiations with Real Madrid regarding Gareth Bale made for some sensational tabloid reading.
According to a Guardian report, even Pochettino’s last year at the club was marked by conflict with Daniel Levy, which was fired by his decision to go straight from the Champions League final in Madrid to Barcelona and let it be known that, if Levy wanted him, he could come to see him there. A good relationship between Mourinho and Levy can see normalcy return to the torrid corridors of White Hart Lane but considering Levy’s control on certain sectors, a power struggle is never far away.
In 2015, Mourinho revealed that Tottenham tried to sign him in 2007 but he said: ‘I would not take the job because I love Chelsea supporters too much.’ However, things have clearly changed in the last four years and with the club in dire conditions on different fronts, this is a perfect chance for the ‘Special One’ to announce his comeback to English football after a hiatus of almost ten months.