x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Champions League: Jose Mourinho's career constant is change

If it all finally does go wrong with Real Madrid, successful vagabond would be unperturbed to leave the Bernabeu, writes Andy Mitten.

If it should all finally come to an end for him at Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho will leave unperturbed and simply move on to his next challenge.
If it should all finally come to an end for him at Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho will leave unperturbed and simply move on to his next challenge.

Jose Mourinho saw the signs for Madrid and kept on driving around the city. He was five hours into a 10-hour drive across Iberia in the summer of 2000, and Mourinho, 37, was unemployed.

He had spent four years at Barcelona as an assistant to Bobby Robson and then Louis van Gaal.

Barca's club president, referred to him dismissively as "the translator", but Mourinho was far more than that.

Indeed, he was withdrawn from translating duties for Robson within weeks of his arrival after English speaking journalists realised he was not translating what Robson was actually saying.

Mourinho would add his own opinions and smarten up the scattergun thoughts of his boss, giving his words a more polished delivery, more meaning, more of an agenda for the assembled media. It was clear he was a very smart operator.

Mourinho was a popular employee at Camp Nou. Robson adored him so much that he had taken him from Sporting in Lisbon, to Porto and then to Barcelona.

In 2000, Robson called him to offer him the assistant manager's job at Newcastle United in the English Premier League, with a promise that he would do it for a year and then hand over the reins.

Mourinho did not believe Robson would ever stop coaching and turned the offer down. He wanted to be his own boss and felt that he had served a long enough apprenticeship.

He left Barcelona in May, drove back home to Setubal via Madrid and, emboldened by his excellent CV, waited for the telephone to ring with offers from clubs who wanted him to be their number one.

It didn't.

Not in May, June, July or August, when the new season started.

Mourinho held his resolve before he was offered the Benfica job at a time when the club was neither stable, nor well run.

In his first week, a scout's report on a forthcoming opponent contained just nine outfield players.

Mourinho was furious and he did not last long at the club.

It was Benfica's loss.

Within four years he had made their rivals, Porto, the European champions and was the most in-demand manager in football.

Along the way, his side knocked out Manchester United. Mourinho may have been a pretender to Sir Alex Ferguson's throne, but he did not lack confidence in his own ability to go toe-to-toe with the veteran manager.

It was the start of an engrossing rivalry and relationship between the two, with the mutual respect absolute and anything but phoney.

While Ferguson has stayed put, Mourinho has continually moved.

He is a collector of clubs, countries and trophies. Since being asked to help Robson with translating duties in 1992, he has worked at nine clubs, six as manager. He does not fear change, but embraces it, as he may have to do if his side do not knock United out of Europe tonight.

Written off two months ago by Real Madrid fans who openly stated their desire for him to leave, this is his biggest test in his last stand at the Bernabeu.

He has beaten Barcelona home and away within days, his team are playing well, and are almost injury free and confident that they can do what the last two Madrid teams to visit Old Trafford for second leg ties have done and qualify.

"If you can win in Barcelona, you can do it in Manchester," said Mesut Ozil ahead of his team flying to England late on Sunday night for their Champions League encounter with United on Tuesday night.

Mourinho has come good at exactly the right time and while the domestic league may be over, the most important trophy for the Bernabeu remains the European Cup.

Madrid have been chasing the decima (the 10th) since 2002.

If Mourinho delivers it, as he did at Porto and Inter Milan (in a Bernabeu final), then he will be heralded as a great and asked to stay on.

If he loses, then Madrid are likely to do what they always do and change their manager. They have had 25 since Ferguson arrived in Manchester.

No for the first time, an unemployed Mourinho will hit the city's ring road on the motorway back towards his home near Lisbon.

If he was not worried about his future when he had not made it as a manager, he will not be worried about it now that he has.

 

THE FIXTURES

Champions League last 16, second legs

(All matches 11.45pm on Al Jazeera Sport, first-leg score in brackets)

 

Tonight

Man United v Real Madrid (1-1)

Dortmund v Shakhtar (2-2)

 

Tomorrow

Juventus v Celtic (3-0)

PSG v Valencia (2-1)

 

March 12

Barcelona v AC Milan (0-2)

Schalke v Galatasaray (1-1)

 

March 13

Bayern Munich v Arsenal (3-1)

Malaga v Porto (0-1)

 

 

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