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The mental warfare of Jose Mourinho

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Tottenham have truly been on the brink of success for a few years now. The Pochettino era was exceptional in getting them where they are but, after losing the Champions League final against Liverpool in 2019, the team needed a fresh start. Tottenham needed someone new to revitalize the locker-room atmosphere. And when a motivator is needed, just bring onboard the best: Jose Mourinho.

Tottenham is currently topping the English Premier League after 11 games and the squad has significantly improved this season. Jose Mourinho has perfectly addressed the concerns of those who considered him no longer the “Special One” when he arrived on the bench of the Spurs. Jose Mourinho will never be considered the best coach ever in term of strategies. To be frank, Mourinho is not even a great coach when it comes to tactics, but it is the best around to give psychological shocks and motivate players to go beyond their limits.

Let’s have a look at how Tottenham has improved so much in such a short span of time and how Mourinho has adapted to the Spurs’ environment.

Usually mental welfare of Jose Mourinho is the first weapon. We tried to highlight this approach also in a recent article (you can read it here after you like). This strategy worked perfectly at Porto first and Inter Milan afterwards. This method is quite clear as well as basic but highly efficient. Unite the team internally pretending that the entire world is against them. Some sort of “either we get destroyed individually or we win as a team”. In one of the most famous pre-season interview, Mourinho said “Sento il rumore dei nemici”, literally “I heard the noise of the enemies” hinting at the fact that the whole Italian league was allying against Inter Milan. After 9 months, Zanetti and co. under the absolute leadership of Mourinho gave birth to the third Champions League trophy in the FC Internazionale history.

Jose Mourinho knows that a motivated player is stronger than a skilful player. Therefore, Mourinho achieves this by complaining to the media about their biased behavior, questioning the refereeing from time to time appearing as a victim of an unknown football underground, and other communications tactics based on very effective short but sharp concepts. Another iconic moment of the Italian campaign of Mourinho was the handcuff gesture to the referee during an Inter Milan match. Despite he was forced to miss several games due to that offense, after that show the entire neroazzurri world lined up behind his Portuguese commander to complete one of the greatest achievement in Italy: the “triplete” (Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League in the same year).

Jose Mourinho knows that what this strategy does is to create a sense of anger in the players’ minds which manifests itself on the pitch perfectly bringing the performances to a higher level. This approach is exactly the opposite of the second tactics of Jose Mourinho: create controversies to focus the attention on him in order to release the pressure on the players. Before every important match, Mourinho comes out with some new controversies trying to shift the pressure on him. This allows the players to have a clear mind and prepare the match at their best. At Chelsea and at Inter Milan his favorite targets were Arsene Wenger and Claudio Ranieri respectively. Not to mention Pep Guardiola during his years in Madrid.

Until today, the players of FC Porto and Inter Milan during the Mourinho’s era confirm that they were ready to die for his coach, including one of the most arrogant players who has never really cared about coaches, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Mourinho was the actual reason why Ibra decided to join Manchester United.

However, those tactics have two huge limitations. The first one, does not last. You cannot only mentally pump up players for an extensive period. There must be something else to keep them going in the long term. This is one of the reasons why Jose Mourinho, regardless he wins or he loses, he has to change team constantly. And the second one, such approach is not welcome everywhere. There are teams which are not willing to accept this sort of behavior from their managers. Colorful and loud attitude are banned and severely punished. Manchester United and Real Madrid, for example, are more institutionalized football teams where flamboyant characters do not last long. In more than one occasion, Mourinho felt betrayed in Madrid and Manchester by his own board when they did not back him up in his “prepared” controversies.

It is hard to predict how well Mourinho will do on the Tottenham’s bench. We do not exclude that he may even make it to achieve something big and unexpected. But what we can foresee is that hardly he will be still there in 3-year time. In any event, our football village is full of different characters and Jose Mourinho is definitely one of the most appealing ones. Whether you like him or not, when Mourinho is around, football is a better place to live in.

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