This was the week that Jose Mourinho was reappointed manager of Chelsea football club. We look back at the period when he was abandoned for the first time
The earlier post [Dec 2007] built on a TV documentary which was striking in its demonstration of a charismatic leadership style.
Jose as cult leader
The TV programme programme gave examples of Jose’s near-mystic powers. In one story, the press were demanding something special from the special one. His response was startling. ‘You want me to name my team? I will do more than that. I will name their team.’ Which he did. With complete conviction. Live, to camera. He was to be proved completely correct.
In another interview he was asked if he played chess with the media. His reply indicates the care with which his performance is planned:
“When I face the media … before or after the game, I feel it as part of the game. When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started. And when I go to the press conference after the game, the game has not finished yet.”
Cult leaders and sacred texts
Mourinho even has a secret document, The book of Jose, written by himself. It is said that no-one knows what’s in it. So secret is it that his words will go to the grave with him. Secret, and with the whiff of the supernatural associated with sacred texts which mere mortals are not permitted to see.
After one particularly epic performance by his team, he ordered the players to commit a highly symbolic act. They returned to the field acknowledging their legions of followers. The players removed their shirts. What or who was all that about? The religious symbolism persists.
Another anecdote reveals the wrath of the special one if an acolyte falls short of expectations. He once publicly rebuked the Chelsea player Joe Cole for a lack of the dedication and work ethic expected of all acolytes. In a game shortly afterwards, Cole scored a magnificently-taken goal, Jose gestured to him in agitated fashion from the touchline. When the player approached his manager, he discovered that he was not being acclaimed for the goal, but abused for his lack of commitment to defensive duties in the build-up to the move.
Trials and temptations
The program also examined the strained relationship between Mourinho and Roman Abramovitch, billionaire owner of Chelsea FC. The disputed territory appears to have been over the owner’s wish for success both in terms of results, and in terms of style of play. While Mourinho’s personality sparkled, his team failed to capture the imagination -say in the style of envied rivals Manchester United. Abramovitch had taken steps to intervene more directly, acquiring support staff and two expensive players that had not been part of Mourinho’s plans for the future of the club.
The programme featured a psychologist exploring the messages to be found at film of a press conference held shortly after the arrival of the two international stars Shevshenko and Ballack. His body language is distant. No eye contact left or right.
The psychologist suggested a desire for ‘total control’ , and in this instance, partial loss of control. A few weeks later the Special one was gone. ‘By mutual consent, and with great love’. So much religious symbolism. In the programme, Mourinho ducked questions about his religion, but talked a lot about the importance of love. Like a true charismatic, he seems to have worked out his own ethical philosophy.
Lessons to be learned?
The temptation is to map out the future from the past. If so, there is likely to be another period of leadership battles between the wealth and commitment of an owner and the ego of the special one he has re-appointed. It is easy to get good odds that Mourinho will not complete the four year contract he has signed. On the other hand, he may have fewer attractive options to turn to when the crunch-time arrives, sometime in the next few years.