For Driven Jose Mourinho, Angry Vindication Is Just As Important As Joyous Celebration

As far as celebrations go, this wasn’t quite “football, bloody hell”, or even Jose Mourinho’s own rambunctious response to winning the Capital One Cup in March.

It was a lot surlier than all that.

By the time the Portuguese had finished his press conference after Chelsea beat Crystal Palace 1-0 to clinch their manager's first title in three years, it was hard not to think of the Father Ted Christmas special scene in which the titular priest is about to collect the Golden Cleric award. That began with one of his colleagues hoping that “he doesn’t start going on about himself and settling old scores in public” and ended cutting to a line in which Father Ted himself declares that “now, we move on to liars”.

In Mourinho’s case, the “liars” might have been “the pundits”, who were just one of a series of people that the Portuguese decided to level at the moment of triumph. They were the subject of his eye-catching allusion to an Arabic proverb.

“The people who have a big face to say we don't deserve it are the ones who, in my country, we say the dogs bark and the caravan goes by.”

Mourinho was prepared to follow that bark with a real bite. That proverb provided perhaps the most enigmatic words from this public address, but the most conspicuous were saved for a double dig at Pep Guardiola. Although the Portuguese neglected to isolate Chelsea’s key individual Eden Hazard for comment when asked, instead pointing to the collective, he felt no such compunction when honing in on the Bayern Munich manager.

“To win the title in Spain with 100 points against the best Barcelona ever was a big achievement, one I enjoyed so much. But maybe in the future I have to be smarter and choose another country, another club where everybody is champions, even where the kit man is champion coaching in some countries.”

Real Madrid's Portuguese coach Jose Mour : News Photo

Guardiola was not named, but there was no question about who Mourinho was referring to. He had made a similar comment on the eve of the game, lumping Bayern in with the likes of “Celtic, Basel, Olympiakos” as clubs ‘competing’ in “countries where this domination is common”.

This was no drive-by dig either. Mourinho referenced it twice, at the beginning and end of his press conference, in surprising detail.

It was, in truth, odd.

There are a few dimensions and elements to all of this, but the first is the question of why Mourinho is engaging in this kind of grumpy behaviour rather than just celebrating. Why the need to bring all this up now?

Well, perhaps his is how he celebrates? Perhaps this is how he enjoys himself: savouring a feeling of angry vindication rather than joyous victory.

The Portuguese often seems most satisfied when he is having a mischievous gig, at one of what seems an unhealthily large variety of rivals.

Mourinho gave an insight into his mindset on Friday, too, when he said the feeling of victory only lasts for “five minutes” then… “move on”.

Chelsea Press Conference : News Photo

It is a mindset that tends to be fairly common among sport’s elite. Those who win the most are often by definition those who savour it the least. They are not lifted by ambition, but instead driven by fear of failure. It is a subtle difference in motivation but a hugely significant one, and one shared by figures such as Roy Keane, Steve Waugh, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Tiger Woods.

Both the book and film of David Peace's 'The Damned United' portrayed this superbly, pinpointing Brian Clough’s motivation as rising from rejection by Don Revie and England, with the national team picking the former Leeds United manager over Clough.

It is fair to wonder whether Mourinho feels the same about Guardiola and Barcelona. The most important moment in recent Champions League history may well be when the Camp Nou club decided to pass on Mourinho in the summer of 2008, instead turning to their former ball-boy. That may well have been, as John Le Carre put it, the last Russian Doll inside the Portuguese - his fundamental point of motivation.

Since that moment, the Portuguese’s career has almost been completely defined by just being the opposite to Barcelona and Guardiola in every sense. He was the first to come up with the philosophically opposite tactical approach to stop them at Inter, he was the manager to prevent claiming three Champions Leagues in a row by winning the 2009/10 semi-final, he was the one that so frequently instigated such public rancour between the two men and two clubs when he went to Real Madrid.

Since then, Mourinho has repeatedly brought up how the goalscoring force of his 2012 Spanish champions deserve more appreciation, and it often comes out of a context when Guardiola’s approach is portrayed as an aesthetic ideal.

It still seems to rankle with him, as was made painfully clear at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Then again, that’s probably one of the main reasons why is a champion first place, even if he wasn’t exactly celebrating it.


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