Mourinho, who replaced Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham in November 2019, won 51% of all games played, picking up 95 points in the Premier LeagueRonnie MacDonald/Flickr

“Respect, man. Respect.” José Mourinho’s famous words when a member of the press dared to challenge his tactics. “I have won more titles than the other 19 managers put together.” Well, that’s no longer true. And now he’s out of a job.

At some point during the last days of Mourinho’s tenure at Spurs, I began to question whether it had all been a dream. The knee slide on the pitch with Real Madrid in the Champions League. Running down the touchline with Chelsea, coattails flying in the wind. I’ve got so used to Mourinho’s scowling figure on the Tottenham touchline that I’d forgotten what it was like to be in awe of the Special One. I struggle to remember the sparkle in his eye, the hugs with players after another trophy win, the fisticuffs with Arsene Wenger. Those days are long gone, replaced by ridiculed bus-parking tactics and shrugs as if to say “Don’t look at me! I’m still special. Look at my useless players.”

In fairness, some things haven’t changed. José once claimed that the ref was “too slow” to keep up with the game, and he has consistently repeated equally petulant excuses. His style of football, although now under intense scrutiny, has never been free flowing, prime Barcelona. It has been about getting the ball to the good players and letting them do the work. John Terry, just give it to Lampard, or Drogba, or Makelele, or Cole. I don’t pay you to imitate Messi, John, I pay you to jump in front of the ball when it’s near our goal. Unfortunately for the Special One, at Spurs he had a distinct shortage of good players.

“The days are gone ... when Mourinho knew the moves to the dance. The dance has changed. You can’t dance the boogie to Pep’s ballet or Klopp’s opera.”

Even so, I find it hard to believe that one of the best managers in recent history has had such a spectacular fall from grace. He went from being at the cutting edge of modern football, showing everyone how to win Champions Leagues as the underdog, or win Premier League titles, to being known as a tactical dinosaur. The days are gone, say the pundits, when Mourinho knew the moves to the dance. The dance has changed. You can’t dance the boogie to Pep’s ballet or Klopp’s opera. Everyone has to hit the high notes – all the players in a team have to be able to make a final pass, or delicately roulette around an oncoming defender. Even Sam Allardyce’s teams, whose tactics Mourinho once said belonged to the “19th century”, have become (occasionally) free-flowing and creative. Big Sam, playing out from the back?! No wonder Mourinho looks confused. I wonder what he thought watching Big Sam lead West Brom to a 5-2 win over Mourinho’s old Chelsea. He must have pinched himself.

Has he really fallen off the cliff of elite football due to his stubbornness in the face of a changing game? Or were we always blinded by his cult of personality, never analysing his tactics but rather transfixed by his touchline displays? Or perhaps it is not his tactics but his ego that has been his downfall. A man with such a desperate need for attention was never fit for a long career on the sidelines. He needed to be right in the middle of the pitch, pointing at everyone and shouting as the game passes him by. Maybe he would have made a good holding midfielder.


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The general consensus seems to be that he wasted Kane and Son because he preferred parking buses, and there are no more bus-sized parking spaces left on the pitch in the modern game. Will there ever be a place for him to return to the top? Surely he wouldn’t degrade himself, even more than going to Spurs, by going to a Burnley or a Norwich. I can’t see any of the big six wanting him any time soon, and no one else seems to be after an unfashionable, confrontational relic of the stone age. I can see him starting a band, or trying his hand at gardening. But then again, it wouldn’t be long before his bandmates turned against him, or the hedges started growing out of control in resistance to his attempts to keep them in a topiary box. “They were the ones playing out of tune, I was flawless,” he might say, or “it’s not my fault trees are so desperate for sunlight”. He wouldn’t even have Graeme Sounness there to blame Pogba.

José Mourinho will return to football. After a few months, everyone will have forgotten this small blip in an otherwise blipless career (if we forget about Manchester United), and an owner, realising that his team is slipping behind in the PR department, will give Jose a ring. He’ll be back in a top European league, and we’ll see the same story again. Perhaps he is an antique of a bygone age, but he knows where the spotlight is, and he knows how to focus it on himself. For all that bus-parking criticism, no one can deny that he is an expert at it. There is no one better at slotting a bus into a space not even a Mini Cooper would have attempted. Spurs wasn’t his fault; the handbrake was broken. “Respect, man. Respect.”