Opinion

Why Mourinho is no longer the 'same coach with different players'

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After starring in the awful Jaws 4, Michael Caine reportedly admitted that while the movie may have been terrible, the house it paid for was fantastic. There was something of that when Spurs appointed Jose Mourinho in November, 2019.

The pay-offs, however, have yet to be felt. Everything seems to be getting worse.

When asked why Tottenham Hotspur were throwing away leads when his teams were famous for keeping them in the past, Mourinho answered: "same coach, different players."

Leaving aside whether a manager should be saying such things, it is worth asking if the statement is true.

The players are different but is the coach really the same? Is this really the same man who led two different teams to the UEFA Champions League title and made waves wherever he went, winning titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain?

It does not seem so. Mourinho is one of the most successful coaches in history but it can’t be said with certainty that he is still part of the elite.

When he was appointed as Spurs boss, there were not only a few eyebrows raised but there were mixed feelings.

Had it been a decade earlier, the reaction would surely have been different, but the aura around the ‘Special One’ had gone after sackings from Chelsea and Manchester United.

The United job was especially damaging.

Taking the club back to the top was always going to be difficult but if anyone could do it, so the thinking went, it was Mourinho.

His style of football may not have suited the traditions at Old Trafford but it would bring titles.

Mourinho was not a coach to develop players or prepare for the future, but a man to deliver trophies and quickly.

He did, to an extent at United, but the EFL Cup and Europa League - in the absence of development and long-term planning - merely papered over the cracks at a club that had dominated English football since the early nineties.

There was no title or success in the Champions League. The football was dire and the team was going nowhere despite significant investment.

Tottenham don’t have the same demands and expectations of success but appointing Mourinho seemed to stem from a similar feeling - a desire to start winning trophies as soon as possible; a desire to import a winning mentality.

It has not happened. Spurs may have the League Cup final soon but England’s third prize is not going to take attention away from the faltering league campaign and the prospect of missing out on next year’s Champions League.

You don’t have to hire one of the most expensive coaches in world football to win the League Cup.

And again, the football is poor. Tottenham do have a reputation for exciting football, but under Mourinho, it is painful. The team can’t defend and have lost the sparkle in attack.

And then there is his habit of blaming the players when things go badly. This ‘we win because of me but lose because of you’ mentality can’t go down well in the dressing room. As a motivational tactic, it has to be questionable and the general air of irritability can’t help either.

So what happens now? The deal with Mourinho is that, when he wins, the other stuff - the football, the tetchiness - can be overlooked. But when there is little success in the short-term and little sense that anything is being laid in place for the long-term, then discontent is inevitable.

And if, or, more likely, when Spurs miss out on the Champions League, what will the stars do?

There are already credible reports in England that Harry Kane may look elsewhere and the same may happen with Son Heung-min.

At their ages, if they want to challenge for the biggest prizes, they can’t afford to hang around at a club going nowhere and where football is not enjoyable.

There are plenty of places where that is not the case. An unhappy Kane, the club’s talisman, would be a huge problem.

There is much for Spurs to think about. Increasingly, appointing Mourinho looks to be a gamble that has not worked. Despite what he said, he is not the same coach.