The Offside Book Review – The Dark Side of Chelsea’s Portuguese Manager Jose Mourinho

By Paul Dargan. In a new feature on the site, we review some of the latest football books to hit the shelves. This week, Paul Dargan focuses on an explosive and shocking biography of Jose Mourinho.

The Dark Side of Jose Mourinho by Diego Torres, translated by Pete Jensen 

9780007553044.225x225-75For a man truly revered around the world as possibly the greatest manager of his generation, bar Sir Alex Ferguson, there has always been a side to him that puts quite a few people off Jose Mourinho. This book supports those darker  theories and far from dispelling any myths, it  perpetuates them.

Grabbing you right from the very first page, we read about the abysmal treatment of then Real Madrid player Pedro Leon by the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’, coupled with the latter’s shock and disbelief that David Moyes and not he had been offered the Manchester United job. On one hand, it had me thinking that Pedro Leon must have done something that was yet to be disclosed by the author and on the other that Mourinho was denied his natural destiny. Though the more I read, the more I began to think that the Portuguese was a bit of a disrespectful man. While I do fully comprehend and appreciate his talents as a coach and understand the high regard with which his previous and former players hold for him, I have also coupled the ‘dark side’ of him with his ridiculous comments in pre and post-match press conferences. They are now bordering on the insane, not merely a psychological tactic; they are becoming tedious  – something this book was certainly not.

I had scanned a couple of reviews on Amazon prior to purchasing the book and wondered if only the interesting points had been plucked out. It’s like when you go to watch a film or listen to an album which has been proclaimed as “Five-star quality,” “Head and shoulders above the rest,” “Dazzling” and realise that the only single released or the scenes on the trailer for the movie were the best bits of it. Although you feel cheated and disappointed in yourself for letting others select your tastes for you, you never fully learn and are always susceptible to falling for it again.

jose_mourinho2_1598187cThankfully, the book that one of the leading investigative football journalists in Spain, Diego Torres, has produced – brilliantly translated by Peter Larsen and losing none of its hard-hitting and important sections – is excellent. Even though there are quotes from the two-time Madrid president Florentino Perez, his right-hand man, Sporting Director Jorge Valdano as well as other employees and executives at the Bernabeu, it’s obvious this isn’t  the full story, as anything rarely is. However, the way the evidence and information is given to the reader and the consequences that we are already aware of since Mourinho re-joined Chelsea, makes you think that Torres had plenty of ammo to arm himself with.

Everyone who considers themselves a football fan, at least in each of the countries that Mourinho has worked in, will be aware of how the Portuguese manager can be. The majority have at one time or another, seen him as an entertaining watch, whether he is having a go at his Arsenal counterpart, Arsene Wenger; attempting to win-out in a battle of mind games with Sir Alex Ferguson; or his now-legendary opening press conference at Stamford Bridge, when he was unveiled as Chelsea boss for the first time.

But it’s the surname of Torres again (as with Diego’s countryman, the Blues’ striker Fernando) which may keep Mourinho awake at night. In one chapter (entitled simply: ‘Fear’) Mourinho’s ‘play-acting’ is under the microscope.

“Mourinho turns up and puts on a performance: when there’s the need for emotion, he applies the emotion, but when it’s time for zero emotion [that is when he delivers] … He puts on all kinds of shows. He’s very good at being able to pretend that he’s experiencing emotions.” 

The words of semiotician Jorge Lozano, Professor of the General Theory of Information at the Complutense University of Madrid.

Lozano continues: “It’s over-acting, but he’s a faithful disciple of Stanislavski, he breaks the fourth wall”. (Lozano is referring to former Russian actor and director Constantin Stanislavski, who created a method of acting which was based on the concept of emotional memory for which an actor focuses internally to portray a character’s emotions onstage which later evolves to a method of physical actions in which emotions are produced through the use of those actions.

“He puts himself up there and acts for different audiences and the performance differs according to the situation. First, in front of journalists, he wears a mask behind which there’s always a mystery. Always the same. The mask emphasises an exaggerated solemnity. It makes no concession to commuication. He’s there because it’s his only option. If he could leave, he would. He presents himself as afflicted. Bored. Full of disdain. Ignoring everyone else. In front of the public he’s Coryphaeus, then leader of the chorus in Ancient Greek drama, the cheerleader of the most radical supporters, emphatic, celebrating goals to the limit, running through and past everything. He acts for the referee, but the referee is always the villain, whatever he does he’s on the side of the opposition, he’s bought, he’s bad, he didn’t see it, he’s the evil fool. Mourinho is delighted when the referee orders him out of the dugout, gloriously proving that he, Mourinho, exists.”

With the reference to Coryphaeus, Lozano is accusing Mourinho of speaking for everyone else at the club, because only his opinion is needed as he has assumed complete control. This was another reason for his downfall, as well as his eventual departure from Real, although the seeds had already been sown in the 5-0 thrashing by Barcelona in November 2010, just six months into his contract.

But it’s the Portuguese’s obsession with the inconsistent Trivote formation in midfield, as well as his personal ambition to defeat Barcelona, that is most puzzling. His insistence that the side plays three midfielders in a triangle is a riveting sub-plot in the book – while the individuals incorporated into the text are a mixture of agent Jorge Mendes’ players and stalwart Madridistas. But no-one is confident nor comfortable with the trivote and the rest of the squad, other than his class pets, the hanging-on-every-Mourinho-word Esteban Granero included, begin to file themselves into different factions.

jose-mourinho_2568616bNobody is more important to Mourinho than Jose Mourinho and this is very prevalent within the pages, but it’s his treatment of those who he feels are against him and his methods and the power that he unleashes upon them, which is most striking. It does explain a lot of his strange press conferences and constant excuse-making (conspiracies of TV scheduling favouring Barcelona is a very common theme) that hammer the point home. Of course, the details disclosed can not be 100% relied upon: they are only one side of the story. But the arguments are extremely convincing and for that reason alone, you should stick with this until the end.

For someone who is eager to know what life is like behind the closed doors of a one of the world’s top clubs – and how much friction is created by someone as volatile and provocative as Mourinho – this book is for you.


Price: RRP £12.99

Published: April 2014

Publisher: HarperSport

Got a book you’d like us to review? Get in touch by leaving a comment below or getting in touch with Paul directly!

Read more from Paul Dargan here!

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