Friday, September 23, 2011

The Curse of Mourinho

Gian Piero Gasperini has been fired from his his role as Inter Milan manager after failing to record a win from the club's three Serie A matches this season. The 2009-10 Treble winners sit eighteenth on the Scudetto table after having shopped seven goals in three matches. He has been replaced by the Tinkerman, Claudio Ranieri.

Gasperini had attempted to use a 3-4-3 formation which served him well at Genoa, but was unable to get the nerazzuri to successfully adapt. Having Wesley Sneijder playing a more withdrawn role was also hardly likely to win fans. Although his tenure was almost criminally short, Gasperini joins the dole queue shouldering this amongst a hundredweight of mistakes.

The blunder likeliest to invite his pink slip was the purchase of Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan had already played in Europe, thus preventing him from turning out for his new club in the Champions' League. When this occurred, the boss was on borrowed time. He leaves as the only manager to not win a game in charge of Inter Milan.

The Curse of Mourinho has claimed its latest victim.

After his initial big-time success at Porto, Mourinho's immediate successors have invariably failed. This, given a Jose-inspired history of success, has prompted management bloodbaths at each club. His longest lasting successor has topped out at four seasons. While this is a direct result of replacements failing to live up to expectation, Mourinho's Curse is also both an indirect result of his strength of character and also an indicator of his formidable skill. There are certain jobs in sport that you don't want: Brent Barry replaced Michael Jordan (ouch); the mediocre Jocelyn Thibault stepped in for Patrick Roy. Kerry Collins, well, he's doing his best.

After departing Porto for Chelsea, the European Champions employed and fired three managers.. Luigi Del Neri didn't make it to the start of the season, Victor Fernandez lasted four months and Jose Couceiro was fired at the end of the year. Co Adriaanse helmed Porto to the Liga Sagres title in his only year on the North coast, swiftly leaving to take the reins at AZ Alkmaar. Mourinho's rival, Jesualdo Ferreira, was fired after his fourth year which saw his mob take about the same number of points as during their previous three title-winning campaigns.

At Chelsea, the carnage has been even more pronounced. Immediate replacement Avram Grant didn't have either the personality, reputation or respect to match his 67% winning percentage (matching Jose's). Big Phil Scolari was a disaster, while Carlo Ancelotti was effective for a year before his startling transmogrification into a lame duck. At Inter, three managers have come and gone within sixteen months of Mourinho's departure in an environment hardly known for patience.

It's telling that the most successful managers to follow in Jose's footsteps have been relaxed, carefree types. Chelsea caretaker Guus Hiddink was a short-term measure, but encouraged the team to play and enjoy the game in keeping with his modus operandi. The same could be said of Leonardo, who enjoyed a wonderful Inter honeymoon after taking over from the desperately unpopular Rafa Benitez. None could accuse the Brazilian of being a superlative tactician, nor of wanting a long-term career in management.

These bosses succeeded because the pressure was off and their appointments were finite. Those that have had the most success have been coaches who don't stress tactical acumen but tell their charges to enjoy the game. This is key, especially when compared with a Mourinho team.

When talking about a squad managed by Jose Mourinho, the same phrases are used again and again: tactically superior, organised, disciplined, powerful and together. This is because he instills such a team ethic in his players that even five years after his departure, Chelsea's core struggles to adapt to the wishes of a new manager. The best-performed successors, through design or luck, haven't changed Mourinho's strictures and focus on getting players to do what they do best.

And that is, because of his transfer acumen and training skills, play Mourinho football.

Claudio Ranieri is, from all accounts, a very friendly and nice person. His roles in Italy, Spain and England mark him as a talented manager, if one who struggles to win titles. His first act as nerazzuri coach should be to let his new players players play. It seems forcing new ideas upon an ex-Mourinho squad are not a good idea.

Club Mourinho Record 5-year succession record Managers Most Successful
52-12-4 (76.5%)
108-31-19 (68.4%)
Jesualdo Ferreira (73.3%)
124-40-21 (67%)
101-32-24 (64.3%)
Guus Hiddink (73%)
Inter Milan
49-19-8 (64.5%)
23-8-10 (56.1%)
Leonardo (68.75%)

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