For all the flamboyance and uniqueness that characterised Jose Mourinho earlier in his career, the Special One has turned out to be quite a predictable entity. He arrives at a club and immediately sets about modelling it into his image.
He emphasizes the collective over individuality, drills defensive solidity into the backline, and then more often than not, wins trophies. The most predictable thing about him, however, is how he then singles out one or more of the team’s stars for criticism.
Mourinho’s spats with his own players have become an even more permanent marker of him than the winning of the glittering silverware that has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest coaches of his generation.
England midfielder Dele Alli is the latest star to fall foul of Mourinho, with reports indicating PSG lead a host of other clubs interested in becoming the former MK Don’s playmaker’s next home. The story is that Mourinho is unimpressed with Alli’s efforts both in training and matches something that doesn’t surprise anybody who has bothered to chart Mourinho’s career.
He loves his big bruisers, Jose. Alli, with his slight frame and preference to influence the game with the silkiest touches rather than brawn and physicality, was doomed right from the day Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochetinno.
Amazon’s All or Nothing Documentary of Tottenham Hotspurs features a scene where Mourinho, in a typical, brutally honest conversation tells Alli he is lazy and promises to be hard on him. He then follows that up by telling the 24-year-old England international that it’s a good sign because it means he (Mourinho) likes him.
The midfielder was taken off at a half time game during the Spurs’ 1-0 defeat to Everton in the club’s Premier League opener before being dropped completely for both Spurs’ Europa League trip to Lokomotiv Plovdiv and last weekend’s 5-2 win over Southampton.
Alli could yet play himself back into his manager’s plans, but one thing for sure is that he is far from the first player to be at loggerheads with the Mourinho. The following are five of the most high-profile stars to have run-ins with Mourinho. Please note, this list is far from conclusive.
These are the top five players whose relationship with Jose Mourinho was a difficult ordeal
1. Tanguy Ndombele
The best place to start is with Alli’s current teammate at Tottenham, Tanguy Ndombele. The Frenchman was signed from Olympique Lyon in 2019 for a club-record £63 million. He was hauled off at half time during a march with Burnley, after which Mourinho publicly criticized the midfielder, saying that his honeymoon period was over and he had to start proving he was worth the monstrous fee he had cost the club.
Media reports suggested Ndombele was keen on a move to Internazionale, but considering he came off the bench to score the winner against Lokomotiv Plovdiv last week, he might yet rise above it all and carve out a successful relationship with his boss.
2. Iker Casillas
Saint Iker was already a legend in Madrid by the time he had a much-publicized feud with Mourinho midway through the 2012/13 campaign. The goalkeeper was not just captain of both club and country, he was a hero, fresh off lifting Real’s record 32nd league title, as well as Spain’s second consecutive European Championship the previous summer.
None of this fazed Mourinho, who benched Casillas and replaced him with a hugely inexperienced Antonio Adan. It prompted a backlash from all sections, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, who both felt their captain had been grossly disrespected.
Casillas’ standing and status was able to hold on in the end, as Mourinho’s tenure at the Santiago Bernabeu ended in 2013.
3. Paul Pogba
The odd thing about Pogba is that he was actually signed back by Man United from Juventus at Mourinho’s request. Thus, when relations between the two begun to deteriorate in the pair’s second season at Old Trafford to the point of Mourinho infamously calling him a virus in the dressing room, it was a surprise, even if only a mild one.
The impasse peaked towards the end of 2018, when the two had a physical confrontation on the training ground. Mourinho then stripped Pogba of vice-captaincy.
Speculation was rife that the club would have to choose between its best player and its manager, and it was proven right when Mourinho ended up being sacked in December of that year after an extended period of poor form.
4. Mario Balotelli
Long before the off-pitch controversy, among a host of many other factors reduced Mario Balotelli to one of football’s biggest wasted talents. The Italian was one of the brightest teenagers in the game. He had defied racist abuse from opposing fans and captured the hearts of the San Siro crowd, breaking into a team featuring the considerable talents of Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito.
A 19-year-old Balotelli clashed with Mourinho when the Portuguese accused the player of lacking work ethic and being unmanageable. In the end, the maverick striker was sold to Man City in 2010.
5. Kevin de Bruyne
Mourinho earned the label of ‘manager with no patience to waste on young players’ during his time with Bruyne. When Kevin de Bruyne returned from a loan spell at Werder Bremen at the beginning of Mourinho’s second stint at Stamford, he expected to at least be given a chance to prove himself.
Instead, de Bruyne found himself frozen out as Mourinho publicly voiced how unimpressed he was with the midfielder’s efforts, and even demoted him to training with the Under-21 squad.
The lack of action prompted de Bruyne to ask for a transfer and he was sold to Wolfsburg in January 2014 before earning a £54 million move to Manchester City, just a year and a half later where he has gone on to establish himself as one of the best players in the world.
Interesting read: The Rise and Impact of Young Tacticians in Calcio
Author: Timothy Ainebyoona
Timothy is a dynamic analyst passionate about news and all things sport.