LONDON: The Premier League may be the world’s biggest sporting soap opera but the plot twist revealed by Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday would win the admiration of even the finest script writers.
The “evil genius” is back, collar turned up on black jacket, strutting into the shiny billion pound home of a club that treasures its self-image as guardians of the beautiful game.
Jose Mourinho is not a Tottenham man and has no interest in losing the “right way”: he has won titles in Portugal, Spain, Italy and England by playing to win, with tactics focused purely on results rather than entertainment or aesthetics.
Yet one of the many sub-plots to this drama is that Mourinho heads to North London with a major point to prove after an ill-tempered and mostly unsuccessful two-and-a-half seasons in charge of Manchester United where his reputation suffered badly.
The 56-year-old Portuguese will surely know that the rants about demanding “Respect, respect, respect” and waving three fingers to show the Premier League titles he won with Chelsea are not going to cut it now.
Mourinho is great box office, always ready to prompt debate and keenly aware how controversy fuels the popularity of the sport in England as much as it does in Italy, where he restored the fortunes of Inter Milan and Spain where he was at the heart of the Real Madrid story.
The irony of taking over at Spurs from Mauricio Pochettino will not be lost on Mourinho.
The Argentine was heavily linked with Mourinho’s job at Old Trafford during his final days at United with many commentators suggesting that Pochettino’s attractive style of play was the perfect antidote to Mourinho’s increasingly dour pragmatism.
There was no shortage of pundits who portrayed Mourinho as yesterday’s man, outdated and outflanked by the younger, fresher more upbeat approach of the progressive Pochettino.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINALISTS
How quickly things change in football, Mourinho must be thinking to himself, but he will also know he is a very fortunate manager to inherit Pochettino’s team.
Because while at Old Trafford he took over a squad that had little identity and needed a major overhaul, he now has the job of improving the results of a team which just a few months ago reached the final of the Champions League.
He has a team led by England’s captain, the prolific striker Harry Kane, and with one of the Premier League’s most exciting attacking players in South Korea’s Son Heung-min.
Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen can create the openings for that strike force and if he can help Dele Alli rediscover his form, there is no reason why Spurs cannot rediscover the attacking verve central to the best of the Pochettino years.
It is the other side of the game though where Spurs need the most improvement. While the experienced Belgian central defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld may be reaching the end of their time at the club, they can at least offer some short-term stability.
The team spirit, so impressive earlier in Pochettino’s time at the club, has suffered in recent months and the fact that Eriksen and other key players are nearing the ends of their contracts cannot have helped.
Yet a positive dressing room was exactly what was missing under Mourinho at United where his cantankerous behaviour led to a deeply corrosive mood which improved significantly once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced him.
There is logic behind Spurs chairman Daniel Levy’s decision to entrust the future of the team to Mourinho – Spurs are in need of so many of the qualities that the coach has shown in his career.
The real question is which Mourinho Spurs find themselves with? The energetic and enterprising Mourinho of Inter, Porto and his first spell at Chelsea, or the sullen shadow of himself that appeared at Manchester United?
Only one thing is sure – the plot has thickened.
Reaction to Jose Mourinho’s appointment as Tottenham manager
English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur named Jose Mourinho as their new manager on Wednesday, replacing the sacked Mauricio Pochettino.
Here is some reaction to the return of the Portuguese manager to club soccer after being dismissed by Manchester United last December:
SPURS GREAT PAUL GASCOIGNE
“Mourinho is a unbelievable manager, if I was a Tottenham player I would be delighted knowing he was coming in. I don’t think it’ll take him long to win round the dressing room. If I was a player I’d look at what he’s won, the emotions that he incites in players … he’s a manager I’d play for.
TOTTENHAM MP DAVID LAMMY ON TWITTER
“Tottenham is only about four square miles large, we will struggle to contain Mourinho’s ego which is bigger than even our new stadium.”
FORMER LIVERPOOL CAPTAIN GRAEME SOUNESS
“Mourinho is a perfect fit for them. Spurs are genuinely a big club and they need someone who can turn what is perceived to be attacking, attractive football into a slightly more pragmatic approach that will put some silverware in the boardroom.”
FORMER ENGLAND STRIKER ALAN SHEARER
“Mourinho has been waiting for a big job and now has got one. He has big boots to fill to try and better what Pochettino has done. The Argentine may not have won a trophy (but) the way Pochettino delivered his football and that Champions League final was special and will live with Spurs fans for many years.”
FORMER CHELSEA AND SPURS STRIKER EIDUR GUDJOHNSEN
“I’ve great respect for the man, he took us to another level at Chelsea. It is a big challenge … moving into that top level is hard, but Tottenham should always be challenging the top four.”
FORMER SPURS SKIPPER GARY MABBUTT
“I was one of the managers of one of the teams competing in an exhibition match when they were testing out the new stadium in March. Jose was part of the coaching staff looking after an Inter Milan XI. He was great throughout the day and afterwards he came to me and said how much this club is moving forward, how fantastic this stadium is. He was clearly very impressed.”
FORMER SPURS MIDFIELDER JAMIE REDKNAPP
“Mourinho is a left-field appointment for Levy but if you want a winner – and Spurs have not won a trophy for a long time – Mourinho is your man.”
Follow The Himalayan Times on