Spurs are led daily by chairman Daniel Levy, one of the smartest and sharpest directors in football. Mourinho may have fooled some by relaunching his Instagram account and generally using softer rhetoric in press conferences, but he remains the combative and confrontational figure he always was.
– Mourinho fired by Tottenham
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As a result, the two men have been on a collision course since they shook hands at Mourinho’s presentation in November 2019, although that’s not to say it doesn’t make sense. Spurs needed a manager of stature and personality to step out of the shadow of Mauricio Pochettino, a man with a track record who could do what Pochettino failed to do in his five and a half years at the head of the club : There are trophies to be won. Mourinho, for his part, needed a club already close to greatness to restore his reputation, not least to silence accusations that the footballing elite were calling him a braggart from a bygone era.
Levy is frugal in his approach – a methodology supported by the presence of a £1 billion stadium. He prefers to buy young players who are developing or have resale value. Mourinho’s management requires ruthless spending on the end product, his credibility built by a collection of talents he expects to have the mental strength to focus solely on the relentless pursuit of glory.
Tottenham’s magnificent stadium is proof that Levy also wants the best, and sources say he has admired Mourinho from afar for years, but he is – and always will be – Mourinho’s philosophical opposite. The question was always whether this unlikely marriage could bring short-term success before the inevitable and expensive divorce.
At the centre is a team perhaps irrevocably shaped in Pochettino’s image and made greater than the sum of its parts by a strong collective bond with its manager. Mourinho wanted to strengthen his resolve, as shown in the Amazon documentary for which the 58-year-old has become a star. He was literally at the box office, which his fans have always described as….. everywhere but on the field.
Mourinho was not widely respected by Spurs fans or players, but he was hired to win trophies and he left six days before the Carabao Cup match against Man City. Dan Mullan/Getty Images
After Pochettino’s inclusive and insightful style, perhaps a little tough love was what this group needed to take the final step towards the title. Before Mourinho, Spurs finished second and third in the Champions League, but they were also very consistent in the competition. It was widely acknowledged that they had exceeded expectations by playing football that was the envy of many.
– How Mourinho replaced Pochettino Turbulent day in the foothills
Mourinho said his 11-month break from management following his sacking from Manchester United in December 2018 has changed him, as he has gained a different perspective and realised the evolution of the game in that time. Soon after, however, Mourinho began publicly criticizing players for making individual mistakes. Defensive mistakes undermined performance, and a long list of injuries likely ended the 2019-20 season in disappointment.
Mourinho summed up his mentality perfectly when he lost his first Champions League match against RB Leipzig by 16 points in February 2020.
If I could move right away on July 1, I would, he said.
Pandemic offered an unexpected opportunity for a reboot. Spurs have been at the forefront of football’s energetic efforts to support the NHS and local institutions, with Mourinho, to his credit, personally involved throughout the process. Perhaps no club took advantage of the injury leave and subsequent good performances – only Manchester City and Manchester United picked up more points (21 each) than Tottenham (18) during the restart – to finish sixth and qualify for the Europa League.
A positive summer followed when Mourinho publicly congratulated Levy – who has always been nicknamed Mister – at the end of the transfer window. In addition to this lender, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Sergio Reguillon, Matt Doherty, Joe Rodon and Joe Hart. Spurs took over the lead in November – almost a year after Mourinho’s arrival – with a 2-0 win over Manchester City. Harry Kane and Heung-min Son have taken their deadly partnership to new heights.
Nevertheless, they acted far beyond their intentions and helped the numbers, assuming that it could not last, and in any case tensions began to bubble up under the surface.
Bale has had time to recover from his suspension at Real Madrid, but despite a consistently high level of training the Welshman remained a substitute in games against City, Chelsea and Arsenal, all within a fortnight of each other. Mourinho has already expressed concern over the lack of tackles, stressing that the players are not following his instructions and are retreating into a defensive mindset instead of continuing to play up front.
Julien Lawrence believes the entire Tottenham dressing room turned against Jose Mourinho, leading to his dismissal.
Sources have described this proposed story by Mourinho as highly controversial. There were also frustrations with Mourinho’s coaching, with the amount of attacking work under Pochettino contrasting with the emphasis on defence and team shape championed by his successor.
The club’s young players also felt that the road to the first team was much harder under Mourinho. Pochettino has expressed interest in setting up an academy, and although members of the development squad often train with the older players, Mourinho rarely gives more than a few words of encouragement.
On the pitch, Tottenham’s style of football has become regressive. The team, built on attacking principles, seemed caught in an existential struggle with itself, fighting against the instinct to move forward because of the conservative principles of its manager. They quickly became the team that seemed to take advantage of the continued lack of fans. There was no one in the stadium to provide an angry soundtrack and watch his team lack ambition at home. After all, the Spurs motto is do, don’t dare – defend.
Speculation about Kane’s future is also mounting. Sources have told ESPN that the England captain would love nothing more than to win trophies with Spurs, but there is a feeling that his desire to win the game’s biggest prizes could lead him to look for a change.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest developments and discuss key storylines. Streaming on ESPN+ (US only).
Spurs had won just one of their last six games before Monday’s announcement, but the timing of Mourinho’s departure comes as a surprise, six days before the EFL Cup final against Manchester City. The guy who was supposed to win trophies got fired the week he could have won one. Why not give the man who has won 12 of his 15 major finals in Europe a chance to win another one over Pep Guardiola?
ESPN reported on the 19th. February that Levy wanted to wait until the end of the season to decide on Mourinho’s fate, given the team’s problems, but especially because he knew which European leagues Spurs were playing in. With the announcement of Tottenham’s participation in the European Super League, he may have his answer. That would certainly mean a payout of around £20m, according to sources, which would suit the club, who borrowed from the Bank of England last year to cover ongoing costs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mourinho was sacked less than 12 hours after the Super League formation was confirmed in a statement from the 12 clubs involved. It is tempting to say that he has fulfilled his mission by contributing to the visibility of the club, which was looking for a place behind the new top European table.
Spurs deny that Mourinho’s departure had anything to do with the Super League, and that it was in fact a purely performance-based decision, which brings us back to the original point that Mourinho’s tenure should have been about money. The Amazon documentary was appropriately titled All or Nothing. In the end, it was nothing, and a big disappointment to all involved.