Ade Ojeikere

 

I LOVE this man. He is one tactician many people love to dislike while others are aloof about his tendencies. He knows when to make his presence count and never ceases to take the centre stage in pursuit of his beliefs. His presence in any European league lights up the competition, knowing that he would infringe on the law either through his utterances, which most times occur on the spur of the moment or his misdeeds, including kicking any available object to show his angst over referee’s decisions.

A customer to many referees, Jose Mourinho surely knows his trade and flaunts it no matter whose ox is gored. Mourinho is the man for all moments and he is quick to assert his authority, even if it means taking it to the point where it leads to controversies.  Mourinho penultimate Thursday discovered that the goalposts were five centimetres too low before his Tottenham side’s 3-1 Europa League win over KF Shkendija of North Macedonia. Goals from Erik Lamela, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane sealed victory for Spurs.

The Special One’s goalkeepers drew his attention to the misnomer in the goalposts during their warm-up sessions. Mourinho, known to seize the stage in a matter of such nature informed the goalkeepers that: ‘’I am not a goalkeeper but when I spread my arms, I can tell the difference.

‘’The goalkeepers live in the goals and they know. We got the UEFA delegate to confirm, and it was five centimetres smaller and we demanded the goals to be replaced with goals of the right dimension, Mourinho said.’’

The sets of goalposts were removed and replaced with the correct sizes as recommended by the regulations of the game. Interestingly, this Tose Proeski Arena, in Skopje which serves as the country’s national stadium, had to host the game at short notice when it was discovered that Shkendija’s stadium does not meet UEFA’s requirements. However, the goals at the national ground did not conform to FIFA’s regulations. Shkendija insisted they were not aware of the incident and Spurs did not accuse their opponents of any wrong-doing. Their rules state that goalposts should stand at 8ft but the original goals were 7ft 10in.

Mourinho, who is 5ft 9in, laughed about the incident after the game and jokingly shared a photo of him reaching up to the crossbar on his Instagram page.

He wrote: ‘’I thought I had grown then I realised the goal was 5 centimetres lower – Shkendija 1-3 @spursofficial.’’ The manager also shared a picture of his 6ft1 in goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who was an unused substitute with Joe Hart making his debut, reaching up to the post. What won’t Mourinho joke with, especially if he wins? don’t blame the Special One. Some other coaches would have waved it off without doing what Mourinho did – crosscheck. Not Mourinho, a stickler for excellence.

Speaking about his side’s victory, Mourinho added: ‘’We did just enough. We didn’t play magnificently. Just enough. And the players on the bench made a difference, gave us a different intensity.’’

Mourinho’s coaching history is replete with such outstanding benchmarks but he appears not to have mastered the act of going through his club careers without having problems with top players in clubs where he has coached in the second season of his contract. Such needless face-offs with big players have led to his unceremonious exits as a result of players’ mutiny in support of their ‘oppressed’ mates.

Recall that Mourinho stripped Paul Pogba of Manchester United Captaincy after the French World Cup winner criticised his defensive approach to matches. Mourinho banished Bastian Schweinsteiger to the reserves at Manchester United immediately he was appointed manager and was criticised for his treatment of such an experienced player.

The Portuguese didn’t enjoy the latter part of his stay at Real Madrid, falling out with key players like Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe. According to the Guardian, Mourinho told Pedro Leon that he wouldn’t play him even if he was the only man left behind should their team plane crash without him in it.

Mourinho had an uneasy relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. He accused Ronaldo of being too “over-confident” and issued instructions to him through his assistant coach, Rui Faria.

In a documentary about mentor Sir Bobby Robson, Mourinho said: “Ronaldo Nazario, the best Ronaldo ever!”

The Special One hides under the cloak of instilling discipline to draw the line with such players. Pundits cannot understand why Mourinho takes delight in tackling such players. But he is the coach and the only leader on the pitch. Big players must learn how to respect their bosses no matter how important they perceive themselves to be.

The world is watching the latest of Mourinho’s brush with big players where Dele Alli has been made to swallow his pride and behave according to Mourinho’s dictates. Typical of Mourinho, he has dropped Alli from the last three matches against Southampton, Newcastle and Chelsea, making watchers of the game feel that the Nigeria-born (this word again) would be out of the Spurs team before the October 5 transfer deadline. There is still time for this anticipated move.

Would it be appropriate to say that Mourinho has Dele Alli where he wants him? This columnist doesn’t think so because the player’s colleagues are watching the scenarios as they play out. In such player/manager wahala, the actors get the last laugh, most times when the team’s fortunes are not in sync with what the club’s management demands. One thing is, however clear, Alli isn’t a big player, given the way his colleagues have reacted to his predicament. If he was, they would have had private meetings with the manager to temper justice with mercy. Imagine if the face-off was between Kane, the team’s captain and highest goal scorer? All the sides of such big ego problems would have been involved with club managements always willing to sacrifice the manager with a sack.

Interestingly, Jose Mourinho claims in Tottenham Hotspur’s documentary ‘All or Nothing’  that the only advice Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson gave him was to sign Dele Alli during his time as manager of the Red Devils.

According to the Daily Mail, Mourinho said: “Sir Alex Ferguson gave me only one piece of advice in two-and-a-half years, ‘Buy Dele Alli, that guy with that mentality, the way he plays, the aggression in his mind, that guy is a Manchester United player, buy that guy.’’

“He has an eye for players and he told me, ‘buy that player’ but he is not a good trainer. We have to find the right motivation for the guy.”

Mourinho must watch his back with Alli. The Nigeria-born may be down but looks like the cobra which has recoiled to spit venom when the stakes are higher.

Alli won and scored a penalty for Tottenham in the  7-2 thrashing of Maccabi Haifa. The 24-year-old midfielder replaced Giovani Lo Celso at half-time for Spurs. He could leave the club before Monday’s transfer deadline.

Not one known to stoop to conquer, Mourinho looked to calm nerves over Alli’s feats in the game pointing out that:  ‘’Good for Dele to come on to create a proper penalty. The action for the penalty was beautiful, and he was serious, cool and professional in scoring it.’’

Was Alli impressed with Mourinho’s therapy which sought to praise his professionalism and seriousness in slotting it (the penalty kick on Thursday night) away? It remains to be seen in the coming days.

Sportsmail also suggested on Friday afternoon that PSG want Alli in their squad and could go to any extent to grab him, seeking to exploit the cold relationship he presently has with Mourinho.

In the Sportsmail report on Friday, it stated that: ‘’The Ligue 1 champions are set to make a loan offer for the England midfielder in the coming days, though Tottenham’s stance has been he is not for sale or loan.’’

 

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