Jose Mourinho Profile: “The second division was my level.”

As we approach the UEFA Champions first leg tie between Internazionale Milano and Chelsea, let’s take a look at Senhor José Mourinho.

You will learn about his formative years, his brief playing career, teaching background, managers who influenced him, along with his experiences at Sporting Clube de Portugal, Benfica, FC Barcelona, FC Porto, Chelsea FC and F.C. Internazionale Milano. I have added a few quotes from Mr. Mourinho that may show a different side to his public persona.

José Mário dos Santos Félix Mourinho, affectionately known as “Ze” to family and friends, was born in Setubal, Portugal in 1963. His father, Felix, was a professional goalkeeper who later became a manager of several Portuguese clubs. His mother, Maria Julia, taught primary school.

Precocious From a Young Age

According to his father, Felix, Mourinho’s  affinity, aptitude and acute attention to detail for football management began very early.

“When he was 13 or 14 I became a manager and had to travel. José would always find a way to turn up wherever I was. By coach, or even fish transport truck, he would always be with me somehow for the weekend matches. He started to manage the ball boys. He would position himself behind our bench. I’d give him instructions which he would pass on to the players, running to the other side of the pitch to tell them. So he began very early to deal with tactics and systems of play…

When he was 15 or 16 he told me he wanted to be a manager. He started to watch the teams we were going to play and prepare reports, and that helped me a lot. I remember when I was manager at Uniao de Madeira that we went to play away in Amadora. We needed at least a draw to reach the play-offs for a place in the top division of the Portuguese League.” (1)

Management Philosophy Shaped by Christmas Sacking of His Father

Mourinho learned about the ephemeral nature of football management at a young age:

“I was nine or 10 years old and my father was sacked on Christmas Day. He was a manager, the results had not been good, he lost a game on December 22 or 23. On Christmas Day, the telephone rang and he was sacked in the middle of our lunch.” (2)

Short Playing Career: “The second division was my level.”

Mourinho joined the youth ranks of Belenenses, and then played for his father at Rio Ave as a defender. Mourinho also played for second division side, Sesimbra, and studied Physical Education and Sports Science at the Instituto Superior de Educação Física (The Technical University of Lisbon). He spent five years in University and earned a diploma. In a May 2004 interview with the The Times of London, Mourinho admitted his playing limitations:

“By 23, he had realised his limits as a player. ‘I’m an intelligent person. I knew I was not going to go any higher. The second division was my level. ” (3)
Focus on Teaching and Coaching

He worked as a Physical Education teacher at local Lisbon schools. He earned coaching badges and became the youth team manager at Vitoria Setubal, and then an assistant coach at Estrela da Amadora. During his efforts to increase his coaching knowledge, Mourinho was noticed by a prominent figure in world football.

“He took courses in coaching, some under the auspices of the Football Association and the Scottish FA, where Andy Roxburgh, the former Scotland manager, would be an important influence, ‘particularly on training organisation, the points and techniques you need to establish in practice sessions’. Roxburgh was impressed by his student and his attention to detail.” (4)

Sir Bobby Robson: “And to think, he was just a schoolteacher when I met him.”

Bobby Robson and Jose MourinhoWhen the student is ready, the master arrives. The warm Portuguese sun shone brightly on Mourinho in 1992. He came into the orbit of Sir Bobby Robson, the legendary English manager. Mr. Robson came to Portugal to manage Sporting Clube of Lisbon. He hired Mourinho as his Portuguese to English interpreter and translator. Mr. Robson immediately recognized that Mourinho’s translation skills were merely the tip of the ice burg:

“The Englishman quickly understood that Mourinho was more than simply a translator and asked him to watch forthcoming opponents.

‘He’d come back and hand me a dossier that was absolutely first class. I mean first class,’ Robson told the journalist Patrick Barclay, who has recently (2005) published a fine biography of Mourinho, subtitledAnatomy of a Winner (Orion). As good as anything I’ve ever received. Here he was, in his early thirties, never been a player, never been a coach to speak of either, giving me reports as good as anything I ever got.’ ” (5)

Mr. Robson was sacked by Sporting but quickly landed at FC Porto. Mourinho became part of his backroom staff. When Mr. Robson took over the FC Barcelona bench in 1996, Mourinho followed him to Catalonia and learned Catalan. He became known as “El Tradutor,” or “The Translator.” Barcelona would mark a turning point in their relationship. Mr. Robson was sacked in 1997, but Mourinho stayed on to assist his successor, Louis van Gaal. Mourinho never forgot the influence of Sir Bobby:

“I owe him for so much. I was a nobody in football when he came to Portugal. He helped me to work in two clubs here (Sporting and Porto) and he took me to one of the biggest clubs in the world (Barcelona). We are very different, but I got from him the idea of what it is to be a top coach… He’s a field man, who thrives on direct contact with the players. He is also a coach dedicated to attack. If we divide the game into three areas of build-up, you would say Bobby Robson’s work is to focus on the final third. It meant that a lot of the emphasis of my work was towards the defence.” (6)

Back to Portugal

Mourinho stayed three years at Barcelona where his attention to detail and personal touch were noted by players such as Laurent Blanc and Josep “Pep” Guardiola. He turned down Mr. Robson’s offer to be his second in command at Newcastle United. He returned to Portugal in 2000 for his first head coaching job with Benfica. His spell with the iconic Portuguese club was rather short. He departed for Uniao de Leiria in January 2001. A year later, he arrived at the club that would launch him onto the world stage: FC Porto.

A Formula for Success

He wrote a letter to each player at Porto that stressed his man-management philosophy:

“Welcome to Porto”the letter began. “Hope you have recharged your motivation and ambition . . . From here, each practice, each game, each minute of your social life must centre on the aim of being champions . . . First-teamer will not be a correct word. I need all of you. You need each other. We are a TEAM.” Along the bottom margin of the page, there was an equation: “ Motivation + Ambition + Team + Spirit = SUCCESS.” (7)

He won everything at his disposal in two years at Porto: The Portuguese Cup and SuperCup, two Portuguese League titles, the UEFA Cup in 2003 and the UEFA Champions League in 2004.

The Chelsea Era: “I think I am a special one.”

Chelsea FC owner, Roman Abramovich, courted the new European coaching sensation away from Porto to Stamford Bridge in 2004. Mourinho’s presentation news conference demonstrated his English language skills and self-confidence. One statement in particular caught the attention of the English media, and has become his calling card around the footballing world:

“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.” (8)

At Chelsea, Mourinho continued his winning ways. He won the Premiership twice on the trot in his first two seasons. He could not replicate the European success of Porto. Mourinho left his position early in the 2007/2008 season. He won the Community Shield, the League and League Cup twice, and the FA Cup. His off-pitch verbal sparring sessions with other managers, notably Rafael BenitezSir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, reinforced the notion that Mourinho left no detail uncovered. For Mourinho, the game is played off the pitch as much as on it.

Internazionale Milano: “He speaks better Italian than me and I was born here.” Rino Gattuso of AC Milan (9)

Mourinho arrived on the Italian peninsula to manage Inter Milan in 2008, and learned Italian during his break from football. He won the Serie A Scudetto easily on his first attempt and the Italian SuperCup. Similar to his spell with Chelsea, Mourinho has yet to achieve European glory. Reminiscent of his time at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho has gotten under the skin of many opposing managers, journalists and players.

Bad Blood with Claudio Ranieri, but Grudging Admiration from The Tinkerman

Mourinho began his Italian odyssey with very personal criticism of former Chelsea manager,Claudio Ranieri, who was the Juventus manager at the time:

“The Special One attacked the Tinkerman’s achievements, ridiculed him for not speaking English fluently and labelling him ‘a 70-year-old.’ As he prepared Juventus for the game against reigning Italian champions Inter, Ranieri insisted he has nothing to envy about Mourinho. Ranieri said: ‘Do I like anything about him? Yes, the fact that all his players speak highly of him, as it means that he manages to forge a great rapport with them. But I don’t like the way he stirs up controversies from time to time. Our frictions have nothing to do with the fact that he replaced me at Chelsea.’I knew I was on borrowed time but I believe I still had a superb season – managing to lift the Blues into fourth place without spending any money.’ Mourinho recently boasted to the Italian media that he earned £11.5million a year.

‘Am I envious of him? Not at all,’ said the 57-year-old Ranieri (not 70) with his trademark smile.

‘We have nothing in common, he has won a lot and I haven’t. But I’ve been in football for a long time and I keep going. I believe I have been doing a good job nonetheless.’

Over to Mourinho: “I studied Italian five hours a day for many months to ensure I could communicate with the players, media and fans,” he said.

‘Ranieri had been in England for five years and still struggled to say ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon.’ ” (9a)

A Master Motivator and Stern Disciplinarian

South African international and current Hammer, Benni McCarthy, played for Mourinho at Porto. McCarthy concisely noted a key quality about Mourinho in 2004 before he took over at Chelsea: “An expert in developing a player’s confidence.” If we examine the development of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry at Chelsea, their profiles rose under Mourinho’s watch. Even a player whom he criticized in the past, Samuel Eto’o, packed his bags and left FC Barcelona to join Mourinho’s new project at Inter Milan. (10)

During a Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) match against Fiorentina earlier this month, Mourinho immediately removed rising Inter star, Mario Balotelli, from the match after an incident. Balotelli lost a contact lens, stayed on the ground to retrieve it, and did not run back into his defensive end when Fiorentina attacked. Balotelli refused to acknowledge Mourinho and went straight to the changing room.

“I’m not bothered what the press thinks about our relationship. I liked what Mario did against Chievo, AC Milan, Juventus and also against Fiorentina, even though a perfect player is one who forgets about his lost contact lens when his team is in trouble,” said Mourinho. “Jokingly I said he should even forget about it if he loses an eye. But there’s no Balotelli case and he’s part of the squad as per usual (this weekend).” (11)

Incredible Home Victory Record

Mourinho has not lost at home in all League competitions since February 2002 with Porto. At the time of this writing, his sides have won 129 straight league home matches. According to Soccerbase, here are his career statistics: (Wins, Losses and Draws).

Inter 02-06-2008 Present 86 51 12 23
Chelsea 02-06-2004 20-09-2007 185 124 21 40

According to Wikipedia, here is his entire management record: (Wins, Draws and Losses).

Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Benfica Portugal 20 September 2000 5 December 2000 11 6 3 2 54.55
Leiria Portugal January 2001 20 January 2002 31 17 10 4 54.84
Porto Portugal 23 January 2002 26 May 2004 123 87 21 15 70.73
Chelsea England 2 June 2004 20 September 2007 185 131 36 18 70.81
Internazionale Italy 2 June 2008 88 53 24 11 60.23
Total 431 291 89 51 67.52

The Real Mourinho

Patrick Barclay, author of Anatomy of a Winner, had an interesting observation in 2005:

“Even he himself says that there are two Jose Mourinhos,” says Patrick Barclay, who has studied more carefully than most. “There is the charming private man and there is the coach we see at Chelsea, a coach who has an inability to apologise for anything that he or one of his players says and does. It is as if, as a coach, Mourinho is acting, playing a role. And don’t underestimate his look as a kind of weapon. This gives him huge credibility in the dressing room. What are young men of that type most interested in? Women, money and clothes. And they know that Mourinho is the one man at Chelsea that everyone – including their girlfriends – is most interested in.” (14)

Mourinho is eager to replace Roy Hodgson after England’s matches in Euro 2016; whether the role will be his, remains to be seen.


(1) “Destined to Be Great from the Age of 10,” Sunday Mirror, Sept.12, 2004 by Paul Smith.
(2) Brainyquote: Jose’ Mourinho.

(3-4,6-7,10) The Big Feature: Jose’ Mourinho, The Times of London, May 9, 2004 by Ian Hawkey.

(5,14) “Man of the Year.” New Statesman, Dec.19, 2005 by Jason Cowley.

(8) “The Special One: Jose’ Mourinho YouTube Video.

(9) “Soccerlens 2008 Quotes of the Year in World Football.”

(9a) “Former Chelsea Bosses Mourinho and Ranieri Come Face to Face in Italian Job,” The Daily Guardian, Nov. 20, 2008 by Christopher Davies.

(11) “Mourinho Plays Down Balotelli Spat,” AFP, Feb. 6, 2010.

(12) Soccerbase: Jose’ Mourinho.

(13) Wikipedia: Jose’ Mourinho.

Also See:

The Jose Mourinho Page
Jose Mourinho, the Master Baiter

About the Author

Steve Amoia writes the World Football Commentaries blog. He has been a contributor at Soccerlens since 2007. Since 2005, he has published articles, commentaries, interviews, and translations for AC Cugini Scuola Calcio, Football Media (UK), the International Herald Tribune 2006 World Cup Fan Blog,, Keeper Skool (Australia), and Soccerlens (UK).

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