How Jose Mourinho lost his amazing techni-colour dream coat

Jose Mourinho sat with an unshaven beard and shaved head at the club’s Cobham training ground for the club’s annual Christmas meal just hours before he was sacked. He was a in a dishevelled state compared to the one we have come to know as the self proclaimed “special one”

He has taken the club from the top of the pile to relegation strugglers in a very short space of time. Here are a couple of things that may help explain what happened.

Jose Mourinho has exuded charisma throughout his coaching career. This was always backed up with being ultra prepared. However, he has never had to deal with a weak set of players who didn’t believe in what he told them. He always commanded his players respect. Lately however, it appears that he has lost the respect of the players and the performances have plummeted accordingly.


Losing the dressing room and staff

Earlier in the season, he dismissed his doctor Eva Carneiro for entering the field of play to tend to Eden Hazard as he lay in pain on the ground. In the process he castigated her in the media for not fully understanding the intricacies and subtleties of the game – when she entered the pitch, the player had to leave the field of play and the opposition (Swansea) scored against 10 man Chelsea.

There are strong rumours of a bust up between him and another member of staff – his goalkeeping coach. The coach apparently wanted to gradually bring their star goalkeeper Courtois back from injury lately, but Mourinho is thought to have over ruled his professional opinion undermining the views of his goalkeeping coach in the process. Such a decision wouldn’t have sat well with other staff members especially in light of what had happened with the doctor.


In October, Mourinho lashed some of his players when he suggested in the media that “rats” around the Blues camp had given away confidential team information – he had become obsessed with the fact a close contact from Porto (former club) knew of his plans to drop Cesc Fabregas before a recent Champions League game. Asa result, he became guarded over how he set his team up during training, so that players were guessing over who would be starting games.

More recently, we had the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Mourinho lambasted his players to the media after a surprise 2-1 loss at Leicester suggesting that players had “betrayed” his work – identifying the defenders needed to watch out for left wing crosses and left foot shots that provided their two goals .  The Portuguese also warned his team against “betrayal” in the tactical meeting ahead of the Leicester game and the word was apparently used again during the half-time team talk at Leicester.

In a recent BBC documentary on ex Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, “Secrets of Success”, he proclaimed that one of his primary objectives was that his players would be respectful to the club they played for. Part of that revolved around being appropriately dressed when travelling away from home while representing the club – suit and tie. A bigger part revolved around being humble to those they met in the football environment when away from home and around the environment at their Carrington training ground by greeting the cleaning and restaurant staff by their first name. In fact Alex Ferguson once said that he knew he had a player if he had the same manner and personality at 21 as he had at 16 when he left his mother. There would be no room for ego and this proved very wise as he became the greatest manager in the history of the British game.

The All Black Rugby team realise that you must remain humble, and that no one is too big or too famous to do the little things required each and every day to get better. They even have the top players and management sweeping the dressing room after they finish their matches.

From a sport psychology perspective a scientifically validated measure of optimal leadership qualities (Transformation Leadership Inventory for Sport (DTLI), Callow et al, (2009)) identifies six transformational leadership behaviours that help performance and group cohesion.

Inspirational Motivation (where leaders inspire followers with their vision for the future), He set the standards for those to follow.

Fostering Acceptance of Group Goals (where leaders incorporate followers in the devising of, accepting of and striving towards a common agreed goal),

Individual Consideration (where leaders show concern for followers individualistic needs),

Intellectual Stimulation (where leaders challenge followers to assess their methods and how to improve them).

High Performance Expectations (where leaders promote excellence and performance criteria for followers in the attainment of set goals)

Intellectual Stimulation (where coach challenges players to assess their methods and how to improve them) 

 Appropriate Role Modelling (where leaders lead by example in the way they conduct themselves and live their lives in the manner that they would like their followers to do).

Mourinho undoubtedly has certain qualities of a top coach with many from a football knowledge perspective. He may also be able to espouse a lot of the factors listed and motivate and set high expectations for players. However, his portrayal of himself to be the all knowing, self obsessed “special one” person that he came across as in the media may not have sat well with his players over the course of time.

Mourinho’s narcissist and brash personality may make for good entertainment and media copy but it is the antithesis of the grounded approach Ferguson spoke of. It appears that the Chelsea players are no longer warming to his self obsessed manner and have begun to resent him more than respect him. His treatment of both players and staff would appear to accentuate this.

Unlike Alex Ferguson and his obsession with keeping both himself and his players as grounded as possible and coming across as an appropriate role model for his players, Mourinho obviously fell down on the last one!

The value of Sport Psychology Versus Motivational Speaking

Many people often question the value of a sport psychologist and question what they can do. In fact this area of sporting expertise still remains taboo for an awful lot of sports people including some professionals.

Many teams use motivational speakers to come in and give their players a pep talk to “give them a lift” or a “boost” before they play a big game and many liken sport psychologists to these motivational speakers.

While a motivational speaker can lift morale to a certain extent, their long term effect is often negligible. Players walk out the door on a high but a week later will have forgotten what was said.

A sport psychologist on the other hand uses applied psychological scientific research to inform their actions and interventions to solve or improve actual performances issues. Most sport psychologists would be capable of offering services in and around the areas of

(1) Motivation for sport and exercise,
(2) Anxiety, performance stress & motor control
(3) Relaxation & deep breathing
(4) Effective goal setting
(5) Mental Skills Training (visualisation / self-talk)
(6) Team building & group cohesion.
(7) Injury and Rehabilitation
(8) Post Career Transition.

(9) Leadership behaviour

If, for example, a player had issues with performing on the big day, strategies could implemented to control nervousness and relieve the pressure. If a player was not getting the most out of themselves on the pitch it could be through lack of motivation. An effective goal setting strategy could be used to improve this and thus performance would improve.
If a player was having issues with a closed skill task under pressure (golf, GAA free taking, basketball free throw etc), a strategy could be employed to improve attentional focus, increasing percentage success and hence increase confidence and performance.

All of these areas are grossly ignored by the many inspiring “motivational” speakers on the circuit who often have little more than a feelgood good news story to tell. As you part with your cash, their may be feelings of good things ahead, but it often doesnt ring true as there is often no implemented strategy behind the motivational jargon about what they succeeded in doing. In essence, you wont get much “bang” for your “buck”.

On a side note it is interesting to see that Donegal’s Jimmy McGuiness (MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology) has been taken on in a part time capacity at Celtic Football Club. What he has achieved in Donegal in 2 years is remarkable and reflects very well on the value of applied sport psychologists and the impact they may have on performance.