Is there a club-manager in the history of the game more helped by the ‘Men in Black’ than Jose Mourinho, asks Kashinath Bhattacharjee


‘Hard work, pride, effort and sweat’, Jose Mourinho had proudly attributed his two UEFA Champions League Trophies – in 2004 with FC Porto and in 2010 with Inter Milan – to these four qualities. How one wishes it were true!

The self-advertising “Special One”, rather, the “Unique One”, was questioning the legitimacy of the title Barcelona had won in 2009, during that press conference after Barcelona had beaten his Real Madrid 0-2 in the first leg of the UCL 2011 semi-final. In an unprecedented rant towards the Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, the Mou-drid coach said, “I’d be embarrassed if I’d won the tournament like that after the scandal at Stamford Bridge (in 2009).”

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The invention of his theory of the ‘UEFA-UNICEF-Referee’ alliance behind the world-wide dominance of Barcelona, led him to say in the same press conference, “If I tell UEFA what I think and feel, my career will end now. As I can’t say what I feel and will just have to leave a question to which someday I hope to get an answer… why? Why? I don’t know whether it is the UNICEF publicity.

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I don’t know whether it is Mr. Villar’s power within UEFA. I don’t know whether they are nice people, I just don’t know, I don’t understand. I don’t understand. I congratulate Barcelona; they are a fantastic football team as I have always said. I congratulate their achievements too, but those things should be difficult to achieve. They’ve been helped by gaining this power. Others just don’t have a chance.”

And, he propagated loudly – confidently too – that the two UCL trophies he had won worthily of every song composed in praise of his employment of wonderful tactics.

Contrary to what Mourinho had demanded, it is really difficult to find a manager, more helped by the ‘Referee”-factor than anyone else in the history of club football.

Let us examine a few cases over the last ten years –

Case I:

In the pre-quarterfinal of the 2003-04 UCL, Mourinho’s FC Porto was playing against Manchester United. Porto won the first leg 2-1 at the Estadio Dragao. During the return leg, Manchester United was ahead 1-0. Paul Scholes, the gritty midfielder, scored another one. To the surprise of the whole world – except Mourinho, obviously – the goal was “scandalously disallowed”! Till this date, Man U fans remember it sadly, how a decision from the referee had influenced their exit from the premier club competition.

Similarities could be found with what happened at Old Trafford on March 5, 2013. After nine years, Man U were denied entry to the Quarterfinal of the UCL, once again by a contentious decision – sending off Nani for dangerous play – made by a Turkish referee and against the same manager on the opposition bench, in the same ground and in the same stage of the competition!

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After the recent match, Mourinho was brave enough to accept that his team was not the best on the ground. Yet, he did not forget to mention either, ‘it happens in football’. However, in 2004, at the end of the match, he was celebrating the win hard, poking his future-friend SAF, aka Alex Ferguson, saying, he knew how terrible it felt to have lost a match to an opposition with ‘10% of your budget’!

And, to confirm Mourinho’s managerial abilities had nothing to do with the win against Manchester United, the linesman who had the Scholes’ goal inexplicably cancelled, was never used by the UEFA in future!

Case II:

During the semifinal of the UCL 2003-04, Jorge Andrade of Deportivo La Coruna was sent off for playfully kicking his best friend Deco.

From the pages of the Guardian, one can find Deco’s reaction to the incident.

“Jorge would never hurt me because he’s my friend,” Deco was quoted as saying by El Pais after the game. The leading Spanish national paper El Pais said today the players are such good friends that they share a room when they are on international duty with Portugal and that Brazilian-born Deco had dedicated a book to Andrade. Sports daily Marca added they phone each other every week.”

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The man helped by the decision the most? Unquestionably, Jose Mourinho!

And, did he not say after the Nani-match in 2013, that he never had the experience of playing ‘11 vs 10’; rather he had experienced the reverse ‘not in the pre-quarters or quarters, but in the semi-final of the UCL’?

Case III:

The semi-final of the 2009-10 UCL, first leg, played at the San Siro, against Barcelona, a club where Mourinho had once worked as a translator.

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Inter Milan won the match 3-1. However, the third goal of the team, scored by the Argentine Diego Milito, was a clear offside. And, Wesley Sneijder came rushing from behind to foul Dani Alves inside the penalty box when the referee had decided to show a yellow card to Alves, keeping in mind the Brazillian’s previous dives. However, being the referee, you have no right to penalise anyone on a football field for his past mistakes, can you? Ideally, the match should have ended 2-2 at the San Siro.

Case IV:

The return leg of the semi-final at the Camp Nou. Sergio Busquets had earned his name of a ‘swan-diver’ following that match! Thiago Motta was shown a red card solely for the theatrics of Busquests. Terrific play-acting from Busquets and terrible referring, no questions! And yes, at least one of the mistakes – to allow the Milito-goal to stand and disallow the penalty Alves deserved – were cancelled out. Yet, Inter was leading 2-1 in terms of the important decisions coming their way in an important match.

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That ‘wrong’ sending off decision from the referee had given the morale boost for Mourinho to ‘park the air bus’ in front of his box with a 4-5-0 and going all out for anti-football. Barcelona was ahead, though. Pique, the scorer. And then came the ‘third’ wrong decision, in favour of Inter Milan when Bojan Crcic’s legitimate goal was disallowed in the dying minutes.

The goal was a winner for Barcelona. The world media reported –

“Bojan’s disallowed goal in last year’s semi-final second leg. In the first leg, Diego Milito’s goal to make it 3-1 was from an offside position, and Dani Alves later had a legitimate reason to go down inside the penalty area from Wesley Sneijder’s scissor tackle from behind. Neither decision went in Barcelona’s favour.”

Case V:

The second leg of the Copa Del Rey semi-final when Real Madrid had won convincingly 3-1 at the Camp Nou. At the lemon-break, it was 1-0. But it should have been 1-1, for, Xabi Alonso tackled Pedro inside the box and even Mou-supporter-cum-commentators had no doubt that it was a penalty.

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Then, at the 44th minute, Arbeloa should have earned his second yellow for elbowing Jordi Alba. So, ideally, it should have been 1-1 and Real Madrid playing with ten men after the break. That did not happen!

Case VI:

The return leg of the La Liga 2013. Again a clear penalty at the dying moments were denied by the referee which should have given Barcelona a chance to draw the game 2-2, in spite of their not-so-inspired performance at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Both these wins inside a week had been termed as ‘great’ by the world media and they did not forget to highlight the wrong decisions made by the referee on both occasions!

Case – VII :

And then came the Old Trafford saga! It should not be faded away so soon. In the coming decades, the British Press will make their strongest effort to remind the football-world what happened on that particular night. The strongest defence in Nani’s support could have been the reactions of the Real footballers who did not even care to appeal for a yellow card!

But, the referee had flashed direct red to Nani and Real is in the quarter-final of the UCL 2012-13!

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Mourinho should never be ‘ashamed of’ his achievements, since, he did not achieve anything without the assistance from the ‘Men in Black’ in both the UCL trophies he had won and might be the third he’ll be winning in 2013!

PS: This article does not deal with analysing Mou-trics, for, ‘parking the bus or the air bus’ is as old a strategy as the game!

The Portuguese has always criticised the philosophy of attacking football, preached by a certain Johan Cruyff, citing the example of Cruyff’s dream team losing the 1994 UCL final 0-4 to Fabio Capello-managed AC Milan. He taunted, he would never want to lose 0-4 going to play attacking football.

History proves – a team, trying to ‘play’ football can lose important matches. Brazil lost against Italy and France were defeated by West Germany in the 1982 world cup – famous defeats like Barcelona’s in the 1994 UCL final.

But, have you heard of this before? A person, preaching the world, the ‘skills in organising the defence of a football team’ and the importance of keeping the shape of the team intact over ball=possession or attacking philosophy’, losing a match 0-5 and complaining about a sent-off on the dying moments after conceding all the five goals?


Definitely, Jose Mou-refeeree-nho is the ‘Unique One”!!



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