Now, of course, it wasn’t entirely up to Mourinho. He was asked about Arsène’s own words when asked why some managers claim that they can’t win the Prem:
It is fear to fail. It is very open, only Chelsea can lose it because they are in front and all the other teams can win it. There’s nothing more to say. If you’re not in the race, you cannot lose it. If you declare yourself not in the race, you cannot lose it, simple as that.
These words were then put to Mourinho as part of the pre-match news conference ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup clash with Man City. He could have demurred or declined comment, pointing out that the news conference was for this match, but he didn’t. He couldn’t resist a chance to take a dig at Arsène. In fact, it seemed as if he deliberately kept the press waiting (a full 13 minutes) before coming out, as if he was winding himself up for that question or a chance to raise the issue himself. When the question did come, Mourinho spoke over the reporter to say ten words: “He is a specialist in failure. I’m not.” Mourinho expounded:
If supposedly he is right, and I am afraid to fail, it is because I don’t fail many times…The reality is that he is a specialist because eight years without a piece silverware, that’s failure. If I do that in Chelsea, I leave and don’t come back. I just say if Mr. Abramovich gives me eight years to prepare a team, which I don’t want him to give me, I don’t want, I just want my contract of four years to do my work.”
How bloody-blinkin’ blindered can one man be? Does he not hear the words coming out of his own mouth? Here’s a “manager” who, everywhere he has gone, has had his pick of players, whether it was at Chelsea the first time, when Abramovich spent nearly £370m in transfer-fees on players for Mourinho, burning through more than £245m on transfers in compared to revenue from transfers out. Did Mourinho refuse or complain about a team that Abramovich gave him, saying “I don’t him to give me”? Somehow, I doubt it. In fact, if anything, it seems that as the pace of spending slowed from a high of £140m in 2004-05 to “only” £55m in 2007-08, Mourinho might have started feeling a little nervous about his prospects.
Could it have been a fear of failure that fueled his departure? How to sustain the level of success he did enjoy if Abramovich was spending less on new playthings for Mourinho? Reports suggest that the relationship between the two had grown “increasingly troubled.” Hm. When he arrived at Inter in 2008-09, the club went all-in for him, just as Abramovich had done, splurging £120m over two seasons for him. Only the £60m sale of Ibrahimovic off-set the spending in any meaningful way. Whether that was down to Ibra’s own wanderlust or Mourinho’s desire to have the limelight to himself is for others to consider. It’s only at Real Madrid that the hyper-spending seems to predate Mourinho’s arrival. Then again, Madrid’s 2009-10 splurge of £225m for players might have been part of an agreement with Mourinho, whose celebration of Inter’s defeat of Barcelona in the Champions League might have had more to do with proving himself to Real Madrid than leading Inter. During his brief time there, Madrid found time to spend £113m on players, going £115m past their transfer-revenues in the process. Upon Mourinho’s return to Chelsea, spent yet another £115m on players, going a mere -£50m beyond revenues. You get my point by now.
Long story short, Mourinho comes across as a despicable and rapacious predator who can’t see past the point of his own nose. Equip with a bottomless budget with which to stockpile players, whether they’re bought to entice him to manager or after he’s come on, and, yes, he will succeed. How cani he fail? He’s been given every single, god-damned player he could ever even dream of needing—and then been given more, just in case his megalomaniacal insecurities haven’t yet been assuaged. Yes, he can be a brilliant tactician, but tactics tend to work a hell of a lot better when the larger strategy is to simply hoard players regardless of cost. Need a pacy, counter-attacking team? Spend. Need a squad that can park the bus for 90+ minutes? Spend. Want to have a go at some tiki-taka, just for the hell of it? Spend.
At the risk of getting pseudopsychological, Mourinho acts with the covetnousness and reckless acquisitiveness of a small child deprived at every turn. He’s the darker version of Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka. Cruelly restricted from having a bit of candy, he turned himself into the ultimate candy-man, a cartoonish, bizarre caricature. So it may be with Mourinho. Cut from each team, scrounging for friends or teammates, he now goes around club to club, grabbing at clutching at every player he can find, keeping those who prove loyal, undermining those who dare criticize or question him—was he bullied as a child? Perhaps this is his revenge. He gets to be the bully, renting sidekicks and henchmen to do his dirty work for him.
However, there’s an emptiness to each success. Somewhere, gnawing at that place that most of call conscience but where there might be little more than a withered, blackened husk, grows a nagging, gaping doubt, an inescapable fear that no number of trophies, no amount of success, can ever assuage. Peering into that remorseless, bottomless maw, into which trophies and transfer-fees are perpetually poured, we see where the fear of failure comes from. No, Mourinho does not fail often. He literally can’t afford to. There is no amount of money he can’t spend, or have spent for him, to purchase the next success. Behind that seems to lie a fear that, should he fail despite the embarrassment of riches that he calls a roster, he would be exposed for the charlatan he is.
I’ll admit that there are some sour grapes here. After all, Chelsea has enjoyed a good deal of success in general and against Arsenal in particular under Mourinho. The contrast in their fortunes—yes, that works on several levels—is stark. It’s difficult to commit to a budget, harder to stay within that budget. It’s something all of us regular folk know all too well, and to see someone live so far from that kind of grind, and then kvetch about it, well, that takes genuine class. Mou positively oozes it. Sincerely.
I’ll just go get Sunderland and Man City on the phone to have them each apologize to him for daring to make him fail. What were they thinking?