Combustible, colourful, controversial, charismatic, childish, champion – Jose Mourinho has been called plenty of C-words in his career.
Shortly into his third decade as a coach, the headline-grabbing Portuguese is set to take charge of his 1,000th game as manager when his Roma side face Sassuolo on Sunday.
And the previous 999 have not been short of drama or outpourings of emotion. Not to mention 25 trophies, 43 individual awards, six Guinness World records and an honorary degree, amongst other things.
Love him or loathe him, the Special One remains one of the most eminently watchable personalities in the sport, with dizzying heights, embarrassing lows and plenty in between on Mourinho’s rollercoaster journey so far.
From leading unheralded sides to titles, to ignominious sackings, with uncountable touchline scuffles and bust-ups with fellow managers, players and referees, you could never accuse him of being boring.
So, as he reaches the four-figure landmark, Sportsmail takes a deep dive into his career, looking at the good, the bad and the ugly of José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix’s storied career.
Jose Mourinho (r) will reach 1,000 games as a manager when Roma face Sassuolo on Sunday
The fiery, controversial character has experienced plenty of highs and lows across his career
The famous sprint down the touchline
When Mourinho’s mum enrolled him in a business school, it could have been a very different life path for him. But he dropped out on the first day, moved into coaching and slowly worked his way up.
A school coach first, he then worked as an interpreter under Sir Bobby Robson at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona, before taking the managerial reins at Benfica, Uniao de Leiria, and Porto, where he won the league title.
That gave him a shot in the Champions League.
His Porto side beat Manchester United 2-1 in the first leg, with Roy Keane sent off for a stamp on Vitor Baia. Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson insisted Baia made the most of it. The ever-antagonistic Mourinho, claws out, wasn’t going to let that stand.
He sprinted down the sidelines to celebrate wildly when his Porto side beat Manchester United
‘I understand why he is a bit emotional. You would be sad if your team gets as clearly dominated by opponents who have been built on 10 per cent of the budget. He has some top players in the world and they should be doing a lot better than that.’
The second leg of the last 16 tie, though, would catapult him onto the global stage.
Paul Scholes scored after half an hour, and with the clock ticking into the red, Porto and Mourinho were set to exit on away goals. Up stepped Costinha with a rebound finish, sending them through into the quarter-finals and the boss into delirium.
He sprinted out of the dugout and down the Old Trafford touchline, coat billowing, jumping for joy, almost down to the corner flag and the spill of ecstatic players. Porto won the tournament, and Mourinho was suddenly thrust into the public eye.
The golden era at Chelsea
Mourinho, with his pick of the next club to manage, talked up Liverpool and revealed his uncertainty about ambitious, Roman Abramovich-bankrolled but underachieving Chelsea. But Liverpool went for Rafa Benitez, and so Jose went to Stamford Bridge.
He was quick to make a first impression.
‘We have top players and, sorry if I’m arrogant, we have a top manager…Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one,’ he declared assuredly in a press conference upon joining.
In his first season, he won the League Cup against Liverpool, memorably shushing their fans who had been giving him stick, before meeting the same opponents in the Champions League later that campaign.
The European quarter-final, against Bayern Munich, had seen Mourinho pull off an act of astonishing audacity.
Mourinho’s Chelsea side were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool due to what he called a ‘ghost goal’ by Luis Garcia (centre), which may or may not have crossed the line
Despite his touchline ban, he got to the stadium during the day and waited until evening to give his team talk. With UEFA officials prowling, kitman Stewart Bannister put him in a claustrophobically small laundry basket and snuck him out.
The semi-final against Liverpool in the next round was, and remains, hugely controversial. Within five minutes, Reds winger Luis Garcia poked the ball towards goal, and it was cleared off (or behind) the line by William Gallas.
In the days before goal-line technology, it was essentially the officials’ best guess. Referee Lubos Michel guessed goal, and Liverpool, eventual tournament winners, progressed.
Mourinho was fuming and his post-match rant saw the phrase ‘ghost goal’ enter football’s vernacular.
But the Portuguese helped Chelsea transition to being genuine giants of English football
‘It was a goal that came from the moon – from the Anfield stands,’ he opined. ‘Liverpool scored, if you can say that they scored, because maybe you should say the linesman scored.’
He could console himself with a record-breaking Premier League title, with 95 points and just 15 goals conceded – the latter is still a record to this day – plus contributing to a historic 86-game unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge.
All that was followed up with a title retention and an FA Cup and League Cup in his third season, before parting ways with Chelsea in his fourth amid disagreements with powerful owner Abramovich.
When you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, and Mourinho did in his golden first era at Chelsea, turning the club from the nouveau-riche new kids on the block to genuine giants of English football.
Mourinho won a famous treble, including the Champions League, during his time at Inter Milan
The treble win with Inter Milan
He continued his Midas touch in Italy, securing the Serie A championship in his first season, but failing to make waves in the cup competitions. In his second, he won another Scudetto, triumphed in the Coppa Italia, and had another chance in Europe.
Up against Barcelona – lest we forget, prime 2009 Barcelona, Pep Guardiola-managed Barcelona, the Barcelona of Messi, Ibrahimovic, Puyol, Pique, Xavi, Busquets, Yaya Toure et al – they won the first leg 3-1 to put them in a great position.
At the Nou Camp, a 1-0 loss which Mourinho called ‘the most beautiful defeat of my life’ – a masterclass in backs-to-the-wall defending, an ode to Helenio Herrera-style containment and frustration – sent them through on aggregate.
He reacted by tearing around the pitch with one arm up à la Alan Shearer, parading himself in front of the fans in utter defiance and pride, and physically clashing with Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who felt (justifiably) he was showboating.
They cruised past Bayern in the final, meaning a famous treble was theirs, and his. Lean, mean, chin jutting out, literally chest-thumping, him against the world – this was Mourinho at his apex.
The El Clasico pasting
What goes up, as Isaac Newton recognised, must come down. And with the margins between success and failure so fine, it didn’t take much for Mourinho’s strengths to become weaknesses.
Certainty in his methods ossified into tactical rigidity, traditional defensive solidity turned into safety-first football and his demands for high standards saw him become inflexible with his players and recalcitrant with his superiors.
However, along with his successes he has had several high-profile failures in his career – including a 5-0 defeat against Barcelona for Real Madrid in his first ever El Clasico encounter
The first cracks in Mourinho’s unwavering self-belief came in his first experience of El Clasico, against arch-rivals Barcelona, at the Nou Camp. They lost 5-0 and president Florentino Perez called it ‘the worst match in the club’s history’. Ouch.
A LaLiga title, Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cup furnished his three years at the Bernabeu, but it didn’t stop the club getting rid of him.
The ignominious start at Manchester United
After leaving Chelsea for a second time, Mourinho joined Manchester United and returned to play the Blues at Stamford Bridge, the theatre where he had their made dreams reality, and promptly got spanked 4-0.
Chelsea scored inside 30 seconds – before United touched the ball – and it didn’t get any better from there. Gary Neville called the defending ‘garbage’, Mourinho called it ‘incredible, and I say incredible in capitals’ and neither were wrong.
Opposition boss Antonio Conte, orchestrating the rout, gestured to the crowd to raise the noise as olés rang out around the stadium, leading to a whispered rebuke in the Italian’s ear at the final whistle.
A 4-2 defeat against League One Bradford in the FA Cup fourth round was a humiliating result
It was unedifying for both Mourinho, who admitted it was ‘humiliating’, and United, who both saw their historic crown slip a little and their increasingly fragile delusions of true grandeur shaken on an eye-opening day.
Despite a League Cup and Europa League title in 2016-17, he was eventually sacked in December 2018 with the club 19 points off the top of the league.
The 4-2 FA Cup defeat against League One Bradford sticks in the craw for Chelsea fans, too.
The Europa League debacle
Trophy winning ability is what Jose brought to Tottenham, according to the popular public narrative, the messaging of All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur documentary, and chairman Daniel Levy.
Maybe his best chance of a trophy came in the Europa League in his second season. Round of 16, against unfancied Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb, 2-0 up from the first leg.
Losing 3-2 on aggregate against Croatian side Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League after being 2-0 up from the first leg also ranks as one of the lowest points of his Tottenham career
But a Spurs team of 11 full internationals lost 3-0 after a Mislav Orsic hat-trick, the players doing their best impression of great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies, as the Prime Minister may have put it.
Mourinho admitted his side ‘died’, captain Hugo Lloris called it a ‘disgrace’ and the writing was on the wall for Mourinho at Tottenham, who sacked him in April 2021 – the first time in nearly 20 years he’d left a club without winning a trophy.
The wars of words
Numerous figures have been lacerated by Mourinho’s sharp tongue, not least of all Arsene Wenger.
The 58-year-old has also clashed with several managers, including Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger (l)
The 58-year-old called him a ‘voyeur’ for his apparent obsession with Chelsea, a remark for which Wenger considered suing him for libel. He later, cuttingly, called the legendary Arsenal manager a ‘specialist in failure’.
He also endured frequent run-ins with Conte, who called him a ‘little man’ after Mourinho referenced Conte’s four-month ban for failing to report match-fixing, although the Italian was later cleared in court of wrongdoing.
After a 0-0 draw against Sam Allardyce’s safety-first West Ham team, he described their style of play as ’19th century football’, forgetting the tendency of his own sides to park the bus.
He once hyperbolically said that Sam Allardyce’s West Ham side played ’19th century football’
Moreover, Mourinho once infamously stormed out of a press conference following a 3-0 home defeat against Tottenham, causing laughter in the press corps.
He held up three fingers and said: ‘Do you know what this means? 3-0. But it also means three Premier League titles. I won more alone than the other 19 managers together.
‘Three for me and two for them. Respect. Respect. Respect, man, respect,’ and, hilariously, he continued even as he moved out of sight: ‘Respect, respect…’ like a middle-aged Iberian Aretha Franklin.
Mourinho had several run-ins with Chelsea’s Antonio Conte (c), who called him a ‘little man’
He also once poked Barcelona assistant Tito Vilanova (centre right) in the eye on the touchline
The touchline antics
Mourinho has always been a combustible character on the sidelines.
After the Spanish Super Cup in August 2011, which Barcelona won 5-4 on aggregate against Mourinho’s Madrid, he poked the eye of Barca assistant Tito Vilanova, receiving a slap in return in an ugly touchline scuffle.
Mourinho later said he did not know who ‘Pito’ Vilanova was, referencing a slang Spanish word for ‘penis’, with Barcelona vice-president Carles Villarubí subsequently branding him a ‘stain on football’.
He also made headlines after Ross Barkley scored a 96th minute equaliser to peg Chelsea back to 2-2 against his United side, reacting furiously when Blues coach Marco Ianni fist-pumped animatedly in Mourinho’s face.
The Portuguese tried to chase him down the tunnel, with security forced to step in, and as Chelsea fans taunted him from the stands, he held up three fingers to remind them of the three titles he brought them.
Referee Anders Frisk (right) received death threats after some strong criticism from Mourinho
The public fall-outs
After a Champions League match against Barcelona in 2005, he claimed opposition manager Frank Rijkaard and referee Anders Frisk met at half-time, allegedly leading to Didier Drogba’s second half sending off.
Frisk received death threats after the match and was forced to retire from refereeing prematurely, leading UEFA referees chief Volker Roth to call him an ‘enemy of football’.
That foreshadowed Mourinho receiving a three-game ban for making a handcuffs gesture to the camera when his Inter side drew 0-0 with Sampdoria, after having two men sent off in the first half.
Mourinho, clearly, had his fall-outs with plenty of opponents. Perhaps more unexpected was him berating his own medical staff.
Mourinho once criticised medical staff member Eva Carneiro for ‘not understanding’ the game
Eva Carneiro, along with chief physio Jon Fearn, went onto the pitch to treat Eden Hazard’s injury in a 2-2 opening day draw against Swansea in 2015, meaning the Belgian had to leave the pitch and wait to be called back on by the referee.
Mourinho spouted: ‘I wasn’t happy with my medical staff because even if you are a medical doctor or secretary on the bench, you have to understand the game’.
Thereafter, Carneiro was not allowed to attend training or matches or sit on the bench and left the club six weeks later, taking them to court for constructive dismissal and rejecting a £1.2million settlement deal, before settling out of court.
Mourinho has himself quoted Hegelian ideology, stating ‘the truth is in the whole’.
A full and true assessment of his career might therefore need to wait until after his retirement, but after four wins from four for new club Roma, don’t expect that to be any time soon.
Whatever the next 1,000 Mourinho games bring, expect it to be entertaining.