As Tottenham Hotspur prepare to make their first permanent managerial hire since the summer of 2014, we’re bringing back Daniel Levy’s Imaginary Shortlist to evaluate the various candidates for the job. We’re starting off with former Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho.
Name: Jose Mourinho
- Primeira Liga (Portugal): 2002-03, 2003-04
- UEFA Cup: 2002-03
- Taça de Portugal: 2002-03
- Supertaça Candido de Oliveira: 2003
- Champions League: 2003-04, 2009-10
- Premier League: 2004-05, 2005-06, 2014-15
- FA Cup: 2006-07
- League Cup: 2004-05, 2006-07, 2014-15, 2016-17
- FA Community Shield: 2005, 2016
- Serie A: 2008-09, 2009-10
- Supercoppa Italiana: 2008
- Coppa Italia: 2009-10
- La Liga: 2011-12
- Copa del Rey: 2010-11
- Supercopa de España: 2012
- Europa League: 2016-17
Tactics: Jose Mourinho is known for low block, organized, counter-attacking football. If Mauricio Pochettino was a next-generation evolution from Marcelo Bielsa, Mourinho would be the evolved form of Helenio Herrera, the famed inventor of the Italian defensive style known as catenaccio.
On the one hand, this would be a sharp departure from the high pressing aggression favored by Pochettino. On the other, both Pochettino and Mourinho have similar personality types and work well with similar players. Both are unyielding in their demands, expect players to adapt to them, and tend to build personality cults around themselves. Both also love to work with industrious, intelligent footballers. Not only that, the prospect of combining the expansive long passing of Toby Alderweireld (and perhaps some day Juan Foyth) with Mourinho’s counter attacking system (which should find ample use for the pacey Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min) is intriguing. Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele are also the kind of players that you would expect Mourinho to use to full effect as they are industrious, intelligent midfielders who are also excellent ball progressers.
Strengths: Mourinho teams at their best do not beat themselves. There is no manager in the world who, with player buy-in, is as adept at organizing a defense and developing an effective plan to cancel out the opponent’s strengths and steal a result. Spurs’ recent defensive woes should come to a fast end if the club appoints Mourinho and if the squad buys into the Portuguese’s system.
Weaknesses: The weaknesses... well, they will be familiar to us all. They’re just exaggerated versions of Pochettino’s weaknesses with the addition of deep cynicism. Mourinho is stubborn, can alienate players, and when he loses a dressing room the results collapse quickly. His last two stints, at Chelsea and Man United, ended disastrously. Even his last job prior to Chelsea, Real Madrid, mostly ended in disappointment although that had more to do with the brilliance of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona than it did any major flaws in Mourinho’s Madrid.
Likelihood of Being Hired: I would put it between 33 and 50%. Julian Nagelsmann is reportedly first choice at the club but is unlikely to come. Max Allegri, meanwhile, is a superior choice but may be holding out for a job at a bigger club—perhaps Bayern Munich next summer or any number of other super clubs, as it looks likely that Barcelona, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United could all be hiring. There are always things that could go wrong when Mourinho is involved, but he seems like a reasonable pick for the most likely hire.
Grade if Mourinho is Hired: B
The case for Mourinho is easy: He’s won trophies everywhere he’s worked. He’s built some of the most impressive teams of the modern era. He’ll know how to organize the club for near-instant success. The case against is equally easy: If Pochettino’s ego and stubbornness ultimately destroyed his relationship with Levy, then how can we possibly expect Spurs’ chairman to work with a man whose self-regard so far surpasses Pochettino’s? That being said, if Nagelsmann and Allegri are off the table, one has to consider the other options: Carlo Ancelotti has his own baggage and is known for under-performing in domestic play. Rafa Benitez would be expensive to bring in given his contract with a Chinese Super League side. Eddie Howe is a defensive disaster and is unproven at this level. If Allegri and Nagelsmann are out, then to my eyes there are no “A” hires left. And of the remaining candidates, the case for Mourinho is no worse than the case for Ancelotti or Howe in my opinion.