Within the context of a managerial profession spanning 1,000 video games, it will be simple to miss the primary 11. To many, Jose Mourinho’s rise to greatness started together with his trophy-laden spell at Porto. However earlier than that, earlier than all the things, there was Benfica.
Mourinho took over at Estadio da Luz in September 2000 and was gone simply three months later. However not due to poor outcomes. The truth is, he departed together with his popularity enhanced. His transient tenure, and its explosive finish, sowed the seeds for what was to return.
Benfica had been gripped by disaster on the time. It had been six years since their final title and their funds had been in a dire state. Joao Vale e Azevedo, the membership’s president, had sacked Jupp Heynckes and wanted a coach to reinvigorate the facet with no funding.
He settled on a 37-year-old Mourinho.
The Portuguese had spent the earlier 4 seasons serving as assistant to Sir Bobby Robson after which Louis van Gaal at Barcelona however left the membership that summer time meaning to strike out on his personal.
His appointment at Benfica raised eyebrows in his homeland. Mourinho had turn out to be identified inside the recreation as a forward-thinking coach with a vivid future however it was an enormous job for a managerial novice – particularly given the circumstances.
Mourinho was undeterred, nevertheless, and signed a six-month contract which might be prolonged for 2 years ought to Vale e Azevedo win the upcoming presidential election. Fatefully, he did not, paving the best way for Mourinho’s exit. However loads occurred in between.
In Jose Mourinho, the 2005 biography written by his buddy Luis Lourenco, Mourinho describes inheriting a “weak squad with no future and no ambition”. The gamers had been “used to dropping”, “labored little”, and “did not actually care”, he added.
Mourinho’s first impressions of the squad – or, “bunch of gamers”, as he most well-liked to name them – had been cemented when Benfica slumped to a meek 1-0 loss in opposition to Boavista in his opening recreation in cost.
Mourinho was dismayed not simply by the facet’s efficiency in that recreation however by the overall lack of depth and aggression in coaching. He quickly resolved to shake issues up.
There have been sure senior gamers he felt he may belief, amongst them striker Pierre van Hooijdonk, whose spiky persona he liked, midfielder Maniche, who would later observe him to Porto and Chelsea, and the now deceased goalkeeper Robert Enke.
For the remainder, although, he turned to the membership’s academy.
Left-back Diogo Luis was one of many gamers he promoted.
“It was excellent for me and for all of the academy gamers as a result of we understood that it was doable for us to stay our dream, to go to the primary crew,” Luis tells Sky Sports activities.
“Mourinho did not have a look at names; he checked out different qualities. For him, it wasn’t necessary whether or not you had been a 28-year-old Portugal worldwide or a younger participant from the B crew.
“What was necessary to him was the way you carried out within the coaching classes. He wished to discover a approach to make the facet aggressive, so he pushed younger gamers as much as give blood to the crew.”
The choice to advertise kids was a daring one however it helped to vary the tradition across the coaching floor. And even at that early stage of his managerial profession, Mourinho didn’t shrink back from confronting the senior gamers who refused to fall in line.
Throughout one recreation, he famous that former Egypt worldwide Abdel Sattar Sabry, one of many membership’s greatest abilities, had taken seven minutes to placed on his boots and tie his laces after being informed he can be approaching as a second-half substitute.
When the participant’s agent subsequently complained about his shopper’s lack of game-time below the brand new coach, Luis recollects Mourinho making an instance of him each within the dressing room and publicly.
“The following day, when Sabry got here into the dressing room, Mourinho mentioned to him, in entrance of all of us, ‘Have you learnt how lengthy you had been tying your laces for? Seven minutes. Have you learnt when you will play for me once more, when you have that mentality? By no means.’ He then went to his press convention and mentioned the identical factor.
“With that sort of method, you win the dressing room,” provides Luis, “as a result of it means everyone seems to be handled the identical approach. So, when you have a man who thinks he’s higher than the remainder, he will not match.
“From then on, everybody knew that Mourinho was noticing each element and we grew to become stronger as a bunch.”
Mourinho would go on to make use of related strategies all through his managerial profession and his time at Benfica was additionally the primary instance of him making a siege mentality.
The dressing room, beforehand accessible to membership administrators, grew to become a sacred area for the gamers. Any criticism from outdoors, of which there was a lot within the early days of his tenure, was used as gas for the ‘us versus them’ mentality Mourinho wished to construct.
“We began to believe in him as a result of we understood he was defending us and we did not really feel the identical concerning the board of administrators, who had been all the time talking within the press,” says Luis.
Outcomes quickly improved – Benfica solely misplaced one of many subsequent 10 video games below Mourinho following the defeat to Boavista – and it helped that he introduced revolutionary coaching strategies in addition to self-discipline and togetherness.
In Lourenco’s ebook, Mourinho describes coaching at Benfica on the time of his arrival as “a bunch of good guys kicking a ball a few bit and doing a little operating” however he quickly set about altering it.
As an alternative, he utilized the ideas of tactical periodisation, a training methodology devised by Portuguese academic Victor Frade during which the bodily, technical and tactical parts of coaching are built-in into shorter, extra intense classes.
It was not like something the gamers had skilled earlier than however they rapidly embraced it.
“Portuguese coaches are good and we have gotten higher and higher 12 months by 12 months, however at the moment, 20 years in the past, Mourinho was 10 years in entrance of the others,” says Luis.
“Earlier than Mourinho, we might run across the pitch for 15 or 20 minutes however with him we did not run. We simply had the ball. We labored for one hour with the ball and, for him, nothing extra was mandatory.
“You’d go to the coaching session and the pitch would appear to be an airport, divided into completely different sections with cones. You’d begin in a single part, then go to the subsequent one, then the subsequent one.
“Earlier than, we skilled for 2 or three hours with lengthy breaks, however with him, we might have one minute between drills to drink water and that was it.
“You began at 10am and by 11am, you had been again within the dressing room. You’d assume, ‘we’re not going to have the capability to play full video games’, however then the video games would come and you’d fly.”
Portuguese coaches are good and we have gotten higher and higher however at the moment, Mourinho was 10 years in entrance of the others
Mourinho would later overhaul coaching in a lot the identical approach at Chelsea, his success finally inspiring different managers to use the identical strategies within the Premier League and past, and his consideration to element at Benfica didn’t finish there.
“He ready each element,” says Luis. “Not simply when it comes to the coaching classes however mentally as nicely. He pushed you and he made you consider you had been the most effective participant on the earth.
“He had the capability to inspire all of the gamers – and never simply those who had been enjoying. If I performed badly in a single recreation, he would come into the dressing room and say, ‘Hey, Diogo, in case you proceed enjoying like that, the opposite man will get your home.’
“So, I’d be motivated to enhance, and the opposite man can be motivated too. Little particulars like that made the distinction and he additionally analysed the opponents rather well. These days, each coach does that however 20 years in the past, it was not regular.”
Mourinho carried out a lot of the evaluation himself after an early opposition scouting report was returned to him itemizing 10 gamers relatively than 11. Luis recollects him shutting himself away in resort rooms and dealing “from 7am till 11pm”. It paid off.
“After we went into the video games, we knew what we needed to do in each second,” he says. “When each participant is targeted on his job and is aware of what his opponent goes to do, whether or not he’s going to attempt to beat you to the left or to the correct, it offers you confidence.”
Mourinho can be criticised for detrimental techniques later in his profession however not at Benfica. There was boldness and spontaneity to his soccer in addition to tactical rigour.
“Even when issues weren’t so good, he all the time demonstrated his confidence in us by taking dangers,” says Luis.
“I believe he modified in Inter Milan. There, he found he may have success with a extremely defensive method and I believe that created a special mindset in him.
“However at Benfica, he would say, ‘If we’re dropping, I will take a defender off and we’re going to play man-to-man in defence and assault them.’
“We began to develop due to that. Each recreation, step-by-step, it was like we had been getting taller, standing on tip toes.
“All of the sudden, as a substitute of trying down on us, the opponents had been trying up at us. He gave us that confidence and perception in ourselves.”
All of it got here collectively in an exhilarating 3-0 win over native rivals and reigning champions Sporting Lisbon in December however by that time, Vale e Azevedo had misplaced the presidency to Manuel Vilarinho, who was desperate to appoint former participant Toni as his supervisor.
We had been going to the match with the entire nation considering that the champion would dominate the derby, however we gained, and we gained in such a implausible approach
A recreation that ought to have secured Mourinho’s future at Benfica as a substitute brought about his tenure to unravel spectacularly.
“The brand new president wasn’t Mourinho’s man,” says Luis. “Mourinho felt he wasn’t going to have a simple life at Benfica however he determined to proceed, to win video games and present he had the standard to place the membership again the place it belongs, then speak to the brand new president.”
He did the primary half – the win over Sporting was Benfica’s fourth in a row – however it was the way during which he approached the following dialog with the president that did for him.
Mourinho had been irked by Vilarinho’s public feedback on Toni and felt the membership’s hierarchy had been intentionally making an attempt to impress him by altering resort bookings at quick discover and interfering in different logistical issues with out his consent.
His frustration spilled over within the aftermath of the Sporting recreation.
As his jubilant gamers celebrated the victory within the dressing room at Estadio da Luz, Mourinho was in his workplace talking to his spouse on the cellphone when Vilarinho appeared at his door.
The president waited patiently to be ushered inside however Mourinho, emboldened by a convincing victory which had put Benfica again inside attain of the league’s summit, ignored him.
After driving house from Lisbon to Setubal that evening, he determined to take it additional, informing Vilarinho he would go away until his contract was prolonged for an additional 12 months there after which.
His request was rejected. Mourinho’s abrasiveness had price him his job – and it would not be the final time. He left Benfica below a cloud, simply days after the victory over Sporting.
It was an episode he would remorse – he later admitted to Lourenco he had used a type of blackmail on Vilarinho and apologised for his behaviour – though not as a lot as everybody at Benfica.
“We had been doing rather well, each when it comes to our performances and the atmosphere we had within the dressing room,” says Luis. “If Mourinho had continued at Benfica that 12 months, I believe we may have achieved nice issues as a result of we had been entering into the correct path.”
As an alternative, the membership slumped to a sixth-placed end – the bottom of their historical past. Mourinho took his subsequent step in administration at Uniao de Leiria. Inside a couple of years, Benfica had been watching him lead rivals Porto to UEFA Cup and Champions League glory.
His extraordinary success there propelled him to prominence and earned him his transfer to Chelsea. However the street to 1,000 video games started earlier than that. Each on and off the pitch, for the great and the dangerous, his three-month spell at Benfica set the tone for all that adopted.