It was the appointment that few saw coming – but Jose Mourinho initially insisted he was happy to be at Tottenham Hotspur despite a dubious start.
The ‘Special One’ swanned through the doors at the north London club in November 2019, following the shock sacking of Mauricio Pochettino. Some hailed the appointment of a serial winner bound to finally deliver the long-awaited silverware that fans craved, others questioned how a manager previously accustomed to operating with transfer funds would prosper on a shoestring budget.
His maiden campaign failed to yield instant success. Spurs were soundly beaten by RB Leipzig in the last-16 of the Champions League and would eventually finish sixth in the Premier League, only good enough for a Europa League spot.
And during that season, the likes of Paul Merson publicly stated they believed the Portuguese boss would be regretting his move, which signified a first job since leaving Manchester United in acrimonious circumstances. And yet when that very notion was put to him in February 2020, he responded tellingly: “I am really happy at the club.”
That apparent happiness appeared to inspire a title charge early in the 2020/21 campaign. Cynics suggested that empty stadiums and soulless occasions would suit Mourinho’s rigid, dour brand of football, and sure enough his side topped the table in the early weeks of the season.
But from December onwards things unravelled, with Tottenham dropping down the league and guilty of throwing away numerous leads. An FA Cup exit and capitulation away to Dinamo Zagreb in Europe suddenly left Mourinho’s job under scrutiny, but winning through to a League Cup final against Man City appeared to offer brief respite.
Not so. Just days before he led his side out to Wembley in a bid to win the club’s first major trophy since 2008, Daniel Levy wielded the axe. The dubious timing of the sacking was overshadowed by the furore that surrounded the European Super League proposals, with Spurs one of those forced to later withdraw.
Mourinho has since made several implications that he doesn’t fondly recall his stint under Levy. The experience didn’t deter his enthusiasm for the hot seat though, and he soon headed to Roma and won the European Conference League in his maiden season with the Italian giants.
His second season proved he had lost none of his passion or perhaps, aggression, charged by UEFA for angrily confronting and criticising referee Anthony Taylor following his side’s Europa League final loss. A ropey start to this domestic campaigns sees Rome lie seventh with Mourinho predictably defiant in the face of mounting pressure.