Whether he’s beaming, snarling and fixed with a thousand-yard stare, there can be little doubt that Jose Mourinho is the most photogenic man in football.
Since his rise to prominence in the early-2000s, Mourinho has combined Portuguese good looks with a thirst for self-promotion that’s helped him transcend the sport.
His legacy is now so embedded in English football, from the polarising takes to his devilish charm, that it’s hard to recall the immediate pre-Jose years.
You never saw Alan Curbishley hide himself in a laundry basket or Steve Coppell refer to himself as the ‘special one’.
But the best image of Mourinho remains tragically under the radar; sat in the stands at West Ham, watching his side concede a late winner with a face like a thousand smacked arses.
The two London rivals came into their October 2015 fixture having seemingly swapped identities; the Hammers were buoyant and upwardly mobile, while champions Chelsea were struggling at the foot of the Premier League.
And West Ham struck first; Mauro Zarate’s ripsnorter flew past Thibaut Courtois and gave Slaven Bilic’s side a half-time lead.
But the dismissal of Nemanja Matic, and the disallowing of a Cesc Fabregas strike, was enough for Chelsea to self-combust, with seemingly all of their players getting booked and Mourinho ominously not emerging for the second half.
The corpse stirred after the break – Gary Cahill prodding home a deserved equaliser – but Chelsea were unable to prevent runaway steed Andy Carroll from leaping above John Terry to head the winning goal.
On this day in 2015 West Ham beat Chelsea 2-1 at Upton Park in front of 34,977.
Mauro Zarate and Andy Carroll scored the West Ham goals. pic.twitter.com/XJQiqGvjOx
— VINNYWHUFC (@vinnywhufc) October 24, 2020
Upton Park went berserk, with thousands of East End skinheads revelling in some rare physical affection from other males. The director’s box leapt to their feet and, thanks to one cameraman’s ingenuity, we were greeted with the money shot.
At the back of the West Stand, Mourinho radiated displeasure. His frown, accentuated by the pursed lips of a grandmother discovering that Thursday night Coronation Street has been replaced by Love Island, spoke of a man at the very end of his tether.
Set against the cheering coupons of everyone else in the vicinity only heightened the gloriousness of Mourinho’s torment.
His own face looked unerringly like that of a teenager ruminating over the inherent unfairness of their life while listening to Evanescence in their bedroom.
Rumours that officials in the Vatican City looked to draft in the image as a Michelangelo replacement for the Sistine Chapel remain unconfirmed, but would make perfect sense.
Nothing has ever captured the essence of football’s perma-shock jock, and humanity, in quite the same manner.
The Chelsea boss refused to speak to the media at the end of the match, instead leaving Upton Park straight away and heading onto the team bus without even addressing his players.
Slaven Bilic expressed sympathy for Mourinho after the game – “I feel for him,” said the West Ham manager – but viewed the refereeing decisions that angered Chelsea as understandable.
“They were not mistakes,” said Bilic. “They are matters of opinion. For the disallowed goal, nobody can say that he was on and nobody can say that he was off – even when you see the pictures, you are not sure.
“Looking in the game, it was more off than on. I would definitely moan if the decisions were against us, but they were not mistakes.”
But, in an eyebrow-relocating statement, referee Jon Moss recalled: “When myself and my colleagues left the field … at half time, as we entered the tunnel area to get to our dressing room, Mr Mourinho … was waiting for us clearly agitated and began aggressively asking about first half decisions.
“Rather than publicly speak to him I asked him to step into the entrance of my dressing room escorted by Simon Sutton, the West Ham Security Manager. Mr Mourinho asked me about a tackle, an offside and a goal-line clearance. I gave him brief answers to his questions.
“After this I asked him to leave the dressing room area. He refused. I asked him again. After he refused again I asked Mr Sutton to escort him from the room.
“At this point Mr Mourinho became very aggressive and animated. He shouted that ‘you fucking referees are weak … (Arsene) Wenger is right about you … you are fucking weak’.
“I advised Mr Mourinho not to take his position in the technical area for the second half due to his actions.”
Mourinho was given a one-match stadium ban and fined £40,000. He was sacked by Chelsea less than two months later, to a nationwide chorus of tiny violins.
But his Chelsea doom-spiral gifted us with the best Mourinho picture in existence and, for that, we’ll remain eternally grateful that events panned out as they did.
By Michael Lee