Jose Mourinho is one of the most successful managers in football history. Having managed the likes of Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United, the Portuguese coach has been blessed to work with a number of world-class players – from Ricardo Carvalho to Frank Lampard to Cristiano Ronaldo to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
He’s also notoriously failed to get the best out of big-name stars like Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Paul Pogba. But what about the notable names you (probably) had no idea he coached?
We’ve taken a look back at nine big names it’s all too easy to forget ever played under Mourinho.
Enke tragically committed suicide in 2009 after battling depression. The harrowing but brilliant book A Life Too Short chronicles the Germany international’s life in football and is essential reading for anyone wishing to gain a better perspective on the mental toll elite-level football can take on a player.
Before his later stint on the fringes at Louis van Gaal’s Barcelona and his resurgence at Hannover 96, he’d established himself as a quality goalkeeper with Benfica. Jupp Heynckes originally made Enke club captain and he remained at the Estadio da Luz during Mourinho’s short-lived stint at the start of his managerial career all the way back in 2000.
It’s been said that Mourinho was among Enke’s favourite coaches. The pair even came close to reuniting at Porto, but the German turned down the move out of respect for their heated rivals.
Pierre van Hooijdonk
Enke wasn’t the only notable name in Benfica’s squad during Mourinho’s spell in charge. The former translator and assistant was just 37 years old at the time, barely older than the more senior players in the Eagles squad.
Dutch striker Van Hooijdonk was 30 and had signed for Benfica after his time with Celtic and Nottingham Forest. He possessed a reputation as a difficult dressing-room figure, but according to The Independent Mourinho admired his “winning mentality” and was keen to count on him.
But we never quite found out how they might’ve fared together. Van Hooijdonk scored five goals in nine appearances under Mourinho. But the manager resigned after just three months, believing he wasn’t sufficiently backed by the Benfica hierarchy.
Better known for his starring role in Leeds United’s unforgettable run to the Champions League semi-finals, Dacourt went on to enjoy great success after departing Yorkshire for Italy. The midfielder played alongside Francesco Totti as Roma came close to winning the Scudetto and Coppa Italia but he did lift silverware after signing for Inter in 2006.
The former France international won back-to-back league titles at the San Siro, proving a useful deputy to Patrick Vieira, who was plagued by injuries by that stage of his career. But then he himself suffered a torn cruciate ligament and only returned to the periphery when Jose Mourinho arrived as Roberto Mancini’s successor in 2008.
“I worked really hard during training and Mourinho’s training methods are excellent,” Dacourt told Corriere dello Sport. “It’s a shame he never gave me a chance to play, even though I was told I would get one.
“I always gave 100 per cent, but I was never taken into consideration for the first team.”
Under Mourinho, Dacourt made just one 12-minute appearance in the closing stages of a 4-0 win over his former side Roma. After half a season not getting a look-in, he joined Fulham on loan before departing permanently for Standard Liege.
The famously volatile Austrian was on loan at Inter for their 2009-10 treble-winning campaign. But he was a fringe player at best, making just three appearances before Inter declined their option to sign him permanently from FC Twente.
Mourinho was reportedly unimpressed by Arnautovic’s tendency to show up late for training and once gifted him his watch after he once mistakenly showed up five hours early. He remarked that the striker “is a fantastic person but has the attitude of a child”.
“When I think about it, I see the fun it, but then if I really think about it, not everything was fun because Mourinho imposed a lot of discipline on me,” Arnautovic later told the official Serie A website.
“Marko says: I’m better than all of them.”
“Ibrahimovic, Adriano, Hernan Crespo and Julio Cruz are my strikers at Inter Milan.”
“At 18, he said he’s better than all of them.”
José Mourinho tells a brilliant story about meeting Marko Arnautović at Inter Milan. pic.twitter.com/piEqdIB6wB
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) June 22, 2021
Mourinho wasn’t afraid to drop Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas during his time as Real Madrid boss. The goalkeeper infamously spent most of Mourinho’s final season dropped to the bench, with Diego Lopez favoured for the spot between the sticks.
But Dudek didn’t get much of a look-in during his four years at the Bernabeu, one of which was spent under Mourinho. The Champions League winner accepted his place as a back-up and made just two appearances in 2010-11 before hanging up his gloves at the end of the campaign.
He might’ve not played much under Mourinho but he is great value for lifting the lid on a fascinating time at the club.
“Where’s the rat? Is it you, Granero?” Dudek recalled of Mourinho’s fury at alleged dressing room leaks. “He insisted that there was a rat in the dressing room and said that he wouldn’t stop until he found out who it was. Then he closed the door and left”
“[Mourinho told me] ‘I know you, you are good, and you are going to be the best central midfielder in the world’,” Casemiro told Cope in 2018, recalling the relationship with the manager who originally signed him for Real Madrid.
“He gave me this confidence, I left the dressing room believing that I was Cristiano Ronaldo. With the energy that he gave me, I was left believing that he was the best in the world. The confidence and energy that he gave me was incredible.”
Four Champions Leagues later, it’s fair to say that Mourinho’s prediction wasn’t a bad one.
Casemiro was handed his Madrid debut by Mourinho, a 3-1 victory over Real Betis in April 2013, but that was his one and only appearance under him. The Brazilian had to be patient and only really started to be integrated into the Los Blancos team under Mourinho’s successor Carlo Ancelotti.
Casemiro wasn’t the only world-class Brazilian defensive midfielder signed by Mourinho at Madrid.
Fabinho joined on loan during the 2012-13 season. He was only a teenager at the time and spent most of the year developing in the Castilla team alongside Casemiro, but he did make one La Liga appearance for the first team – and notched an assist in a 6-2 victory over Malaga.
“We headed to the hotel in Madrid, and while I was still sleeping, I woke up to somebody knocking on the door,” recalled of his signing for Madrid in an interview with FourFourTwo.
“I looked through the peephole and couldn’t believe it. It was Mendes and Jose Mourinho!
“I was still wearing my pyjamas, not at all prepared to meet him. I didn’t even know what to say.
“He wanted to welcome me. I was still a bit shy and never thought I would meet him like that!”
The midfielder didn’t sign for Madrid permanently, however. He ended up joining Monaco in 2013.
— TR SPORTS ®️ (@trsports_) March 3, 2022
At the time of writing, former Newcastle flop Joselu is Real Madrid’s only recognised out-and-out centre-forward. He’s returned to the club at the age of 33 after establishing himself as a reliable La Liga goalscorer, notching double figures in each of the last four seasons for Alaves and Espanyol.
Joselu actually came up through Madrid’s Fabrica academy. The vast majority of his appearances and goals came for the B team, but he did break through to score two goals in two appearances for the first team under Mourinho between 2010 and 2012.
A very heartwarming rise back to the top.
Back in 2014, Mourinho earmarked three Chelsea academy starlets for future success.
“My conscience tells me that if, for example, Baker, Brown, and Solanke are not national team players in a few years, I should blame myself,” he famously said.
Izzy Brown has retired after suffering horrendous luck with injuries. Lewis Baker is turning out in the Championship for Stoke City.
But one out of three isn’t bad. Solanke made his England debut in 2017 and while a second international remains forthcoming, it’s not unthinkable the 25-year-old will earn a recall after playing a vital role in Bournemouth’s promotion and subsequent Premier League consolidation.
The striker was first handed his senior debut by Mourinho in a 6-0 Champions League victory over NK Maribor. That was Solanke’s only appearance for Chelsea.