Jose Mourinho has a reputation for being one of the most ruthless managers in football and stars from Chelsea, Manchester United and Inter Milan couldn’t cope with his tough love.
Of course, the Portuguese boss is one of the most successful managers of his generation and while he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, we wouldn’t have him any other way.
We’ve looked back throughout Mourinho’s managerial career and have picked out eight players who he failed to get the best out of.
Letting Salah slip away from under his fingertips has to be one of the biggest missteps in Mourinho’s illustrious career. The Egyptian winger struggled to make an impression at Chelsea under Mourinho and John Obi Mikel recently revealed he reduced Salah to tears at one point.
“They were so unlucky that the boss, Mourinho, then didn’t take any prisoners,” Mikel said on The Obi One Podcast.
“If you weren’t doing your job, it didn’t matter who you were, he would have a go at you.
“He had a go at Mohamed Salah at half-time once and he was in tears crying. We thought ‘OK, he’s going to let him back on the pitch’ but then he destroyed the kid and then pulled him off.”
Mourinho never saw the potential in Salah and it’s fair to say things worked out for the best in the end. After regaining his confidence in Italy, Salah returned to the Premier League like a new man with Liverpool in 2017 and the rest is history.
To be fair to Mourinho, it can be argued that several United managers struggled to get the best out of Pogba. However, given Mourinho’s spikey personality, he was always going to but heads with the Frenchman at some stage.
The former United boss allegedly called Pogba a ‘virus’ which obviously didn’t go down too well. They also clashed in 2017 after Mourinho was unhappy with Pogba travelling to Miami while recovering from an injury.
“It all started when I got injured,’ Pogba said in his Amazon Prime documentary. “I decided to go to Miami for rehab and left. In Miami a paparazzo photographed me with my wife Zulay.
“Mourinho sent the photo to Raiola. I didn’t like it at all… at all. I said to Mou, ‘are you serious? I am injured, but I come here to train three times a day. Who do you think I am? I’m not like other players’.”
José Mourinho explaining why Paul Pogba always played better for France than he did for Man United.
"It's not about us getting the best out of him, it's about him giving the best he has to give."pic.twitter.com/ovhsAF9yCv
— IM🇵🇹 (@Iconic_Mourinho) September 11, 2023
Mourinho’s relationship with Shaw was interesting, to say the least. The Portuguese boss was a vocal critic of Shaw in the media as he regularly took aim at the United full-back.
“He [Shaw] was in front of me and I was making every decision for him,’ Mourinho said in 2017 following a 1-1 draw with Everton. “He has to change his football brain. We need his fantastic physical and technical qualities, but he cannot continue to play with my brain.”
Kevin De Bruyne
Considered by many as the best playmaker of his generation, it still remains a mystery as to why Mourinho never gave De Bruyne much of a look in at Chelsea.
“I never went to Jose Mourinho. I trained hard; I showed enough. But it’s a football myth that if you train well, you get chance,” De Bruyne explained.
“That is not true. I left it hanging a bit because I didn’t see a chance to play anymore, but then I learned to behave differently sometimes. And that you can get out of such a situation. But I didn’t see that then. I just wanted to leave. And I don’t hate Mourinho either, I’m not a little kid. It just didn’t work out then”
Shevchenko had his moments in a Chelsea shirt, but his spell at Stamford Bridge was largely underwhelming. Mourinho shunted the Ballon d’Or winner out wide to accommodate Didier Drogba and it wasn’t long until the pieces started to fall apart.
In some ways, Shevchenko was partly responsible for Mourinho’s first dismissal at Chelsea.
The move from Arsenal to United was nothing short of a disaster for Sanchez. He looked a shadow of his former self playing at Old Trafford at his confidence quickly dwindled away under Mourinho.
“Sometimes I didn’t play, then I did, then I didn’t and as a player you lose confidence, each player lost their confidence, do you understand?” Sanchez told BBC Sport in 2020.
“And then an atmosphere was created that wasn’t healthy. Sometimes I’m playing well and I score a goal and he took me off.”
The former Tottenham midfielder played his best football under Mauricio Pochettino, but Mourinho struggled to get that same spark out of him. A clip of Mourinho calling Alli ‘lazy’ went viral in 2020, but Alli has since added some context to the situation.
“That ‘lazy’ comment, people love to bring that up,” Alli said on The Overlap. “That interview on Amazon, he called me ‘lazy’. That was the day after a recovery day. A week later, he apologized to me because he’d seen me actually train and play.
“But that wasn’t in the documentary and no one spoke up about that. In the team meeting he called me lazy, but one-on-one, I think it was on the pitch, he apologized for it. I didn’t think anything of it at the time because I know I’m not lazy.”
There’s no doubting Quaresma’s talent, but his spell with Mourinho at Inter Milan didn’t go to plan. Despite the Portuguese boss pushing for the singing himself, Quaresma quickly found himself down the pecking order.
“My biggest regret was joining Inter,” he told Portuguese newspaper Publico.
“My happiness and self-confidence were taken away from me. At one point I wasn’t even called up any more. I felt on the margins of the squad and woke up crying when I had to attend training sessions.
“I still haven’t understood some things that happened with him [Mourinho]. As soon as I arrived in Milan, it was made clear to me that I was only signed because Mourinho wanted me. Then, suddenly, I stopped playing.”