Jose Mourinho has never been shy about doing quite literally whatever it takes to win, and while he can be insufferable while in charge of your club, watching his work from a distance is never not entertaining.
A legend of the game, Mourinho has become everyone’s favourite pantomime villain, to the point where he’s now actually the perfect anti-hero.
In an era dominated by Pep Guardiola’s passing to suffocation and other robotic automatisms, people have learned to love Mourinho’s win at any cost sufferball and endless touchline antics.
It feels strange to say, but he’s become a breath of fresh air once again.
While his approach on the pitch isn’t the most enthraling, he makes up for it by playing a character so good that the WWE wouldn’t hesitate to sign him and put him in the main event of WrestleMania given half a chance.
Essentially a 12th player from the sidelines, there’s no stopping the legendary Portuguese coach from getting his team over the line when the going gets tough, or protecting them from critics after a loss by taking the heat for them with an absurd antic.
This time, though, he masterminded a point in a way that can only be described as vintage Mourinho.
With Roma drawing 1-1 at home to Fiorentina, but down to nine players after both Nicola Zalewski and Romelu Lukaku were sent off, it was all hands to the deck as Mourinho did whatever he feasibly could to cling onto that all-important point for dear life.
One eye on the clock, the other on the pitch, he knew he needed something extra from somewhere. Could it be one last roll of the dice with a substitution? Could it be a sneaky tactical tweak to get another player forward? Could it simply be a war cry from the technical area to spur on his players?
None of the above. Mourinho instead turned to one of the ballboys in the Stadio Olimpico and trusted him with his life – sort of.
Frantically scribbling down a plan of action onto a notepad for goalkeeper Rui Patricio to take on, Mourinho knighted the unknowing boy an apprentice in the dark arts, presented him with the golden ticket and sent him on an excursion towards Patricio’s net.
A stroke of genius.
Roma down to 9 men at home, needing to hold the score to remain in the top 4.
The cameras catch Mourinho making one of his notes, which he gives to a ball boy and asks him to give it to Rui Patrício.
— IM🇵🇹 (@Iconic_Mourinho) December 10, 2023
Everything about the footage is perfect. It feels so wrong watching a young gun being blooded into the dark side like that, but at the same time, it hits like the sweet, sweet serotonin we all desperately crave.
Bending the rules to absolute perfection. It paid off, too, as Roma held on for a point in a game they ultimately should’ve won, but ended up in a position where a draw felt like a bigger victory than a win ever could’ve done.
It later emerged what he’d actually written on the note, with his tactical plan seemingly being for his goalkeeper to smash the ball long into the space for his freshest substitutes to run onto.
For anyone wondering what Mourinho’s message to Rui Patrício via the ball boy said, it’s appears to read:
ESPAÇO – SPACE
CORRER – RUN
SHA & BOV are El Shaarawy and Bove.
So it looks like Mourinho was instructing his keeper to boot the ball long into space for the subs to chase pic.twitter.com/pTpysb012G
— Patrick Kendrick (@patrickendrick) December 11, 2023
Mourinho-ball in full swing in 2023. It brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? Sod your fancy passes and nullifying the opposition by suffocating them – our beautiful game is alive and well after all.
He’s infectious and will be until the end of time. Looking at the game from a distance, there is no reason why an in-form Roma side spearheaded by Lukaku and Paulo Dybala shouldn’t be making light work of a faltering Fiorentina outfit.
And yet here we are as neutrals, cheering him on like diehard Roma fans despite being about as Italian as the takeaway pizza we scoffed after several beers on Saturday night.
That is the Mourinho effect in full swing. Once you’re strapped in, you’ll go to hell and back with him, like it or not.
By Mitch Wilks