You know the sight. It’s become increasingly familiar in recent years. A beleaguered Jose Mourinho hauled out in front of the cameras to explain why his side lost.
It’s something we saw from his latter days at Real Madrid. Then – perhaps most spectacularly – his second stint at Chelsea, followed by Manchester United and Tottenham.
Those moments, whether they be in press conferences or on live television, have provided us with some iconic moments. Mourinho in his latter-day career might not be up there competing with the likes of Pep Guardiola or Carlo Ancelotti, but he remains box office when confronted by reporters.
As he stood in front of the advertising hoardings following Roma’s 1-0 defeat to Feyenoord in the Europa League, Mourinho’s thousand-yard stare conveyed a message – this is going to be good.
Confronted by a reporter, an old-school bit of Mourinho lore punctuated her native tongue – “Special One” coming through the German – and the 60-year-old was asked: “It wasn’t a special night tonight. Why that?”
A nonplussed Mourinho responded with a wonderfully blank expression. It may well have been technical difficulties, with the reporter’s question drowned out by the ecstatic celebrations of the home fans.
But maybe this was a new tactic. Faced with the groanworthy banality of a ‘Special One’ reference in 2023, perhaps Mourinho just couldn’t be bothered.
Answering “no” when asked “can you hear me?” may have given us an indication that he could, in fact, hear the reporter.
When the question was repeated louder, it was followed by a pause that lasted only seconds by felt like an eternity. Eventually, after a facial expression that was the equivalent of Alan Partridge’s most exaggerated shrug, Mourinho eventually replied “I don’t understand the question.”
Now two decades into this game, Mourinho may have learnt a new approach in the art of obfuscation. Like pretending not to speak English when a charity fundraiser approaches you on the street.
In his post-match press conference, the Roma boss was back to his usual self, relatively chipper and relaxed but characteristically combative.
For a Europa League quarter-final, there’d been a refreshing but unusual level of spice. This was a rematch of last season’s inaugural UEFA Conference League final, which Roma won 1-0, delivering Mourinho yet another European trophy.
“It seems that everyone here is still obsessed with last year’s final,” the Portuguese coach told reporters prior to the encounter.
“But, you know what? You can’t win a game you’ve lost. Even if Feyenoord were to win 10-0 tonight, they would not win last year’s game. It’s over.”
Just days before, Mourinho had hit back at Antonio Cassano for criticising his style of football.
“Some of us work in football, he just wants to enjoy himself,” Mourinho responded.
“Cassano played for Roma, for Inter and for Real Madrid. In Madrid he is only remembered for his jacket. With Roma he won a Supercoppa without playing. At Inter he didn’t even manage the Lombardy Cup in a friendly.”
The fire in Mourinho’s belly was still burning away in the aftermath of Roma’s first-leg loss in Rotterdam.
“For the past 10 months you were crying” 😭
Jose Mourinho destroys a Dutch journalist after Feyenoord took a step towards avenging last season’s Conference League final defeat to Roma 😂 pic.twitter.com/YeVeIN4Bw8
— Hayters TV (@HaytersTV) April 13, 2023
Faced with a particularly pugnacious Dutch journalist, Mourinho gave as good as he got in the sparring match:
Reporter: “Your team disappointed but you say ‘I sleep good’ – we’ll see in one week. What is necessary to win over Feyenoord in seven days? What do you need?”
Mourinho: “To score goals, to put the ball in the net. It’s as simple as that,”
Reporter: “Is that what today you didn’t do?”
Mourinho: “You watched the game, huh?”
Reporter: “I watched the game. You had your chances. No? You had your chances.”
Mourinho: “Of course but football is not about chances, it’s about scoring goals.”
Reporter: “Like in Tirana? [Conference League final] You have to be efficient. So we agree?”
Mourinho: “Today you agree? But for the past 10 months you were crying.”
Reporter: “We cried a lot here. We’ll see each other in seven days.”
Mourinho: “No but you shouldn’t cry. Do you know why? Because you cannot win the match that you lost. You lost the game, you cannot win that one. The only problem today is that the game didn’t finish. It’s half-time.”
Reporter: “We will see each other in seven days.”
Mourinho: “I promise you if I lose, I sleep. I don’t stay for 10 months having nightmares.”
Maybe the Roma boss genuinely just didn’t hear the first interviewer. Because later that evening he showed he’ll never shirk away from an argument if there’s one to be had.
Whether he had or not, the interview made for hilariously awkward viewing. Mourinho remains one of football’s most compelling performers when you put a camera in front of his face.