“I prefer not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble”.
Jose Mourinho’s relationship with journalists has always been unpredictable. When he arrived on the English football scene, his first press conference produced an iconic quote that will go down in Chelsea and English football folklore.
He said: “We have top players and, sorry if I’m arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m the special one”.
An iconic quote. Having the audacity to say that in his first press-conference turned him into the loveable rogue we know him as today. But what sparked him to say this was a journalist describing Jose as ‘arrogant’. Mourinho thrived off the media, and vice versa. He was entertaining, he spoke a lot, and the media loved that.
Things have certainly changed. Pre-match in the Carabao Cup tie between Jose’s former side Chelsea and new club Tottenham Hotspur, an irritable Mourinho became ever frustrated when a journalist probed him on Dele Alli’s whereabouts. Dele had been heavily rumoured for a transfer away from Tottenham, with also rumours circulating questioning the unsettled relationship of Jose and the 24-year-old English international.
“There’s no Dele Alli, there’s no [Heung-Min] Son and there’s no [Giovani] Lo Celso,” he said responding to the Alli whereabouts question, evidently getting at the fact that there are other players unavailable in the squad, so why not ask about them.
He was pressed further as to why Dele was not present.
Growing in frustration, Mourinho replied, “I’m not going to speak about players that are not here. Are you going to ask [Frank] Lampard as to why there is no Thiago Silva?”. Mourinho’s viewpoint is that in a pre-match interview, you should only be asked about the game at hand, and what players will be playing in the game ahead.
He backed this up by saying in a snarky tone, “Fans are especially fascinated with the players that are playing”. To which the interview eventually reached its bleak conclusion.
It seems crazy that you can compare these two interviews and it leads back to the same man. The English media have arguably whittled one of the most talkative, eccentric characters in world football, into a fed-up, miserable man.
It begs the question that if this can happen to such a huge character and an open speaker, will the future of the relationships between managers and media become obsolete? Will they refuse to speak whatsoever?
A large reason for this is the sanitisation of produced media nowadays needed due to various fines and bans given out by the FA and respected boards. The sheer amount of fines Mourinho has probably received has whittled him down to the point of giving up.
Gone are the days of the Cloughs and the Fergusons whose post-match interviews were raw and real. It’s really sad to see that the emotion in the game is punished, meaning managers will essentially have a pre-laid out script they go through in every post-match, pre-match and press conference due to the fear of slipping up and exposing themselves.
This isn’t an uncommon occurrence for managers to distance themselves from the media. Sir Alex Ferguson was no stranger to a feud with a journalist. He refused to give out interviews to the BBC from 2004 to 2011 after allegations made about his son, Jason. He was so set on this; he even incurred a fine every time he refused to speak to them.
Ferguson’s bust-ups with the press showed his great passion for the game. He had many feisty interviews that often led to him banning journalists from press-conferences, or simply ignoring their questions and walking out. Either worked.
His most notable of the lot was in December 2004 when Rooney had received a three-match ban for striking a Newcastle player. Safe to say you wouldn’t be getting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer repeating the foul mouth rant that followed about this about Odion Ighalo .
More notably recently, Jurgen Klopp refused to answer a question from a journalist from The Sun after he saw his new Liverpool side win a pre-season friendly against Barcelona in 2016. It was and still is, unknown if the decision is linked to the tabloid’s coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
He said: “I don’t talk to The Sun anymore. I do not speak to the Sun anymore. You can listen”.
So sometimes the ideologies of the manager are deeper routed than their own opinion and follow their club’s mindset.
No matter the cause, the change would be welcomed. I’m sure fans would be dying to see some raw emotion in their managers and players again.
The passion and emotion they as fans possess. I guess only time will tell.