Irish football needs someone to pick it up and turn it around. And who better to do that than ‘The Special One’?
Irish football is in the pits. With the manager’s seat currently vacant after a fourth consecutive failed attempt to qualify for a major tournament, we ask: who is the right manager for the job?
Coincidentally, former Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid manager José Mourinho recently lost his job at AS Roma. Could Mourinho and Ireland be a match made in heaven?
Considering his track record, tactics, and mentality, we look at why Ireland should appoint José Mourinho as their next manager.
Irish football – a sorry state of affairs
The FAI relieved Ireland’s most recent manager, Stephen Kenny, of his duties at the end of his contract in November 2023 after a dismal campaign that resulted in Ireland’s failure to qualify for the 2024 European Championship.
The team finished fifth in its group, ahead of only Gibraltar, the minnows against whom Ireland registered their only two wins of the campaign.
It is an experience Irish football fans are all too familiar with, with the team having failed to qualify for Euro 2020 and for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals. In fact, Ireland’s last appearance on football’s biggest stage was back in 2002.
It’s a far cry from the days of legendary Irish players like Roy Keane and Damien Duff, but with Evan Ferguson and other young prospects making their mark in the Premier League and elsewhere, who knows what the future will bring?
Making the case for ‘The Special One’ – why Ireland should appoint José Mourinho
His track record
Mourinho’s track record speaks for itself. Following short spells with Benfica and União de Leiria, he truly made a name for himself as manager of FC Porto. In his first full season at Porto, he guided the club to an unprecedented treble of league, cup, and UEFA Cup.
However, his crowning achievement with Porto was winning the following year’s Champions League, defeating Monaco 3-0 in the final after having knocked out the likes of Manchester United, Lyon, and Deportivo La Coruña along the way.
His exploits in Portugal garnered interest from Premier League clubs, and Mourinho joined Chelsea in the summer of 2004.
He frequently courted controversy in England, but nevertheless led the Blues to three league titles, three League Cups, and an FA Cup during his two spells at Stamford Bridge.
Stints at Inter Milan and Real Madrid again proved fruitful. He led the former to Champions League glory in 2010 and won domestic honours in both Italy and Spain.
A return to England proved less fruitful. He won nothing in a two-year spell at Tottenham, but previously helped Manchester United win the League Cup and the Europa League in 2017.
In his most recent managerial job, he led Roma to victory in the 2022 Europa Conference League and, in doing so, became the first manager to win all three current major European competitions.
Despite his success, Mourinho has received his fair share of criticism over the years for his defensive tactics. Some detractors claim that he often ‘parks the bus’ – a phrase used to describe teams who play very defensively, with the entire team behind the ball.
Indeed, in Mourinho’s first season in England, Chelsea conceded just 11 goals and won 11 of their 38 matches that season 1-0. And while they conceded 22 during the following campaign, this was still the lowest in the league.
This type of football, while not particularly pleasing to the eye, has certainly proved effective over the years, not just for Mourinho’s teams, but also for lesser-quality sides like the Stoke City of the 2010s.
It is, therefore, a tactic that could greatly work in Ireland’s favour.
That said, though, Mourinho’s most successful teams of the past always had an excellent spine: from goalkeeper to centre forward, through the defence and midfield.
Think Cech, Carvalho, Makélélé, and Drogba; César, Lúcio, Zanetti, and Milito; Casillas, Ramos, Alonso, and Benzema.
Ireland counts on some promising prospects, like Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher and the aforementioned Ferguson, and if they appointed Mourinho, he might try to build a team around such talent.
Another reason why Ireland should appoint Mourinho as their next manager is his mentality.
In his first press conference as Chelsea manager, hot on the heels of his Champions League success with Porto, Mourinho declared himself the “Special One”.
Some 14 years later, an under-pressure Mourinho demanded respect from journalists present at a Manchester United press conference, holding up three fingers as he addressed them to represent each Premier League title he has won.
“I won more Premier Leagues alone than the other 19 managers together,” he reminded them.
While Mourinho’s attitude has often been decried as arrogance, it would perhaps help embolden the Irish squad with the self-confidence it lacks. This is just one of the reasons Ireland should appoint Ireland José Mourinho as their next manager.
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