Grant Wahl over at Sports Illustrated has a sycophantic panegyric masquerading as a story on Real Madrid’s José Mourinho in this week’s SI. Here’s a sampling (emphasis added):
Mourinho can’t help himself. He is by turns smart, vain, funny, needy, tough and as thin-skinned as a pinot grape. But who’s to argue with him? He has a gift. No coach today compares.
In other words, Mourinho’s ability to connect is equal parts psychology and linguistics. To sit across from Mourinho and interview him is to be subject to a form of high-level seduction, though not in a sexual way. He’ll lean close, elbows on knees, hands folded together, as though he’s sharing a secret that nobody else knows. Is it a kind of performance art? Of course. But isn’t most of sports? The details are in the delivery, and invariably Mourinho’s players, to say nothing of the global media, buy what he is selling. If Ferguson is known for the scorching-hot diatribes of a drill sergeant, Mourinho is the sports world’s version of a pickup artist.
He hasn’t lost a league game at home in nine years and is eyeing an unprecedented third Champions League title with a third team. Real Madrid’s maestro may be the best coach in any sport, anywhere.
Va-va-va-VOOM. Way to go, Grant. Interview-as-seduction? I haven’t heard that one before (by my own choice).
How about some facts? When searching for those in the world of La Liga, The Guardian’s Sid Lowe is EASILY the best English-speaking/writing source. Funny, Grant—he also writes for Sports Illustrated! You also quoted him in your article on Mourinho…but from the pre-season. Perhaps you should check Lowe’s latest in the Guardian? Here’s Lowe, comparing last year’s Real Madrid coach, Manuel Pellegrini, with Mourinho (by the numbers):
[Pellegrini] hadn’t even been that bad. Madrid had been humiliated in the Copa del Rey and were eliminated from the Champions League. But everyone else had been knocked out at that stage too – for each of the past six years. And in the league, Madrid challenged Barcelona; beaten just 1-0 at the Camp Nou, they had more points at this stage last season than Mourinho’s team do now. A late winner against Sevilla meant that at this stage they were top. Now they are seven points behind. They went into the final day with a chance of winning the title. And racked up 96 league points – a club record.
Let’s do this in list form. Mourinho’s Madrid are currently:
1) Ten points back from first place (a win tonight against Santander would close the gap to seven).
2) Embarrassed 5-0 in the Camp Nou against FC Barcelona
3) In the Copa del Rey final against FC Barcelona
4) In the Round of 16 of the Champions League (1-1 after the away leg in Lyon)
Last year at this point, Pellegrini’s Madrid were:
1) In first place, with MORE points than Mourinho’s Real Madrid at this stage
2) Lost 1-0 in the Camp Nou to FC Barcelona
3) Out of the Copa del Rey
4) In the Round of 16 of the Champions League (eventually eliminated)
[[Worth noting: this is after Mourinho orchestrated €75 million in off-season upgrades to the squad. Might also be worth noting that Madrid splashed €254 million in the previous off-season. Mourinho (and Pellegrini) are each operating with the best talent that money can buy.]]
Now look, the point-by-point analysis isn’t conclusive. It’s impressive that Mourinho has Madrid alive in two-and-a-half competitions (because La Liga is looking increasingly out-of-reach). However, it’s certainly NOT proof that he’s “the best coach in any sport, anywhere.” He’s a good coach, but it’s not even clear that he’s a better coach than Manuel Pellegrini.
His value-added this year? Since Madrid could very well be eliminated from the Champions League this week, all we can say conclusively is that Mourinho managed to successfully navigate the Copa del Rey. Pellegrini, with less money in the squad (if you can ever say that at the world’s richest club), out-performed Mourinho in La Liga.
La Liga: Pellegrini
Champions League: TBD
My point being, that he’s a fine coach, but he might not even be better than the man he replaced.
Oh, but he’s so very handsome, right Grant?