Jose Mourinho sat with an unshaven beard and shaved head at the club’s Cobham training ground for the club’s annual Christmas meal just hours before he was sacked. He was in a disheveled state compared to the one we have come to know as the self proclaimed “special one”

He has taken the club from the top of the pile to relegation strugglers in a very short space of time. The following may explain what happened.

From a sport psychology perspective a scientifically validated measure of optimal leadership qualities (Transformation Leadership Inventory for Sport (DTLI), Callow et al, (2009)) identifies six leadership behaviours that help performance and promote group cohesion.

Inspirational Motivation (where leaders inspire followers with their vision for the future), He set the standards for those to follow.

Individual Consideration (where leaders show concern for followers individualistic needs),

Intellectual Stimulation (where leaders challenge followers to assess their methods and how to improve them).

High Performance Expectations (where leaders promote excellence and performance criteria for followers in the attainment of set goals)

Intellectual Stimulation (where coach challenges players to assess their methods and how to improve them) 

*Fostering Acceptance of Group Goals* (where leaders incorporate followers in the devising of, accepting of and striving towards a common agreed goal),

 *Appropriate Role Modelling* (where leaders lead by example in the way they conduct themselves and live their lives in the manner that they would like their followers to do).

Jose Mourinho has exuded charisma throughout his coaching career. This was always backed up with being ultra prepared. In recent times, he has sold commanding leaders in Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Peter Cech while John Terry has been relegated to a bit part player and doesn’t offer the same defensive cover and leadership qualities on the pitch that he once possessed.

Additionally, their replacements appear not to have the same level of leadership qualities as those gone before them. The question must be asked however of what Mourinho has done to generate such leadership qualities in the current players. What has he done to Foster Acceptance of Group Goals in a managerial climate where there appears to be only room for one decision maker by what would appear to be an autocratic leader – the “special one”.

Mourinho has rarely had to work with a weak set of leaderless players who didn’t believe in what he told them, while now his autocratic managerial style fails to empower his newer players to have those leadership skills he needs them to have. He always commanded his players respect. Lately however, it appears that he has lost the respect of the players and the performances have plummeted accordingly.


Losing the dressing room and staff

Earlier in the season, he dismissed his doctor Eva Carneiro for entering the field of play to tend to Eden Hazard as he lay in pain on the ground. In the process he castigated her in the media for not fully understanding the intricacies and subtleties of the game – when she entered the pitch, the player had to leave the field of play and the opposition (Swansea) scored against 10 man Chelsea.


There are strong rumours of a bust up between him and another member of staff – his goalkeeping coach. The coach apparently wanted to gradually bring their star goalkeeper Courtois from injury lately, but Mourinho is thought to have over ruled his professional opinion undermining the views of his goalkeeping coach in the process. Such a decision wouldn’t have sat well with other staff members especially in light of what had happened with the doctor.

In October, Mourinho lashed some of his players when he suggested in the media that “rats” around the Blues camp had given away confidential team information – he had become obsessed with the fact a close contact from Porto (former club) knew of his plans to drop Cesc Fabregas before a recent Champions League game. As a result, he became guarded over how he set his team up during training, so that players were guessing over who would be starting games.

More recently, we had the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Mourinho lambasted his players to the media after a surprise 2-1 loss at Leicester suggesting that players had “betrayed” his work – identifying the defenders needed to watch out for left wing crosses and left foot shots that provided their two goals .  The Portuguese also warned his team against “betrayal” in the tactical meeting ahead of the Leicester game and the word was apparently used again during the half-time team talk at Leicester.

There was the constant berating of referees and laying of blame at their hands for recent losses. He even suffered fines and touchline bans for such outbursts on a few occasions. His decisions, selections, tactics or behaviour could never be in question. He was the self proclaimed “special one”.

In contrast, a recent BBC documentary on ex Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, “Secrets of Success”, revealed that that one of his primary objectives was that his players would be respectful to the club they played for – a behaviour he himself also espoused. Part of that revolved around being appropriately dressed when travelling away from home while representing the club – suit and tie. A bigger part revolved around being humble to those they met in the football environment when away from home and around the environment at their Carrington training ground by greeting the cleaning and restaurant staff by their first name. In fact Alex Ferguson once said that he knew he had a player if he had the same manner and personality at 21 as he had at 16 when he left his mother. There would be no room for ego and this proved very wise as he became the greatest manager in the history of the British game.

The All Black Rugby team realise that you must remain humble, and that no one is too big or too famous to do the little things required each and every day to get better. They even have the top players and management sweeping the dressing room after they finish their matches as they espouse a grounded approach.

Mourinho undoubtedly has certain qualities of a top coach with many from a football knowledge perspective. He may also be able to espouse a lot of the factors listed and may provide Inspirational Motivation and have the ability to set High Performance Expectations for players. However, his portrayal of himself to be the all knowing, self obsessed “special one” that he came across as in the media may not have sat well with his players over the course of time. In short, for them, he wasn’t an Appropriate Role Model.

Mourinho’s narcissist personality and brash arrogance may make for good entertainment and media copy, but it is the antithesis of the grounded approach Ferguson and the All-Blacks speak of. It appears that the Chelsea players could no longer warm to his self obsessed manner and have come to resent him more than respect him. His treatment of both players and staff would appear to accentuate this and he lost the group as a result.

Unlike Alex Ferguson’s obsession with keeping both himself and his players as grounded as possible, Mourinho believed himself to be above all around him – players, staff and referees alike. He was a long way from an appropriate role model and it appeared that his goal was more important than Fostering Acceptance of Group Goals. He fell down badly on the last two key characteristics and lost his coat in the process.

Keith Begley is an accredited sport psychologist with the Irish Institute of Sport.

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