Jose Mourinho has cut a terse figure in preseason, but run-ins with players aren’t new: from Anthony Martial to Mesut Ozil, Kaka to Iker Casillas. In fact, it’s hard to find a superstar with whom the Special One hasn’t picked a fight…
We run through 10 of his most memorable bust-ups.
10. Kaka (Real Madrid)
Kaka was famously one of the nicest and most mild-mannered superstars in football, so when he says a relationship between himself and a coach was “complicated,” you can take that as his version of a stinging criticism.
“Jose Mourinho was a difficult coach for me and we had a respectful but complicated relationship,” he said earlier this year. “I trained, I fought and I prayed a lot but having not received the confidence of the coach, I realised that I could not work with him.”
9. Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea)
Another relationship that has swayed to and fro, Eto’o and Mourinho initially didn’t get on at Inter, but that turned into “love, with a lot of respect” over time. The manager even let the player give the teamtalk before the 2010 Champions League final. But when they were reunited at Chelsea, Mourinho joked that Eto’o was “32 years old, maybe 35, who knows?”
Eto’o wasn’t impressed and responded by celebrating a goal as if he was a crippled old man. Then, after he left the club, he referred to Mourinho as a “fool.”
8. Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)
Real Madrid were 3-1 up against Deportivo Coruna in a league game during Mourinho’s third season there, but he wasn’t happy. Specifically, he wasn’t happy with Mesut Ozil.
In his autobiography, in a chapter titled “The Most Important B—–king Of My Life,” Ozil describes what Mourinho said to him: “I want you to go into tackles like a man. Do you know what it looks like when you tackle? No? Let me show you.” Mourinho stands on tiptoes, thrusts his arms down by his sides, purses his lips and minces around the dressing room. “That’s how you tackle. Ooh, I mustn’t get hurt.”
Like most of his relationships, theirs was complicated but this was a humiliation.
7. Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
Recent public messages suggest that Luke Shaw and Mourinho are patching things up and that any criticism is merely tough love. But it would be easy for the left-back to hold a grudge after Mourinho essentially accused him of feigning an injury.
“I don’t know about the injuries,” said Mourinho, after a draw with Swansea in April 2017. “I think Luke Shaw’s must be a big injury because to leave the pitch after 10 minutes, I am expecting a very big injury.” As it turned out Shaw had damaged ligaments in his foot and didn’t play again until the following September.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Mourinho once described Ronaldo as “the best player in the universe,” blithely ruling out the claims of anyone in the Andromeda Galaxy Super League, and arguably the peak of Ronaldo’s individual performances came while the two were together at Real Madrid. But not long after Mourinho left, he said of Ronaldo: “I had only one problem with him… maybe he thinks he knows everything and the coach cannot help him to develop more.”
Then, shortly afterwards, in a more subtle but perhaps more cutting jibe, he referred to the Brazilian Ronaldo as the “real” Ronaldo.
5. Ricardo Quaresma (Inter)
It probably would have been better for both men if Jose Mourinho and Ricardo Quaresma had never worked together. “Quaresma will have to learn, otherwise he won’t play,” said Mourinho not long after his compatriot had joined him in Milan. “I am sure he’ll change and become more tactically disciplined. Right now he likes kicking the ball with the outside of his foot.”
A heinous sin indeed. The player wasn’t too enamoured with things, either. “My biggest regret was joining Inter,” said Quaresma. “I felt on the margins of the squad and woke up crying when I had to attend training sessions.”
4. Pepe (Real Madrid)
The pair were initially quite close, but after Mourinho’s treatment of Iker Casillas (more on this later), a fall-out was inevitable. Pepe suggested that Mourinho’s actions towards Casillas were “not suitable” and that he deserved more respect, in response to which the manager got personal.
“It is easy to analyse the Pepe thing. His problem has a name, and it is Raphael Varane,” said Mourinho. “I understand that it is not an easy situation, but I have to try to be honest and I think that very few don’t believe that the future of Real Madrid is Varane and Sergio Ramos.”
3. Kevin de Bruyne (Chelsea)
When De Bruyne returned to Chelsea after spending a season on loan at Werder Bremen, he was promised his chance by Mourinho. But after starting the first two games of the season, he would barely get near the first team again. He later claimed he only spoke to Mourinho twice before returning to Germany, signing for Wolfsburg on a permanent deal.
“If you have a player knocking on your door and crying every day he wants to leave, you have to make a decision,” Mourinho later said. “It was like a wall, a block. He was not ready to compete. He was an upset kid, training very bad.”
2. Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
It would be a brave person who took on the task of ranking Mourinho’s most stinging insults. Or, at least a person with a lot of time on their hands. He’s not a man who tends to hold back, but even by his standards the assessment of Anthony Martial after United lost to Brighton last season was grim.
“People always ask: ‘Why always Lukaku?'” he said. “Well, now they know why always Lukaku, and why always this player and why always that player.” Just saying he thought Martial (and Marcus Rashford) were rubbish would at least have been more honest.
1. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
They weren’t always enemies. When Jose Mourinho first joined Real Madrid there was “a lot of connection” between the two, according to Casillas. But things went south a couple of years into his tenure: Mourinho was seemingly upset that Casillas was close to some Barcelona players and also decided there could only be one big dog in the Real dressing room — it wasn’t going to be “San Iker.”
Mourinho was once asked if he’d have done anything differently at Real, and his response was: “I should have brought in Diego Lopez [the keeper that replaced Casillas] after my first year.” Mourinho apparently once texted Julio Cesar, his custodian at Inter, to say he stopped more shots “with one arm” than Casillas did with two.