It’s one of the most difficult jobs — José Mourinho on being a football manager
The legendary coach from Portugal shared his thoughts about the new documentary on Tottenham Hotspur while assessing the performance in the last season
There are not many football coaches in the world that demand respect like José Mourinho. Therefore, when the English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur signed him as their head coach, Amazon Prime Video threw their hat in the ring and decided to produce a series on the club’s first season under the Portuguese legend. Only four episodes old yet, the series, titled All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, captures a tumultuous season for the club, which started in the worst possible way with the sacking of their previous manager Mauricio Pochettino (who led them to their first Champions League final in 2019). Here, José, along with his top players Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, talk about adjusting to locker room life with cameras around, while reflecting on how this documentary will influence their fans’ perception about the team. Excerpts:
What will people see that they haven’t seen before?
José Mourinho: People love football. What they have in their homes normally is 90 minutes of football and a little bit of the pre-match press conferences and after matches. But day-to-day action is something that normally is hidden behind closed doors. We are giving people access to all of the things that fans normally aren’t able to see. I’ll give you an example: I love Formula 1 but what can I watch in Formula 1? I watch the race and then when they invite me to go to some Grand Prix I can share a few minutes in the boxes with the drivers or the engineers or the coaches but no more than that. When you have a TV series like this, you go into the inside of it. And I can promise because I know, that everything was real in this case. Nothing was prepared. Everything was just us.
What was it like having a documentary made about your team and yourself?
Dele Alli: It was strange at the start. It took a little bit of getting used to, but I think after a while we forgot about it. Obviously the cameras were everywhere, but at the same time that all became part of the game.
How did you feel about having the cameras in?
JM: Sometimes I forgot! I think the beauty of the filmmaker’s work is that nothing is fake. People didn’t change behaviours because the cameras were there or because they were thinking about the cameras all the time. If I was somebody looking in from the outside, what would attract me about the series would be how genuine and real it is. You can only be real if the actors, let’s say that’s all of us, don’t think about it. We just do our lives. Basically, for the majority of the time, I forgot that the cameras were there or I tried to ignore them because to do my job properly I cannot check whether the cameras are there. Sometimes I felt it was quite weird after. Sometimes, after a certain meeting, reaction, words or approach then you feel yourself feeling like ‘this is part of my intimacy. This is something that I don’t want people to understand. I don’t want people to know so much inside the intimacy of my work.’ But in the end, we learned how to live with it and it was fine.
What preconceptions do you think people have about you as a person, and how do you hope this series might change them, if at all?
Son Heung-min: I hope the documentary is doing well — for us and for me too. We had good things and quite bad things happen last season. But I hope the people see that we are nice guys and that all of us want to win every single game!
What things do you think viewers are going to see in this series that they might be surprised by?
DA: The perception of footballers is a lot different from reality. We are just normal people and I think last season was probably one of the most difficult in terms of changes and having to deal with different things, both personally and as a team. It probably isn’t as glamourous as it’s perceived, but I think it will be good for everyone to see that. They’ll see how much we go for it. Football is in our hearts. They’ll see that we have to work and how much it means to the players. I think it’ll be a good watch.
One of the things that is very striking in the series is how well the players seem to get on. Is that something that you would say is different about Spurs to other teams?
SHM: I can’t say because I’ve never been there. I don’t have another club. But I think, especially as a Spurs player, I think we have a really, really special relationship as players and as friends. I think everyone gets along very, very well because we are used to working together a lot. We don’t have to talk about too much and we just understand each other.
In All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur we see how the club is more than just the players and the matches, it plays a big part in the local community. What does that outreach role mean to you?
DA: It’s something that we all try to take pride in. We’re in a situation as footballers where we have such a big following and we’re part of a club like Tottenham that has so many fans. It means we can help people with everything, from getting messages out on social media, to speaking and meeting people and trying to help the younger generation. We just want to try and have a positive impact. Hopefully, what you’ll see in the documentary is that we have a lot of good people at the club who don’t just pride themselves on being good footballers. We try to be good people as well. We want to help people and we’re in a very, very privileged position where we can change a lot of people’s lives. To do that as much as we can is something that all of us take seriously.
What, in your view, is the role of the modern-day football manager?
JM: It’s one of the most difficult jobs I believe at this moment. It’s probably one of the only jobs where the people that work for you are very rich. You cannot lead by anything else other than being good and every single manager has to be really good to ‘get the players respect’ and they have to prove it every day. Managers are not as powerful as they were before. In fact, you are fragile. You’re fragile in the eyes of the media. You’re fragile in the eyes of the fans. The players in the majority of the cases can also feel that you are fragile because they normally stay in the club. So the manager today is in a very, very fragile position. You have to be very well prepared for the job at every level. I think the easiest one to be well prepared is methodological. To train well, to be organised and to have your own method is the most difficult thing. The leadership is also very difficult. The emotional balance is very difficult, and to have the capacity and the knowledge to be in control of everything that surrounds you because at this moment you have an incredible number of people that work for you in different areas. The medical department, sports science, so many areas that are around you. In the end, you control, you filter all the information that you have, you coordinate all the people that are available to work for you. Just going back to the lockdown period, you could easily feel how many people were working for you and who you have to coordinate. The sports science, the fitness coaches, the coaches, the nutritionists, the IT team, the analysts. To coordinate, you have to be very well prepared, so it’s really hard work.