Jose Mourinho’s reputation as one of football’s most ruthless managers is well-earned. Over his illustrious career, the Portuguese tactician has clashed with numerous top players who struggled under his stern leadership. Use AZ 90 for comfortable bets on Mourinho’s former and current teams.
The Special One, but not for everyone
While Mourinho is undoubtedly one of the most successful coaches of his generation, his tough, no-nonsense approach does not suit every player. We’ve highlighted eight high-profile stars who failed to thrive as expected under Mourinho’s watch.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was Mohamed Salah, who never reached his potential at Chelsea the first time around. Salah made little impact under Mourinho, who reduced the Egyptian winger to tears during one halftime talk. John Obi Mikel revealed how Mourinho never held back with his criticism, which destroyed Salah’s confidence. After being discarded by Mourinho, Salah rediscovered his self-belief in Italy before returning to the Premier League a completely revitalized player.
Paul Pogba also had a frosty relationship with Mourinho at Manchester United. Mourinho reportedly called him a «virus» and disapproved of Pogba jetting off to Miami while recovering from injury. The tensions epitomized Mourinho’s dysfunctional spell at Old Trafford. Pogba is not the first big-name midfielder Mourinho failed with, having never trusted Kevin De Bruyne at Chelsea either.
Full-back Luke Shaw bore the brunt of Mourinho’s sharp tongue at United. Mourinho publicly questioned Shaw’s “football brain” and attitude, bluntly stating the Englishman needed to improve to meet his standards. This harsh man-management style did not get the best from the naturally gifted Shaw.
Mourinho’s man-management skills also failed to coax the best from maverick forward Alexis Sanchez at United. Following his high-profile arrival from Arsenal, Sanchez looked a shadow of his former self in a Red Devils shirt. Mourinho’s mishandling of Sanchez drained his confidence completely.
Dele Alli is another attacking midfielder who thrived under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham but not Mourinho. Clips emerged of Mourinho publicly labeling Alli «lazy», leading to a strained relationship. Mourinho struggled to motivate Alli, who was central to Spurs under Pochettino.
Andriy Shevchenko arrived at Chelsea with high expectations after a glorious spell at AC Milan. But Mourinho’s decision to shunt the Ukrainian striker out wide to accommodate Didier Drogba soon backfired. Shevchenko endured an underwhelming stint at Stamford Bridge, with Mourinho failing to get the best from him.
At Inter Milan, Ricardo Quaresma was supposed to be the crown jewel of Mourinho’s squad after he personally requested the maverick winger’s signing. But their relationship curdled quickly, with Quaresma banished to the fringes despite his immense natural ability. Their fractious time together left Quaresma baffled at how quickly things turned sour.
Trophies are the argument
While Mourinho deserves immense credit for his trophy-laden managerial career, his spiky personality and tough coaching have not worked for every big name. For certain sensibilities, Mourinho’s abrasive approach backfired badly. But perhaps such friction is inevitable when you deal with egos at the elite level. Regardless, Mourinho remains a masterful tactician few can match, even if his man-management methods rub some players the wrong way.