Why Is Mourinho Obsessed With Liverpool?

Posted by Paul Tomkins on December 7, 2005, 10:18:13 AM

Criticism of Liverpool from another team's manager is like your nemesis taking a pop at your wife in public. Even if it's true, it's not their place to say it. And, from Jose Mourinho, too much of it has been spurious nonsense spouted in desperation.

Frankly, Jose Mourinho's had far too much to say about Liverpool these last six months. Then again, he's never short of something to say.

I am utterly, utterly sick of hearing about how Chelsea did not lose the semi-final last year, on account of Luis Garcia's goal 'not crossing the line'. Photographic evidence that suggested it did was conveniently ignored as Sky reconstructed the goal on their over-heating ZX81, placing the players in different positions to reality.

Actually, am I that sick of hearing about it? No. Because it reminds me of who won the European Cup. For the fifth time. What irritates is the complete overlooking of the announcement by the referee, after the game, when he said he was going to award the Reds a penalty and send off Petr Cech. After just three minutes. So in fact, Chelsea had got lucky, as they had so many times against Liverpool under Mourinho.

And he knows it. Attacks are made in life only by threatened people. Defences, such as this, are to be expected, although of course I could ignore the Portuguese rent-a-gob. But Liverpool's emergence as a genuine threat to Chelsea were outlined in May, and confirmed in recent weeks by the league table and a run of nine games without conceding a goal.

It was comical how Mourinho failed to see Essien's assault on Hamann, but felt Sissoko should have been red-carded for his tackle on Gudjohnsen, when the Liverpool midfielder was playing the ball, if a little recklessly. He still made more contact with the ball than the Chelsea player, as he tried to scoop the ball forwards. Can that be said of Essien? Or, for that matter, Gallas, when he stamped on Kewell's ankle when totally ignoring the ball?

The Liverpool midfield does not contain angels and shrinking violets, and Hamann and Gerrard have made horror tackles in the past (Gerrard much less so these days). But the fact that Chelsea made two horrible tackles in the same match shows how rattled they were.

The Reds are not at Chelsea's overall level yet, and money means assembling a comparable squad will be difficult, but the gap grows ever-closer. It puts more pressure on Chelsea, because they have spent excessively for the right to be at the top. And they are top in the Premiership, by a fair distance. But just as they finished runners-up to Liverpool in last year's semi-final, they finished runners-up again this time around, in the group stage.

When he arrived in England, you could not stop Mourinho saying "I am a European Champion", as if he won the cup on his own. It was announced as if it was the greatest achievement possible in the game, and he's right. Then, a year later, Liverpool won the competition due to 'good fortune'.

Both Benítez and Mourinho have won the European Cup and a major European league title. Both of Benítez's achievements were on a relatively low budget; one of Mourinho's was on the greatest budget ever seen in football. Well spent, but quality is always easier to find if you have the cash to shop in the exclusive outlets.

In October Mourinho accused the Reds of being 'long ball' due to the presence of Peter Crouch. This from a manager whose team aerially bombarded Bayern Munich for 90 minutes last season, and have twice resorted to artless punts up field against us at the end of Champions League games. Or is it okay as a tactic when you're desperate to win?

Desperate is apparently something Liverpool were over the summer, as Mourinho took time to criticise the Reds' transfer policy. In some ways he was right. But it's such a pathetic thing to say from a position where money has bought you everything. Well, everything except Steven Gerrard. And history. And class.

There was a lot more rebuilding work needed at Anfield than at Chelsea (let's not forget a total of ten players of various ages arrived this summer) than at Stamford Bridge. Rafa didn't have the option to throw wads of cash at clubs to lure his targets. He got a lot of them; a few more eluded him. C'est la vie.

But let's not overlook the part Chelsea played in disrupting Rafa's plans. Much of last summer was spent negotiating to keep Steven Gerrard, while exploring the alternatives should he leave. If you read Gulliam Balague's excellent take on last season, you will discover that Rafa earmarked Michael Essien (now revealed to be a talented thug) and Momo Sissoko to replace Steven Gerrard.

Rafa's budget depended on whether or not Gerrard was sold. If centre back and right wing were priorities, central midfield would have been the number one requirement had Gerrard left.

Selling Gerrard would have given the boss an extra £35m to spend, would have given him extra options regarding the players he was chasing for other positions. Instead of chasing Figo on a free, he might have offered £18m for Joaquin. (I'm merely hypothesising.) At the very least it would have allowed the Reds to bow to Benfica's demands over Simao.

Thankfully, our manager goes about his job in a quiet, dignified manner, concentrating on his own team and not trying to steal the limelight from his players. Mourinho is the man who ran onto the pitch at Old Trafford, and then, after Porto won the final, went to hide – so as the whole world was wondering where he was rather than focusing on the team.

Meanwhile, the more Mourinho focuses and obsesses about Liverpool, the greater the compliment he pays our team, and our manager.

© Paul Tomkins 2005

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