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It was classic José Mourinho, who long ago became the most quotable coach of any sports team on the planet.

He had taken over the reins of Tottenham a year and a day earlier when, on Nov. 21, Hotspur had just completed a Picasso —well, maybe more of a Pollock — of a 2-0 victory over Manchester City. Tottenham triumphed despite City having possessed the ball two-thirds of the time and having outshot the Spurs, 22-4.

“They can take the ball home if they want,” Mourinho said when reporters asked him about City dominating the action. “I get the three points.”

That match pitted the mentor against his former FC Barcelona protégé, Pep Guardiola, a sterling defensive midfielder whose coaching record against Mourinho dropped to 17-7. Both have won the Champions League twice.

The victory perched Spurs atop the Premier League, where they remained Sunday (with Liverpool) after a 2-0 home victory over Arsenal. Tottenham plays Liverpool at Anfield on Dec. 16.

Since the league’s formation in 1992, Tottenham has never won it; its last top-flight English title came in 1961.

With Harry Kane and Son Heung-min fueling each other, the Spurs have gone 13-1-5 over their past 19 matches in all competitions.

Mourinho has compared team style and success to eggs and omelets — a higher quality of egg produces a better omelet. If you want, he said on another occasion, you can make “a silence” very noisy. Another time, he said he only talks about men, “not rude children.”

Some gems:

• “I have a problem, which is I’m getting better at everything related to my job since I started.”

• “When you enjoy what you do, you don’t lose your hair, and Guardiola is bald.”

• “He must think I’m a great guy,” he once said upon being asked what God might think of him, “because otherwise he would not have given me so much.”

• To a Crystal Palace ball boy, whom Mourinho accused of wasting time, he said, “One day somebody will punch you.”

• Finally, the coup de grâce after his first match at Chelsea.

“We have top players and, sorry if I’m arrogant, we have a top manager. Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”

The Special One has appeared in countless headlines. The cover of FourFourTwo’s March 2020 magazine declared “José vs. The World” below a photo of a grinning Mourinho.

Mourinho speaks English, French, Italian, Spanish and Catalan, and his entry into élite soccer was as Sir Bobby Robson’s interpreter at Barcelona.

Louis van Gaal, upon taking over for Robson, kept Mourinho and —as he told Patrick Barclay for his splendid 2005 biography “Mourinho: Anatomy of a Winner” — became impressed by his lieutenant’s work ethic.

Mourinho’s scouting reports were clear and concise, different-colored ink to easily distinguish both sides. Absolutely first class, said van Gaal. “I remember telling him, ‘Well done, son.’ ”

The son of a professional Portuguese keeper, Mourinho was a mediocre player. His linguistic facilities got him in the door at Barça, and his passion, determination and flexibility have guided him as a coach.

Even when that career took off, however, Mourinho would still be derisively referred to as El Traductor — The Translator.

Barclay, for one, wrote that Mourinho would have to be granted a place in the mind-game hall of fame.

“In the dressing room, he is quite relaxed,” said Deco, who played for Mourinho at Porto. “But when he gets talking to the press, he likes to wind things up — he is playing a role.”

One that is pure entertainment.


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About the Author

Rob Miech

Veteran sportswriter Rob Miech covers soccer and does features for Gaming Today. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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