Don’t scold Mourinho, enjoy him - warts and all

For most, the prospect of international football providing a timely distraction when the world’s disapproving gaze is negatively focused upon your behaviour would be, at the very least, a stroke of good fortune.

The latest cries of dissatisfaction surrounding FIFA’s questionable rankings, the diminishing entertainment supplied by the international game or racist abuse directed at another high-profile player has a way of drawing that very same gaze and reducing the pressure on the individual previously concerned.

And if you were that individual, you’re most likely to be grateful for that intervention and vow to take advantage of it by not repeating the same mistakes. Somehow, it seems highly unlikely Jose Mourinho will do the same.

Real Madrid started the season with an impressive and purposeful 6-0 victory over Real Zaragoza, but focus had remained upon Mourinho’s petulance against Barcelona, when he prodded the eye of Barca coach Tito Vilanova. 

Speculation grew that he was set to resign as Real’s manager, that he had lost the backing of the club’s board and that his distasteful conduct warranted severe punishment.

For now he remains at Real but Mourinho’s persona means the chances of him conforming to suit the masses are almost non-existent and it’s unlikely to be long before he sparks yet another controversy.

"Hey Leo, why don't you come over here and have a closer look at my finger...?"

But while there are a myriad of arguments against such behaviour – in fact, if it were Joey Barton doing the same, the demand for justice would be greater still – Mourinho brings substantial entertainment to a sport that claims to provide “the greatest show on earth.”

To let the incident pass without consequence would unquestionably be wrong and set a dangerous precedent, but to hound one of football’s best managers away from one of the world’s biggest clubs and the sport’s most intense rivalry would be equally nonsensical.

Mourinho’s antics – whether immoral or otherwise – rarely go unnoticed because of his stature and the amusement they provide. This is a man who, at different times, had intense rivalries within the English game with Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez. His description of Wenger as a “voyeur” and his accusation that Jacques Santini’s Tottenham had ‘parked the bus’ in front of their goal at Stamford Bridge will not soon be forgotten, while his success in recent years is almost unparalleled.

Elite players such as Michael Owen have been criticised for being boring in the past, while Sven-Goran Eriksson suffered to an even greater extent for seemingly lacking passion. This being the case, is it fair to chastise Mourinho when he is so clearly neither of these things – at what point is satisfaction achieved?

When Mario Balotelli is accused of being disrespectful for attempting to perform what could have been an admirable back-heel in a pre-season friendly, when Frank Lampard’s demotion to the England bench is seen as something to gloat at, when not even Mourinho’s mind games can be enjoyed, has football not come to the stage where it takes itself too seriously?

For all that football is a sport, there are aspects of it that resemble a badly scripted soap opera - yet it is this that has helped it to evolve into the prosperous business it has become.

The hideously titled “WAG culture” that attached itself to the 2006 World Cup marked a low point for the English game, when such distractions provided nothing to the fundamentals of competition on which any sport is built, and for this there is no room.

Mind games, however, whether controversial or predictable in nature, can be justified as a way of attempting to gain a competitive edge. In the eternal quest for sports entertainment, Mourinho’s nerve is there to be admired and appreciated.

Who could hate a man with this good a taste in flowers?

When as entertaining and talented a side as Barcelona threatens to continue to win every domestic and European competition in which it is involved, it’s encouraging for the neutral to know that Mourinho genuinely harbours the ambition of challenging them instead of resorting to the damage limitation tactics that understandably tend to be favoured.

Even for the purist who simply feels grateful to regularly witness Barca’s mesmeric manner, Mourinho’s hunger is to be commended, if for no other reason than the fact that it means Pep Guardiola’s side can’t become complacent and allow their standards to drop.

If being a pantomime villain is truly Mourinho’s greatest crime, it’s about time his critics diverted their attention onto football’s true enemies: greedy, lazy, mercenary players and the corrupt corporation that continues to make a mockery out of the game’s spirit: FIFA.

Mourinho the manager, the winner who forces his closest rivals to raise their standards and attempts to win every competition bar none is a force for the good of the game.

Imagine a world without him, where every press conference is conducted in the monotonous tones of Glenn Roeder, Chris Hutchings, or Howard Wilkinson. Every defeat is accepted with the utmost grace, while refereeing decisions are half-heartedly criticised.

The balance of power at the top remains constant, and success is defined as coming close, not necessarily crossing the finishing line. It’s bland, repetitive, and it’s tedious.

He may be arrogant and curt, and he can be devious, but Mourinho’s one of the best and he doesn’t care who he upsets in his bid for success. It’s time to appreciate him, warts and all.

Follow Declan Warrington on Twitter @decwarrington