With the news that Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho may be forcing forward Alexis Sanchez out from Old Trafford, Mourinho’s relationship with his players is back in the news cycle. The Portuguese manager has quite a history of disputes with players going public, so much so that a fine squad can be built from them. Here, then, is our Best XI built from players who have had fall-outs with the former Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Madrid, Chelsea again, and current Manchester United boss.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
Mourinho’s time at Madrid began right after his goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, had lifted the World Cup trophy for Spain in 2010. Times were not as rosy for the club, though. Arch-rivals FC Barcelona had won back-to-back La Liga titles. Much to the disappointment of Casillas and company, Mourinho was convinced that Madrid needed to adapt new tactics to defeat their rivals from Catalonia. Tensions rose throughout Mourinho’s first year at the helm in Madrid, and after a brawl during an August edition of ‘El Classico,’ Casillas phoned fellow Spanish international and Barcelona captain, Xavi. Though their discussion focused on patching up disagreements between the Madrid and Barcelona members of the Spanish national team, Mourinho was furious with what he saw as blatant insubordination by his keeper. Even as Madrid won La Liga the following year, relations between the two continued to sour. After an injury to Casillas in Mourinho’s third season, the Portuguese manager brought in new keeper, Diego Lopez. On the transfer, Mourinho said, “Just as Casillas can say he would prefer another coach such as [Vicente] Del Bosque or [Manuel] Pellegrini, I can say that I prefer Diego Lopez. And while I’m the coach of Madrid, Diego Lopez will play.”
Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Apart from Casillas, Ramos was the most outspoken in his dislike of Mourinho during the Portuguese manager’s time at Madrid. One instance saw Mourinho sub off midfielder Mezut Ozil at the half. Ramos, though, put on Ozil’s number ten beneath his own shirt. Ramos claimed it was merely a gesture of support for his teammate, but to Mourinho and the rest of the world, it seemed to a blatant act of insubordination. Later in the 2012 season, a defeat to Sevilla saw Madrid eight points back of Barcelona after only five weeks. In his postgame comments, Mourinho said, “Right now I don’t have a team.” In the following game, Ramos was left on the bench. Even years after Mourinho’s departure from the club, Ramos said in comparison to his manager at the the time Zinedine Zidane, “Mourinho was just another coach I worked with in my football career and I have always learnt from others, from when I was a youngster at Sevilla.”
Pepe (Real Madrid)
While Mourinho’s relationship with Casillas and Ramos soured over the years in Madrid, the Portuguese manager staunchly supported Pepe. Even after his sending off during the 2011 Champions League semifinal against Barcelona and his controversial stomp of Messi’s hand in a 2012 ‘El Classico,’ Mourinho supported his center back. Further, as the team became more fractured, Pepe remained staunchly in support of his coach. All that changed when, in May of 2013, after Pepe had been benched in favor of the 20-year-old Rafael Varane, the center back called out Mourinho for his remarks on Casillas. Mourinho responded, “It is easy to analyse the Pepe thing. His problem has a name, and it is Raphael Varane.”
John Terry (Chelsea)
Years prior to his arrival in Madrid, Mourinho had a messy departure from the London giants, Chelsea, n 2007. After his side’s 1-1 Champions League draw with Norwegian side Rosenborg BK, Mourinho was fired by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. The Guardian claimed that Terry’s personal fall-out with Mourinho was key to the Portuguese manager’s removal. Rosenborg’s goal came off a set-piece where he beat his marker, Terry. At half, when Mourinho called out the English defender for his mistake, Terry reportedly ignored his coach and refused to take responsibility. The next day, an emergency was called by the Chelsea board of directors because of the dispute between Terry and Mourinho. At this meeting, the board formal made a request that Mourinho tender his resignation. Though, Mourinho refused, he soon departed the club ‘on mutual consent.’ It seems that in the decade since Mourinho’s departure, Terry and his former manager have made up. Last year on Sky Sport’s Monday Night Football, Terry said, “He was the best manager, and the best coach as well. He did everything.”
Midfield: Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
The French midfielder has had previous run-ins with management, especially during his first stint in Manchester. That dispute led to his sale to Juventus. Upon his return to the Red Devils in 2016 for £89 million things seemed quite rosy for Pogba. However, after a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham at Wembley in January this year, disagreements between Mourinho and Pogba went public. Mourinho, then, started Pogba in only three of the team’s next nine matches. The frenchman finally returned to form over two months later with a brace against arch-rivals Manchester City. The damage was done, though. Rumors are swirling that Pogba may leave United this summer, with Paris as a possible destination. The two have denied any rift, with Pogba saying to a French TV channel, “He is the coach, he makes the decisions. Me, I am a player. I accept it and I have to respond on the pitch.”
Kaka (Real Madrid)
The 2007 Ballon d’Or winner was fresh off an eight goal and six assist league campaign when Mourinho took over Real Madrid. Kaka’s time under the Portuguese manager was defined far more by injury than his on the field abilities, though. In Mourinho’s first season at los Blancos, Kaka missed the first half of the season due to a knee injury and was was held out of some games during the second half due to further knee problems. Things never quite clicked, though, for the Brazilian. After Mourinho’s departure, Kaka returned to his former club, A. C. Milan, and opened up to reporters. He did not seem to blame his former coach for his struggles, saying, “It wasn’t Mourinho’s fault that I didn’t get to play. I tried to earn his confidence over the years but he just had other ideas. I always worked hard for him, but it’s not his fault. It’s the fact I never had any continuity during my four years with Real Madrid.”
Kevin de Bruyne (Chelsea)
When the Belgian midfielder returned to Stamford Bridge in 2013 after his loan spell at German side Weder Bremen, Mourinho had just taken over for his second stint as manager of the Blues. Instead of going out on loan, though, de Bruyne decided to stay at Chelsea and was assured a place in Chelsea’s squad by his manager. The next six months did not go as planned. By January 2014, Wolfsburg had bought the Belgian for £18 million. Mourinho did not mince his words when talking about the transfer, saying, “With De Bruyne, if you have a player knocking on your door and crying every day he wants to leave, you have to make a decision. At that time, Chelsea did well.” De Bruyne, though, denied Mourinho’s side of the story. Talking about his transfer from Chelsea, he said, “I didn’t get any explanation, I only talked with him twice.”
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Unlike his fellow Belgian, de Bruyne, Hazard’s first year under Mourinho started well. In February, Mourinho called his star attacker one of the world’s best, saying, “Eden Hazard is probably the best young player in the world.” However, a 3-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, Hazard called out his manager’s tactics, “[Chelsea] are not made to play football, we are good on the counter-attack.” He continued, “Often, I’m asked to do it all by myself and it’s not easy.” Mourinho, responded in kind, saying, “It’s normal because he’s not the kind of player ready to sacrifice himself 100 per cent for the team and for his mates… Eden is the kind of player who is not so mentally ready to look back at his left-back and live his life for him. Normally you get this kind of comment from players like him.” The pair seemed to get over their dispute. In 2015, Hazard said, “I get on very well with Mourinho. Last season We had two or three disagreements but with Mourinho everything is forgotten quickly.”
Forwards: Romeu Lukaku (Chelsea and Manchester United)
After the Belgian forward returned to Chelsea from a season-long loan to Everton in 2014, he quickly returned to Goodison Park. Mourinho had decided that he did not have room at Chelsea for the striker. The Portuguese manager, though, did not have the nicest of things to say about Lukaku. “Romelu was always clear that in his mentality and his approach he was not highly motivated to come to a competitive situation at Chelsea.” In response, Lukaku claimed he had no hard feeling towards Mournho, only saying, “I made my decision and then didn’t speak too much about it.” Tensions between the two flared up again after Lukaku’s arrival to Old Trafford. Amidst a dip in form in December 2017, Lukaku was called out by Mourinho. Mourinho had reportedly grown tired of constantly yelling at Lukaku from the sideline and being ignored. Once, Lukaku started scoring, he added three goals in four matches not long after the dispute, the disagreement faded.
Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan and Chelsea)
After the Cameroonian striker moved from Barcelona to Inter in the summer of 2009 for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and £35 million (The second most expensive transfer ever at the time), reports surfaced in the Italian media that Eto’o had lingering disputes from his time in La Liga. The striker insisted he never had problems with Mourinho’s style of play at Chelsea, though he was reported to have called him out after a Champions League between Barcelona and Chelsea. Mourinho seemed genuinely excited to have acquired Eto’o, though. However, in the summer of 2014, after Eto’o’s one year at Chelsea under Mourinho, the Portuguese manager was caught on camera questioning the Cameroonian’s age. Eto’o responded, “Today, I am 33 years old. And it is not because a fool called me an old man that you must believe it.” Eto’o ended up in Everton for the following year.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Amid his controversies with Ramos and Casillas at Madrid, Mourinho was looking for support within the club wherever he could find it. Though the Portuguese manager rarely spoke to his fellow countryman– he had assistant coaches give Ronaldo his instructions– it was Ronaldo who publicly backed his manager in January 2013. In a victory over Getafe in January of that year, Ronaldo dedicated a goal to his manager. However, less than two weeks later, Mourinho called out Ronaldo for his lack of effort in a 2-0 victory over Valencia, reportedly screaming at Ronaldo in the locker room, “Shut up and run!” Later, Mourinho further criticized his winger, saying, “When I criticised him from a tactical point of view because I felt he could still improve, he did not accept what I had to say.” It seems, though, that the two have patched up their relationship, as Mourinho is hoping to bring the Portuguese star to Manchester.
What’s the deal with Mourinho? Is he a tough, team-first manager or a prima donna in his own right? Let us know by commenting below, or tweeting us @AllOutFootball_ with the hashtag #AOF.