When it comes to leading the Blues, you could argue José Mourinho puts David Cameron in the shade. Four days after Mourinho claimed his third title as manager of Chelsea, Conservative leader Cameron was swept back into power with a shock overall majority.
Unlike Cameron, who is four years his junior, Mourinho did not reveal all manner of things about himself, or pose in a field holding a lamb, in his bid to be top of the pile again. But in a rare insight into his life he sat down – on the day Cameron was basking in his success and meeting the Queen – to reveal to The Big Issue what makes him tick.
Although he may be known as the Special One, the Portuguese coach admits he isn’t boss in his own home. A Titan of tactics and master motivator with an amazing ability to get under the skin of his rivals (something perhaps even Cameron could learn from) the 52-year-old insists that, away from the limelight, he knows his place.
He married Matilde in 1989, having known one another since they were teenagers in Setúbal. They have two children: daughter Matilde, nicknamed Tita, born in 1996, and son José Mário Jr, known as Zuca, born in 2000. Two years ago, he had all three names tattooed on his left wrist.
“My wife and my son and my daughter have the biggest influence on me, that’s for sure,” he says. “And why? Because they are the bosses and control everything in the house!
What is a good night for me? Good television, a good film or book
“And in relation to my job they don’t try to influence me but at the end of the day they have a big influence because when it comes to make big decisions – where to go, where to work, when to change – on this kind of thing they have a big influence on me.
“What is a good night for me? Good television, a good film or book. A good night for me is to have a nice dinner with my wife and son and daughter.
“Obviously, now they are getting older and they are starting to have their lives and they have their friends also, so at this moment with school, football, university – we cannot be like before with lunch and dinner together every day. So now is different, so a good night for me is to enjoy them and have a good meal and after that spend time with my family.
“I can be a perfectly good husband and father but at the same time I am a football manager. Obviously, my family is more important than football but they know that football is my job, it’s also my passion.
“It’s very important for me, so they learn also how to be my wife and to be my son and daughter because they know that it is not an easy job and they also need to understand my problems. So I think our interaction is very, very good because we understand each other very well.
“I’m a disaster round the house, practically. I can do nothing! The only thing I can do is, I’m very organised about my things, so I don’t disturb people at the house. My office is always well organised and my clothes are organised. So I don’t really help but I don’t disturb.
“My strongest quality is I try to be the best family man. I want to be the best father and husband. I want to be the best son, cousin, uncle and best friend. I always try for this so I’d like that to be my strongest quality. I’m romantic in my way. I’m not the kind of romantic to say I love you every day or send flowers every day but my wife knows me so well that she can understand every little detail. Yes, I can say I’m romantic.”
Working for the Daily Star since before Mourinho’s arrival in 2004, I’ve seen him scores of times at matches and press conferences and at the odd social occasion in his two spells at Stamford Bridge. But what struck me was how little we know about the man who polarises opinion among football fans. If ever there was a Marmite manager, it must be Mourinho.
I couldn’t imagine as a young man that I would one day be in a restaurant and Sir Michael Caine would come to me to shake my hand
It has seemed clear that on many occasions Mourinho’s been putting on a performance, with lines already scripted and attitude and look rehearsed. Not for vanity, as some people claim, but purely to give his team an edge or to deflect the criticism and pressure away from his players. Warming to the theme of opening up, Mourinho, who sometimes acts so well you could argue he deserves an Oscar (the Academy Award, not the Brazilian player already in his squad!), reveals he has never been fazed by meeting others possibly better known than him.
“I don’t feel starstruck or intimidated,” he explains. “I feel proud that some of these famous people that I meet, they know me. I couldn’t imagine as a young man that I would one day be in a restaurant and Sir Michael Caine would come to me to shake my hand.
“I feel just honoured and proud of that because they are really big people, you know, really big people, that when I know that they also know me, I feel really proud and honoured with it.
“I don’t think I’ve changed as a person. I am what I am and I don’t think England changed me in any way. My passion for England starts with my passion for English football. The life in England comes after that. I came to England for the first time because I wanted so much to have the experience of English football. After that, yes, you learn how to love to live in England – particularly in London – and obviously to be back for the second time was also a factor because working in Portugal, Spain, Italy, obviously in London I have a little bit more space to live with my family and a normal life. England and London gives a privacy we can’t get anywhere else.
“I like everything about English football – that’s the main reason to be back and enjoying so much again. I cannot say what I don’t like because I like everything. Am I still Portuguese? Of course I’m still Portuguese. I don’t think as an Englishman, I think as a Portuguese – for sure, for sure.
“But I have to be a bit impolite and say that the Portuguese food is by far the best. There is a lot of good things about English food but our seafood, our fish, the way we cook I think is fantastic, so obviously I still prefer Portuguese food.
“Apart from that I think the Italian cuisine is exquisite but with my wife and my daughter I have learned how to enjoy Asian food. If I don’t I am in trouble sometimes!
“In England I visit football stadiums and hotels all around the country. Years ago I had the chance with my wife, before the kids, to go to Scotland. We spent almost a week in Scotland visiting castles and places and we enjoyed it very much. But at that time I could walk in the street and no one would recognise me.”
It could be argued Mourinho’s now as easily recognised as Cameron and also that he has a natural intelligence to rival ‘Flashman’.
Already fluent in English, French, Italian, Spanish and, of course, Portuguese, watch Mourinho at a press conference anywhere in Europe where he does not know the language and he always attentively listens to the translation, seemingly storing the words in his brain. “If I were not a football coach I would be a teacher,” he says. “I was already a high school teacher, PE high school teacher, enjoying very much teaching young people. I enjoyed very much a career at this level so it wouldn’t be a problem for me.”
He also has a social conscience, adding: “There are so many injustices in the world. Hunger, kids with malnutrition, wars – and the consequences of wars. I could be here all day just talking about the injustices in the world.
“If I could change one thing about myself, what would it be? I cannot change. It is impossible. I am what I am. I’m happy with that. Of course I’m not a perfect person but I am what I am.
“I have no mottos to live by but I understand it’s a popular way of doing things because behind a quote or motto there is something that is true.”
But for me my music is what I call proper music. It’s Bryan Adams, it’s U2, Sting, The Rolling Stones
No doubt plenty of his Chelsea stars think Mourinho’s taste in tunes is far from perfect.
“I like what I call proper music. No offence to the new generations – no offence even to my son and daughter because of what they like. But for me my music is what I call proper music. It’s Bryan Adams, it’s U2, Sting, The Rolling Stones, Genesis with Phil Collins, it’s Bruce Springsteen. I call it proper music!
“I also love movies. But I travel so much with the team and I spend so much time with the team on buses, planes and hotels that normally I live for this time to watch my movies and TV series.”
But away from the football, the fans and the controversies, Mourinho still has somewhere back home in Portugal where he goes to escape.
“My favourite place on Earth is my little town with a beach where I have the house,” he adds. “It’s to feel at home, smell home and at the same time it’s a place where I can walk on the beach in the morning and no one disturbs me.”
Then with a flourish that brings to mind French football legend Eric Cantona, he says: “I speak with the water, the sand and the seagulls. It’s my favourite place, really.”
Finally, with a trio of Chelsea titles to his name, what three words best sum him up? “Happy, determined, clever,” he replies. Nineteen other managers have found the last two to be resoundingly true.
David Woods is the chief football writer for the Daily Star @DavidWoodsStar