Matt Dickinson and the football people at The Times should be congratulated for taking football journalism to a new low with their senseless series on “The world’s top 50 footballers”, “The worst 50 footballers”, “50 top football transfers”, “The 50 worst transfers”, “50 most important goals” and “Football’s 50 hardest men”. Now, their latest assault on our senses is the “The top 50 managers of all time”. Wouldn’t the time and effort spent on these have been better spent on reporting real football stories (not the usual fabrications!)? And the sickest part of it all is that they believe that this is one huge project worth the effort.
Of course, it is the height of commercial desperation that any newspaper will pretend to know to any degree of certainty some of these things, especially with the overload of subjectivity, presumptuousness and sheer ignorance. I mean, how else could they have eloquently exhibited that ignorance than the fact that they could not find a place on their list for Gusztáv Sebes, the legendary coach of the all-conquering Magical Magyars and the real originator of what later became popularised by the Dutch as Total Football? Yes, they couldn’t find a place for the man who still holds the record of leading a national team (Hungary) on the most unbeaten run (32).
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho is banished to the nether regions of sixteenth position with the following entry: “A truly exceptional tactician and motivator and, boy, he knows it. There will be complaints that this big trophy hunter with FC Porto and Chelsea is ranked too low. To climb the charts, all he has to do is to prove that he loves the beautiful game half as much as he enjoys advancing his own career”. The implications of the above comment are obvious. First, Dickinson and whoever joined him to allocate the positions know that putting Mourinho that ‘low’ would raise eyebrows. Secondly, Mourinho is the only one in that list of 50 accused of crimes against the “beautiful game” and of being an unscrupulous careerist, even though the same people who made this entry recognise him as an “exceptional tactician and motivator” who knows his onions.
Now, how could Mourinho have reached where he is now without loving the beautiful game? Did he achieve his iconic status as “exceptional tactician and motivator” by hating the beautiful game? Or is this a case of trying to make Herr Roth’s infamous tag of “enemy of football” stick at all cost? In fact, this love of the beautiful game, how does it work? What makes Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger or indeed anybody on that list a better lover of “the beautiful game” than Mourinho?
Does the fact that he took himself from the lowly position of interpreter to the top of the managerial ladder indicate “he enjoys advancing his own career” to the detriment of the beautiful game? Did Mourinho not pay his dues via apprenticeship? Didn’t he learn the ropes, putting in the time and effort before achieving initial success? Wasn’t his record the main reason he was head-hunted by Chelsea? How could a man who’s spent four of the last seven years at three relatively small clubs achieving big things on a shoestring budget be accused of unscrupulous careerism? Indeed, what makes Dickinson and co think that anybody on that list is/was less concerned about his career than Mourinho? Perhaps Mourinho’s crime is that he achieved so much success so early. He obviously should feel guilty for clinching the Chelsea job on the basis of his outstanding success at Porto. And he should feel guiltier still for continuing to be successful with Chelsea.
Such fatuous comments are the staples of football writers in this country and that is why no one really takes them seriously.