Tottenham brought Jose Mourinho’s unhappy spell as manager to an abrupt end on Monday just days before they attempt to end a 13-year wait to win a trophy in the League Cup final.
Mourinho was handed the daunting task of replacing Mauricio Pochettino, who had led Tottenham to the club’s first ever Champions League final just months prior to his sacking in November 2019.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy backed Mourinho’s stellar record of winning multiple trophies at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
However, Levy has sensationally cut his losses ahead of Sunday’s League Cup final against Manchester City in the hope that Mourinho’s departure will lift the gloom that has descended upon a talented squad of players.
Mourinho leaves with Tottenham seventh in the Premier League, five points adrift of the top four.
A shock Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb last month means a top-four finish is Spurs’ only route back into next season’s Champions League.
As evidenced by Tottenham signing up as one of 12 clubs to a breakaway European Super League on Sunday, they now see themselves as part of the continent’s elite and can ill afford the economic consequences of missing out on Champions League revenue.
A state-of-the-art new stadium at a cost of £1 billion ($1.4 billion) was meant to herald a new era of success for Spurs.
Instead, less than a year into their new home, the coronavirus pandemic has forced games behind closed doors and denied Tottenham extra revenue from hosting other sports and entertainment events.
– ‘Same coach, different players’ –
Yet, such was the scale of decline under the Portuguese in recent months, Levy has paid out to cut short a lucrative contract that still had over two years left to run.
Most of the Mourinho era was played without fans in the stands, as Levy acknowledged in a statement recognising his tenure as “some of our most challenging times as a club”.
Yet, that may have prolonged rather than shortened his stay.
Mourinho was not a favourite of the Spurs support even prior to his arrival, having won three Premier League titles in two spells at London rivals Chelsea.
His overly defensive, counter-attacking style of play was not an easy fit with Tottenham’s history of having great entertainers such as Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne and David Ginola.
“He was never the right man for the job. I’m happy that he’s gone,” said Tottenham fan David Buckley outside the club’s stadium on Monday.
There were flashes of the charismatic Mourinho of old, particularly in a behind-the-scenes Amazon documentary during his first season in charge.
Spurs finished that campaign in sixth, having climbed up the table from 14th when he was appointed.
There were further signs of progress as a fast start to this season took Tottenham top of the table in December, sparking hope of challenging for a first league title in 60 years.
However, just seven wins in 21 league games over the past five months saw them slip down the table.
In response, Mourinho publicly criticised his players rather than taking responsibility.
Tottenham have lost 20 points from winning positions in the league alone this season, with many pundits pointing the finger at Mourinho’s desire to protect leads rather than seeking more goals.
Yet, when asked why his side let so many leads slip compared to his more ruthless Chelsea, Madrid and Inter teams, Mourinho replied: “same coach, different players.”
Only the free-scoring form of England captain Harry Kane and Son Heung-min has kept Spurs’ season alive as Mourinho failed to get the best out of a host of other attacking players.
Dele Alli has made just two Premier League starts all season, while Gareth Bale has struggled to find a regular place in the team on his return to the club on-loan from Real Madrid.
At the other end of the field, Mourinho constantly chopped and changed his defence without ever finding a winning formula.
As a result he ended up as the one in the firing line.