NS Man of the year - Jose Mourinho

Soon after arriving in England in the summer of 2004 as coach of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho held a press conference at the Holiday Inn hotel near Heathrow Airport at which, just in case they had already forgotten, he helpfully reminded the gathered journalists of his recent triumphs: of how, in successive seasons, and before he was even 41 (football managers, like politicians, are considered young until they reach their mid-forties), he had won the Uefa Cup and then the Champions League with Porto - a distinguished club, but one outside the true elite of European football. "I'm not one who comes out of a bottle," he said. "I'm a special one."

Mourinho delights in taunting the English media; his swagger, his sense of melodrama, ever-increasing wealth, polyglot sophistication and, above all, his confidence irritate them. He knew then that they were already waiting for him to trip up and fall flat on his handsome face. That afternoon, he said that had he desired a quiet life he would have remained at home in Portugal: "Beautiful blue chair, the Uefa Champions League trophy, God and, after God, me."

We are used to hyperbole in football but, in this instance, whatever could he mean? Whatever he meant, and I wonder now if even he knew quite what he meant (his English is not as good as some would have it and his vocabulary is limited), his remark was an expression of supreme self-confidence of the kind with which we are mostly unfamiliar in England, where self-deprecation and humility have long been encouraged and the old, lingering class anxieties act as brakes on our more treacherous, self-aggrandising desires.

Mourinho's confidence is that of a man at the head of the wealthiest football club in the world, a club whose very mission, under the ownership of the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, is to become the best, a "global brand" or "franchise" surpassing even Manchester United or Real Madrid. It is the confidence of a man who has the resources to buy whoever he wishes to enhance his formidable squad of champions and who is paid as much as £100,000 per week, but still takes time out to endorse anything from mobile phones to credit cards. It is the confidence of a man who as a coach is used to winning, who is defined by winning, and for whom defeat is intolerable. But it is also the confidence of a man who is his own creation - one who dared to dream what he might become and became all that he wanted to be. He is, in every sense, a man of our times, and for our times.

Born in January 1963, Jose Mourinho grew up in a large extended middle-class family in Setubal, a town 25 miles south of Lisbon. His father, Felix, was a professional footballer, a goalkeeper who played on one occasion for Portugal, and his mother, Maria Julia, was a primary-school teacher from a wealthy family. The young Jose longed to emulate his father in becoming a footballer, but he was never more than a gifted amateur, without pace or power. By the time he was 22, he knew that if he was to succeed in the game it would not be on the field of play. It would be as a coach, but as no ordinary coach. He wanted to redefine the role, to become a football technocrat: theoretician, psychologist, motivator. To this end, he went to university to study for a degree in sports science; he taught physical education in several schools; and he gained his relevant coaching badges, while all the time waiting for his chance to show what he knew and what he could do, to show that his life would not be defined by his failure as a player.

His chance came when the former England manager Bobby Robson arrived in Portugal to coach Sporting Lisbon and Mourinho became his translator. Robson would soon be capriciously sacked by Sporting, as you often are in Iberian football, where most of the chairmen are aggressively autocratic. But he wanted to stay in Portugal and - fortunately for him and, indeed, for Mourinho - he was given another opportunity at Porto; Mourinho followed him north as his translator.

Robson liked Mourinho's loyalty, his diligence and his knowledge. The Englishman quickly understood that Mourinho was more than simply a translator and asked him to watch forthcoming opponents. "He'd come back and hand me a dossier that was absolutely first class. I mean first class," Robson told the journalist Patrick Barclay, who has recently published a fine biography of Mourinho, subtitled Anatomy of a Winner (Orion). "As good as anything I've ever received. Here he was, in his early thirties, never been a player, never been a coach to speak of either, giving me reports as good as anything I ever got."

(Mourinho is now celebrated for his attention to detail, for his PowerPoint presentations and for the way he monitors and communicates with his players, sending them memos and motivational messages, and staying in touch with them, when they are away from the club, through e-mail and texts.)

On being appointed coach of Barcelona in 1996, Robson took Mourinho with him to Spain, where, in their one and only season together, they won the European Cup Winners' Cup and the Spanish Cup but not, crucially, the league title, which went to Real Madrid by two points. When Robson was ruthlessly replaced as coach by the Dutchman Louis van Gaal, Mourinho stayed on in what was becoming an ambiguous role: more than a translator, but not quite an assistant coach. In Spain he was known quite simply as "The Translator".

What Mourinho wanted most of all, however, was his own club. He was weary of subordinate roles. He wanted to lead. In June 2000, he returned to Portugal. After a brief period of unemployment he became coach of first Benfica, where he stayed for only three months, and then, in time, Porto, where he was remarkably successful, opening the way for his move to Chelsea and a new life as the crown prince in Roman Abramovich's kingdom of excess.

In February, Mourinho took Chelsea to Barcelona for the first leg of a last-16 Champions League knock-out match, the competition he had won the previous season with Porto. The game did not go as he would have wished: Chelsea were leading at half-time but, in the second half, their striker Didier Drogba was sent off and then they conceded two goals to lose the game 2-1.

Mourinho was convinced that something underhand had been at work. The game, he said, was "adulterated": either he or one of his management team had seen the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, enter the referee's dressing room at half-time. A conversation had taken place between Rijkaard and the Swedish referee, Anders Frisk, a conversation that, it was suggested, changed the game. Mourinho was in no doubt that the ethics of fair play had been violated and he vigorously denounced Frisk.

Mourinho's action had unintended consequences: on his return to Gothenburg after the Barcelona game, Frisk began to receive death threats. At first, these were being posted on various fan websites, but soon he began to receive threatening calls on his mobile phone and at his home. What if someone acted on them? Frisk became fearful for the safety of his wife and children and felt that he had no alternative but to stop, there and then. No more refereeing; enough.

"He violated my integrity," Frisk said of Mourinho at the time. "When you attack something that is so important to refereeing, and so important to my culture as well as to this fantastic hobby I have had for the past 26 years, of course you [inflict] hurt . . . The messages into my home had no face, no personal meaning."

If Mourinho's denunciation of Frisk were an isolated incident, one could easily dismiss it as an expression of frustration and thwarted ambition and forgive him for it. The trouble is that he has begun to specialise in a kind of wounded indignation, forever alert to perceived slights against him, his players or his club, his public utterances at once sullen and disdainful. During interviews, it is as if someone were holding a bad smell under his nose.

There is a paradox here, between the public and the private Mourinho. There is the family man - he has been married for more than 20 years and has two young children - who inspires huge affection among those who work for him, especially the players. Those who know him best speak of his charm, his fairness, his extraordinary capacity for hard work and his loyalty. Yet his public persona is increasingly truculent and confrontational: whether he is denouncing Arsene Wenger, his rival manager at Arsenal, or defending an errant tackle by one of his own players (most recently Michael Essien), he shows little sense of humility or restraint. Then there is the image - the stubble, the fine suits, the brooding manner, the cultivated hauteur - that is so attractive to women and has led to his being called an Iberian George Clooney.

So who is the real Mourinho? "Even he himself says that there are two Jose Mourinhos," says Patrick Barclay, who has studied more carefully than most. "There is the charming private man and there is the coach we see at Chelsea, a coach who has an inability to apologise for anything that he or one of his players says and does. It is as if, as a coach, Mourinho is acting, playing a role. And don't underestimate his look as a kind of weapon. This gives him huge credibility in the dressing room. What are young men of that type most interested in? Women, money and clothes. And they know that Mourinho is the one man at Chelsea that everyone - including their girlfriends - is most interested in."

In the summer of 2003, after Porto had won the Uefa Cup, Mourinho was asked if he thought his team could succeed in the Champions League. "We can do some nice things," he said, "but I don't think we can win it." Only the "sharks" could win it - the clubs that "can afford to spend 20 million, 30 million, or even 40 million euros on one player".

Today, Mourinho has little compunction about paying inflated transfer fees - 20 million, 30 million, 40 million euros - even for players who seldom start in the first team. Before Roman Abramovich arrived in London, football was entering a period of relative recession: transfer fees were falling and wages were at last beginning to stabilise. Now Chelsea, having spent more than £260m in less than two years on new players, are poised to dominate English football for the next five years and beyond, and many believe that their success - so ostentatious, so complete - confirms only one thing: that in our age of hypercapitalism and unfettered market power the winner and the most powerful takes all.

That is to be regretted, because Mourinho is an unusually interesting and talented coach. His achievements at Porto were remarkable and now, at Chelsea, he has succeeded in turning a disparate and multinational group of absurdly wealthy footballing mercenaries into a disciplined and relentless winning machine.

In the aftermath of the Champions League match in Barcelona, Volker Roth, chairman of the Uefa referees' committee, attempted to persuade Anders Frisk to return to football. "We can't accept that one of our best referees has been forced to quit because of this," he said. "People like Mourinho are the enemy of football."

Mourinho is certainly not that. Nor is he one of the sharks. But there is a danger that a man whose early years in football were marked by failure and disappointment is now so consumed by an intense desire to win and to be the best that his years at Chelsea will end up being associated with little more than a particular kind of arrogant triumphalism and gracelessness. Show us it ain't so, Jose! Show us it ain't so!

The gospel according to Jose

'We are on top at the moment, but not because of the club's financial power. We are in contention for a lot of trophies because of my hard work'

Proof that, while there is no "I" in "team", there is one in Mourinho

'You [the media] can't put pressure on me. I have money, I have trophies, so I can live without my job at Chelsea'

On the power of the press

'I saw their players and manager go for a lap of honour after losing to us in their last home game. In Portugal, if you do this, they throw bottles at you'

Magnanimous in victory: his thoughts on Manchester United

'We have top players and - sorry if I'm arrogant - we have a top manager'

Nothing if not brutally honest

'Frank Rijkaard's history as a player cannot be compared with my history. His history is fantastic and my history is zero. My history as a manager cannot be compared to Frank Rijkaard's history. He has zero trophies and I have a lot of them'

Warming up for a big game: reflections on the Barcelona manager

'I think he is one of these people who is a voyeur . . . There are some guys who, when they are at home, have a big telescope to see what happens in other families. He speaks, speaks, speaks about Chelsea'

His view on the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger

'I may look stupid saying this, but I think we should be going home with three points because we scored two great goals, and usually, when you score two goals and concede one, you win the game'

How to respond to a goal that has been disallowed . . .

'Liverpool scored - if you can say they scored, because maybe you should say the linesman scored'

. . . and how to respond to a goal that has not been disallowed

'When I go home I lose control of the situation. At the cinema I have to go and watch the Fantastic Four and Herbie'

A rare glimpse of the top manager's home life

'The moral of the story is not to listen to those who tell you not to play the violin but stick to the tambourine'

A contribution to philosophy, in the style of Eric Cantona

Compiled by Adrian Shangar