Jose Mourinho did not want his point to be devalued by inaccuracy, verifying his information via a search engine before disseminating it during a press conference.
“I was watching the Liverpool match and I was watching the best team in the world at the moment,” the Tottenham Hotspur manager said a week ago, when a 2-0 win for the league leaders against Sheffield United saw them collect a staggering 58 points from an available 60. “Then I Googled it just to confirm: Jurgen arrived in October 2015. So 2016, 17, 18, 19 and now 20.
“Eight transfer windows with lots of players leaving, lots of players coming and even more important than that, time for him to put his philosophy, his training methods, his fingerprint.
“Beautiful results as a consequence of fantastic work, step-by-step, phase-by-phase. In the first season, they finished sixth or eighth or something like that and four years later they are not just the world champions, they are the best team in the world in this moment.”
This was a vintage Mourinho use of the media, but not in the more familiar and flagged way of him being dismissive or maleficent. The 56-year-old will have noted the unease funnelling out of Tottenham’s fanbase following just two wins in seven games across all competitions.
He crafted a meticulous message to undercut those feelings as well as the concerns over not detecting an on-pitch identity since his appointment, manoeuvring it into a response to an unrelated question.
Ahead of Saturday’s tussle against Liverpool, the team to beat and to be like, it was not surprising to see Mourinho hold them up as an example of what can happen when there’s “calm” at a club rather than steady questioning of the manager.
The problem is that despite his precision regarding the time Klopp has been afforded at Anfield, the three-time Premier League winner has failed to appreciate why Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group were comfortable in granting him patience.
And Mourinho is not alone in this regard. His successor at Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, also recently highlighted the “long time” it has taken the German to turn the Merseysiders into a tour de force, while requesting the same kind of leniency at Old Trafford.
Liverpool’s success is not the sole result of time. And years alone cannot translate into anything meaningful without proof of a clear vision and evidence of being able to enact it.
Klopp arrived in England with a reputation of being a reconstructor of clubs having enlivened Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, with his legacy still apparent at both.
He guided the former to their first-ever ascent into Germany’s top flight, securing their Bundesliga position for three years, with Uefa Cup participation in 2005-06. There remains the acknowledgement from Mainz’s hierarchy that “we have a special philosophy at our club and that comes from Kloppo.”
Dortmund’s bond with the Liverpool boss is still so concrete that their chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, ambitiously tried to tempt him to back to BVB in June.
Klopp spent seven years at each club, his influence extending to every aspect of their structure and there were tears rather than relief when he departed.
Before appointing him to replace Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool had compiled a 60-page dossier breaking down Klopp’s philosophy, training sessions, reaction to setbacks, relationships with players and staff, interactions with the media as well as a forensic analysis of his worst period at the Westfalenstadion.
This knowledge coupled with a four-hour-long meeting with Klopp at the New York law offices of Shearman & Sterling informed FSG that Klopp’s holistic methodology would thrive with time at Anfield just as it had done elsewhere.
While he was hugely charismatic, the owners didn’t sense an ego that would torpedo the football structure at Melwood. Rather, they believed they were backing the man to galvanise it.
It is worth stating that all the key decision-makers, including the much-derided transfer committee during Rodgers’ spell, remain at the club with the exception of former chief executive Ian Ayre, who left following the expiration of his contract.
Klopp has strengthened the operation at the training complex by recruiting experts in nutrition, conditioning and such, but much of the staff have been there since the start of the last decade. Player trading has been exemplary due to the manager’s trust in sporting director, Michael Edwards and the scouting reports from recruitment as well as the data gathered from director of research, Ian Graham.
“The situation at Liverpool was that when I came in, no-one asked of me that we be champions that season or the next one,” Klopp explained on Friday. “We have an idea, we try to make each step after the other to develop. And the steps we had to make were clear.
“We had to be a constant part of the Champions League, because that gives the club the opportunity to develop, the opportunity to speak to different players. That was clear from the first second. The plans of the owners were like this, they didn’t put any pressure on us like ‘this year was not good enough’ or stuff like that. They looked at the games, they looked at the performances and they thought ‘ok, we are making the right steps and let’s continue on that path.’
“I have sensational people around me and I am really skilled at listening to smart people. Thank God I only have skilled people around me. We have changed a lot of things here, but we kept a lot of things, too. A lot of very decisive players on the field and off it, are still here. They are making all the steps together and that keeps the standard and is the basis for taking it to the next level, that is it.”
It is difficult for Spurs fans to stomach the time card when it is played by a manager who has not shown longevity in any of his previous managerial roles, with three years being the maximum period before a predictable scorched-earth ending.
Mourinho’s unique selling point is not as a reconstructor, but as a quick winner – whatever it takes. Even his disappointing tenure at Old Trafford brought two trophies and sources at Tottenham did suggest that having come so close to silverware under Mauricio Pochettino, the man who has lifted the Champions League with two different clubs was seen as the right candidate to change their nearly-men status.
Mourinho is not fighting his own history when it comes to swaying Tottenham’s supporters, but that of his predecessor too. Pochettino, like Klopp and Pep Guardiola, had a definitive philosophy and process that was admired and applauded. Just as they have changed the expectations of Liverpool and Manchester City, the Argentine reconfigured the way Spurs are viewed.
Not winning silverware was the only asterisk against Pochettino’s stint at Tottenham and, while his work was rewarded with time, he was denied the refresh he had warned for years would be critical for the progress of the club.
Mourinho remains the man with a one-game plan, who can be tactically unpredictable as Klopp admitted. He would savour the tag of being Liverpool’s great vanquisher, the manager to inflict their first league defeat of the season and erase the Invincibles opportunity. While it would be quite a victory and one Spurs can desperately do with given their form, it is still not enough.
If Mourinho craves time to deliver “beautiful results as a consequence of fantastic work,” he has to earn it with a surgical plan that goes beyond Saturday.