Tottenham Hotspur’s appointment of Jose Mourinho was shocking. Not just because it actually happened. But because of how quickly Daniel Levy made it happen. And overnight, a club that has been a second-favourite for many became a hateful talking point because of one man. It was ruthless, almost like an act of evil.
It was starkly reminiscent of Wrestlemania 17. The show went down as a spectacle for how it ended. Stone Cold Steve Austin- the Texas Rattlesnake, surprised the world with an act that left every one of the 67,000 fans at the Reliant Astrodome stunned.
Steve Austin was going head to head with his arch-nemesis The Rock in a match for the WWF Championship. After months of build-up and mere threats of blowing over, it had come down to this huge match at the ‘Grandest Stage of ‘Em all’. At the centre of all this was one man- Vince McMohan.
The infamous chairman of the company, Vince had added fire to this blowing rivalry. And Steve Austin, like always, was never having any of his nonsense. Indeed, sights of the Texas Rattlesnake putting Vince through a stunner have become fodder for wrestling fans around the world.
Shocking scenes unfolded. The show ended with Steve Austin having his arms lifted into the air by Vince himself. And Steve Austin had the gilded WWF title held aloft, but he had done that in the least acceptable of ways. The man who no one expected him to side with, was the reason why Steve Austin became the Champion. It was a perfect heel-turn at the perfect occasion. It was executed at the perfect stage.
The word ‘heel-turn’ comes close to defining what Tottenham have done with Mourinho’s appointment. This is a club that was handed a unique identity by Mauricio Pochettino. The very mention of their name would make everyone talk about ‘high-pressing’ and ‘attacking football’. In modern-day football, these are positive terms that are linked with a certain likeness towards those who approach the game that way.
That is what Pochettino’s Spurs were. For quite a while, they were everyone’s second-favourite. Apart from Arsenal, Chelsea or West Ham fans, there were very few who did not connect to how they would play the game.
For an average fan, a connect like that increases over time. For Spurs fans of the current generation, their club is meant to play attractive football. Their club is meant to promote youth graduates. Tottenham are meant to not rely much on big-name signings like the other big boys of Europe. Just like how Steve Austin was never meant to taste success by siding with the man he had always loathed.
Pochettino was that always smiling good boy. It was impossible to hate him. His character oozed a sense of pleasantness. Many times, he was the manager that everyone wanted to be like. He was the hero everyone loved and no one ever hated. He was the always cheered babyface.
The fact that his sacking has taken place months after Pochettino took them to a Champions League final is ironical. But therein could lie a truth that Levy has maybe stumbled upon.
It is worth noting that Tottenham were never at their flowing best last season. They found the back of the net only 67 times. In the 2016-17 campaign, Pochettino’s men scored 86 times– the highest in the league that season.
In the 2016-17 campaign, Spurs also had the highest key-passes per game in the Premier League at 13.3. Last season, this number fell to only 10.3 key-passes per game. That is a reflection of how Pochettino’s approach had become a little more pragmatic than ever.
It was using this style that the Argentine took Spurs to the Champions League final. He also earned them a fourth-place finish. All that, despite having spent nothing in the 2018 summer transfer window.
In Mourinho, they have someone who will embrace this approach more than Pochettino would have. It is perhaps an admission to the fact that this is how Spurs can finally have something to show for all that they built under Pochettino.
Like for Steve Austin, constantly putting Vince through stunners and pandering to the crowd was a mere means to end. But the end was shaking hands with him. The end lay in conceding to the fact that maybe, using evil for sucesss is the right way.
And in Jose Mourinho, Spurs have world football’s favourite evil. He is everyone’s favourite pantomime villain. He will embrace all the hate that he gets but will keep coming up with his evil plans to foil the enemy like no other. That is exactly what a wrestling heel does. He couldn’t care less about pandering to the crowd. The only thing he cares about is winning titles.
As for Tottenham, they’ve had their ambition questioned so many times in the past. They have been accused of not acting like a ‘big club’ despite being a ‘big club’. But with Jose’s signing, they’ve shown that they aren’t as feeble as many point them out to be. Levy can take pride in that.
The Spurs fans would need a change in perspective. It has to be swift- not as swift as the appointment. They need to accept that their beloved club has become a wrestling heel that the world will hate. But it will all come down to silencing those who said that the club isn’t worthy of winning trophies. Perfection doesn’t exist.
The sooner they accept it, the better it will be. Pochettino has laid down the foundation for a side that Mourinho admired during his time at Manchester United. Now it is time to shake hands with that same evil and smile with it. As Steve Austin did with Vince McMohan- they can well hold a trophy aloft soon.