Jose Mourinho sacked as Tottenham manager - as Daniel Levy sets sights on Julian Nagelsmann

John Percy
·9-min read
Jose Mourinho - AFP
Jose Mourinho - AFP

Jose Mourinho was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur following chairman Daniel Levy’s decision to accelerate the appointment of a new manager – prompted by the interest in young German coach Julian Nagelsmann from perennial Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Mourinho was told by Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, that he was to be removed from his position and his contract compensation activated at the club’s training ground in Enfield at around 10.15am.

The 58-year-old had arrived at the training ground around 8am as normal and was not aware that his departure was imminent until moments before he went into the meeting. Telegraph Sport broke the news of his dismissal online shortly after the news was conveyed to Mourinho.

Levy had made the decision over the weekend following the 2-2 draw with Everton on Friday night that left Spurs with one win in their last five league games and in reaction to the news that Bayern head coach Hansi Flick will not lead the club next season. It makes Nagelsmann, 33, the obvious candidate for Bayern.

As the RB Leipzig man is the preferred option for Levy, as reported by Telegraph Sport in February, it made sense to Levy to get the process underway to replace Mourinho.

Other possible contenders include the England manager Gareth Southgate and his Belgium counterpart Roberto Martinez, formerly of Everton. The club are admirers of Fulham manager and former player Scott Parker. So too Swansea City manager Steve Cooper.

It was a dramatic day in which many Spurs players, including Harry Kane and Heung-min Son learned the news from media reports. Both players are among those in the squad allied to Mourinho and they responded by thanking him on social media, while others kept their counsel.

The decision was made by Levy on a detailed calculation that a bounce under caretaker managers Ryan Mason and Chris Powell, promoted from the academy, in the last six league games could still get the club a top six finish and a valuable place in Europe next year. That would offset the compensation payable to Mourinho which is estimated to be around 18 months’ worth of salary - £16 million - given the current position of seventh although precise details are not clear.

There was no row that precipitated the sacking, as reported in some quarters. The decision was weighed by Levy over the weekend and the two men had a calm conversation. Mason and Powell will be in charge this season, beginning with Wednesday’s home game against Southampton and then the League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is another possibility to succeed Mourinho in the long-term but seen as unproven at the level Spurs see themselves competing at in the long-term.

The big picture includes trying to secure Harry Kane to a long-term contract that will see him spend the rest of his prime at the club. The England captain, who turns 28 in July, is open to a move this summer with the prospect of major trophies at Spurs more distant than it was three years ago.

Spurs’ participation in the European Super League may change that somewhat but for the time being Spurs fear the prospect of a disenchanted star player who is the subject of interest from Manchester United and Manchester City.

There were also wider concerns about potential clashes between Levy and Mourinho over the best way to proceed in this summer’s pandemic-hit transfer market. Mourinho would have sanctioned the sale of Dele Alli and Harry Winks but Levy was keen to see them back in the side.

Along with Mourinho, his assistant Joao Sacramento, whom he personally recruited from Ligue 1 club Lille, also departs. The young Portuguese coach, a former lecturer at the University of South Wales, was the latest prodigy to work alongside Mourinho. Other assistants Nuno Santos, Carlos Lalin and Giovanni Cerra have also left the club.

Levy had tried to appoint Mourinho when he left Chelsea the first time in 2007 but was rebuffed. In November 2019, Mourinho’s options were much reduced and he took the Spurs job having assured Levy that he believed there was a strong squad that was underperforming.

Over last year’s lockdown, Mourinho moved from his home in Chelsea, west London, to isolate with his coaching team in north London. He finished sixth in the delayed 2019-2020 season. After a summer in which Mourinho did not get the centre-half he wanted, the highlight of his time in charge came in October when Spurs beat Manchester United 6-1 before winning the North London derby to go top of the Premier League in December. But he struggled once again to form relationships with players.

His refusal to select Gareth Bale, a favourite of Levy whom the chairman had signed on a loan deal in the summer, was problematic and so too the freezing out of Dele – which had thawed of late. The conservative style of football as well as Mourinho’s familiar tendency to blame the players after defeats concerned Levy. The Spurs chairman is largely impervious to personal criticism but he reacts badly to what he perceives as the devaluing of his playing assets in the eyes of the wider market.

When asked why his players had failed to defend a two-goal lead against Newcastle United this month, given Mourinho teams usually make a virtue of clean sheets, he replied, “Same coach, different players”.

Levy’s statement thanked Mourinho and his staff for working “through some of our most challenging times as a club.” Levy said: “Jose is a true professional who showed enormous resilience during the pandemic. On a personal level I have enjoyed working with him and regret that things have not worked out as we both had envisaged. He will always be welcome here and we should like to thank him and his coaching staff for their contribution.”

Why has Mourinho been sacked?

Form

The Portuguese has paid the price for a disappointing campaign, with Spurs currently seventh in the league and with little chance of making the top four.

They also suffered an embarrassing Europa League exit to Dinamo Zagreb in the last-16 which further weakened Mourinho's position.

That may not prove to be too much of an issue, given Tottenham's involvement in the controversial European Super League - but Mourinho will not be the man to lead them in the new breakaway competition should it materialise.

Mourinho has also been denied the chance of delivering a first piece of silverware to the club in 13 years, with Spurs set to take on Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday.

Premier League 2020/21 latest standings (top eight)

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Relationship with players

By Matt Law

For some time now, Tottenham's players have been losing patience with Mourinho pointing the finger at them and insinuating they are not good enough to challenge for a top-four place.

On April 4, Mourinho saw his team squander the chance to move into the top four of the Premier League after conceding a late equaliser to relegation-threatened Newcastle United.

After the game, Mourinho gave the withering reply of “same coach, different players” when asked why he is having so much trouble at reproducing the ability to hold on to leads, as he has done so well at other clubs.

Mourinho has consistently suggested that some of his players, particularly his defenders, are simply not capable of performing at a better standard.

And the players have been getting fed up with what they felt had become blame being shifted in their direction and away from Mourinho for a series of underwhelming results.

What next for Mourinho?

By Jonathan Veal

European job

Having disappointed at Manchester United and now Tottenham and with the modern game seeming to favour a different type of manager, Mourinho might have to accept that his days managing a top-level club are over. Prior to his appointment at Spurs only Lyon had shown any interest in appointing him, which perhaps goes to show how he is viewed. Of course, there will still be many teams who would jump at the opportunity of having such a proven winner at their club, but the Portuguese may have to look lower down the list than he might once have done.

Vitoria Setubal

Mourinho said at his Tottenham unveiling press conference that he would like to be at Spurs for five years before moving back to Portugal to manage Vitoria Setubal. Setubal is his hometown club and they could do with him at the helm after a tricky time where they were relegated from Portugal's Primeira Division last season. They are on course to bounce back straight away, leading the second tier table, but it might still be too early for a return to the coastal town Mourinho calls home just yet.

Pundit

Jose Mourinho - SKY SPORTS
Jose Mourinho - SKY SPORTS

After his sacking at Manchester United in December 2018, Mourinho filled his time at the weekends by working as a pundit for Sky Sports. He admitted to enjoying the job and said he made friends while he was there. He was well received by the viewers and was able to offer an insight that none of their other pundits could. A return to the studio could definitely be an option if he finds work hard to come by.

Retirement

This looks the least likely option as the Portuguese's desire to keep working remains strong and he said earlier this season that he has 20 more years left in him. But after more than two decades in management and approaching 60, Mourinho may contemplate taking a rest and enjoying the riches he has earned back in his homeland.

National team

Mourinho stated as recently as September that managing at international level interests him, but not yet. However, if the right opportunity presents itself, it would be something he might have to consider. He has mixed feelings about coaching his home country of Portugal, but with their current boss Fernando Santos 66 and in the job for seven years already, that might be a vacancy that comes up soon. Mourinho said of his ambitions: "Yes I want to do a national team. Not yet. I want to do by the end of my career, I want to have that experience of doing a World Cup and Euro, that short competition and that emotion of that short competition would be something I'd like to do."