José Mourinho is one of the most interesting characters in world football.
Even as his managerial ability declined (and has risen again?) one constant remained: the Portuguese coach is a figure of sheer entertainment. No other manager could say that their press conferences are appointment-viewing, but you do not want to miss a single second of Mourinho behind a mic or in front of a camera because you never know when magic will strike.
The thing is, though, a lot of people don’t manage to keep up with all of Mourinho’s antics because there’s quite a lot of football to watch and only so many hours to watch it in. So they end up just seeing the most viral moments, the parts that become memes.
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But what of the stories behind those memes? When Mourinho does something hilarious, what is actually going on? We’ve had a look at some of his most ‘memeable’ moments and explained the context behind them.
1. The Hojbjerg snarl
The meme: The most recent Mourinho meme came as the Portuguese was pictured snarling viciously at Spurs midfielder Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg. This image was begging to become a meme because it appears to so wonderfully convey unbridled rage.
Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg Football Index value: £0.23 (Sell) – £0.34 (Buy)
The context: While Mourinho appears angry at Hojbjerg, nothing could be further from the truth. The Portuguese was moving around the pitch celebrating with his players and when he saw the Dane he snarled and the pair bumped chests in a display of masculine energy.
Hojbjerg has been a candidate for signing of the season with his performances so far. He has played every single minute in the Premier League this season, and with 51 tackles he has at least 18 more than any other Spurs player.
The Dane has been central to everything Spurs have been doing well, running the show in midfield. And importantly he also radiates the kind of relentless machismo that has powered all of Mourinho’s great sides. He is fundamental and Mourinho knows it.
2. The Special One
The meme: The oldest Mourinho meme is the simplest one: people refer to him as The Special One, sometimes he even references the meme by distorting it as he reinvents himself: “I am the normal one”.
The context: When Mourinho first arrived in the Premier League as Chelsea boss he was one of just two active managers in the division (alongside Sir Alex Ferguson, for whom the Portuguese had an obvious admiration) who had won the Champions League. So when speaking about the quality of his players (who had finished second and made the European semi-finals the season before, he said: “I am a European Champion, not one of the bottle… I think I am a special one.”
3. The disgusted headset removal
The meme: Mourinho removing his headsets in seeming disgust at what he’d just heard, used as a magnificently cutting reaction image towards nonsensical or absurd posts. But what did Mourinho hear that made him make that face?
The context: Turns out the answer is… absolutely nothing. Back in 2013, the Portuguese was coaching Real Madrid ahead of a Champions League game against Galatasaray. He had a headset on to hear translations of certain questions, and the next question was coming from a Spanish outlet.
Needing no translator for Spanish, he removed his headphones and grimaced a bit while doing so – perhaps the headset was uncomfortable? Whatever it was, he continued in the press conference as normal but the photo captured the exact apex of the grimace, making him look beyond disgusted.
4. The man behind the curtain
The meme: Mourinho peering somewhat sinisterly between blue curtains, often used to indicate something ominous on the way or sinister lurking in the shadows.
The context: Back in 2014, Chelsea were in Paris to play PSG in the Champions League. Mourinho appeared to be in a playful mood and poked his head through curtains over the player’s tunnel. The photo simply captures a moment where this looked creepy.
— Bra Hloni (@HonourableHloni) December 18, 2018
5. The three-fingered salute
The meme: Mourinho holding up three fingers to taunt his opponent.
The context: Mourinho first unveiled the three-fingered salute in 2018 when his Manchester United side were playing Chelsea. There was plenty of abuse being thrown at Mourinho from the Chelsea faithful and he responded with the three fingers, one for each of the Premier League titles he has won with Chelsea, reminding them to show some respect for him.
6. The Hulk Hogan
The meme: Mourinho standing with an ear cupped, staring wild-eyed into the distance in a pose of pure goading energy.
The context: Mourinho managed Inter Milan to great success between 2008 and 2010, winning the Treble in his second season. When he went to Juventus Stadium with Manchester United, the Juve faithful sent abuse his way all game. Once Manchester United picked up a huge win late on, he taunted those Juve fans after the final whistle with an “I can’t hear you” gesture.
Jose Mourinho on his post-match celebration: “In a beautiful Italian city they insulted me for 90 minutes, I didn’t insult them, I just made a little thing. I respect Juventus, I respect their players, their manager. I’m really really proud of my boys." pic.twitter.com/lRpiYC8rgS
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) November 7, 2018
7. The sudden sideline freakout
The meme: Mourinho is calmly drinking some water when his assistant says something that causes him to leap from his seat and run up to the fourth official furiously yelling. This became a great reaction meme for many different scenarios.
The context: As Spurs were playing Manchester City, Raheem Sterling who was already on a yellow card went down in the area in what could have been seen as an act of simulation. He wasn’t carded, and Mourinho thought little of it until his assistant reminded him that Sterling was already on a yellow so, if he had indeed been carded, it would have resulted in a red card. Ever the opportunist, Mourinho pounced and began furiously haranguing the officials either to try and change their mind or just to sow doubt in their minds.
— Last Word On Spurs🎙 (@LastWordOnSpurs) February 3, 2020
8. “Respect… respect… respect, man”
The meme: Mourinho forcefully ending a discussion by loudly proclaiming, and simultaneously demanding: “Respect. Respect. Respect, man. Respect.” This became a fantastic meme for a while, with users interjecting it into conversations.
The context: Mourinho’s Manchester United side had been beaten 0-3 at home by Spurs, and after a prickly press conference Mourinho had enough of people questioning his approach to football and snapped, debuting the aforementioned three-finger salute that would later go on to become its own meme, pointing out that he had more Premier League title wins than every other active manager in the division. He then got up and concluded with calls for respect by simply repeating the word over and over again. Absolutely incredible stuff.
9. “I prefer not to speak…”
The meme: Mourinho declaring “I prefer not to speak, if I speak I am in big trouble” and people just repeating that phrase whenever they want to avoid airing a controversial or dramatic opinion that they know will invite criticism.
The context: In 2014 Mourinho’s Chelsea lost 1-0 against Aston Villa, seeing a goal disallowed and picking up two red cards (with Mourinho also being sent off). In the post-match interview he said the phrase “I prefer not to speak” or “I prefer not to comment” over and over again, adding “if I speak, I am in big trouble” – resisting comment for a while before giving in and having a more general pop at referees and their lack of accountability.