Football Features

Eleven players who owe Jose Mourinho for saving their careers

By Squawka News

Published: 17:56, 26 January 2022 | Updated: 14:04, 31 January 2022

Tammy Abraham has been directly involved in more goals than any other English player across Europe’s top five leagues this season, rediscovering his blistering form under Jose Mourinho at Roma.

The 24-year-old netted 15 Premier League goals for Chelsea in the 2019/20 season after inheriting the club’s famed No. 9 shirt, but that clinical streak dried up last term as he struck just six times, eventually falling out of favour with Thomas Tuchel and leaving for Italy in the summer.

Upping sticks for the Eternal City, Abraham has acclimatised to Serie A football like a duck to water, thriving at the Stadio Olimpico in which he has nudged his way back into Gareth Southgate’s England plans, and profiting under the guidance of one of the game’s most revered tacticians.

Mourinho has had his fair share of detractors in recent years, and he didn’t exactly set the world alight at Man Utd or Tottenham, but he remains a leading coach in football, and Abraham is certainly not the first player to resurrect his career under the Portuguese, as these players below would attest to…

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Nuno Valente

After starting out at Sporting, it was at U.D. Leiria where Valente came into contact with a young Mourinho.

The coach, who would go on to master the Portuguese league and the European game with Porto, was only into his second senior job after a brief spell in charge of Benfica, and his left-back would prove an early example of his ability to enhance the prospects of a player.

Leiria went from being a club of modest ambition to the biggest overachievers in the Primeira Liga, with Valente a key player for Mourinho.

When the latter moved to Porto in 2002, he made sure to take the full-back with him. Valente retained his place as an important ally down the left for his manager, driving the club on to success in the Uefa Cup and Champions League.

Although he didn’t follow Mourinho to Chelsea, Valente did move to the Premier League, joining Everton in 2005. He may never have risen to such heights, and merely remained a solid mid-table footballer in Portugal, had their paths failed to cross in Leiria.

Paulo Ferreira

Before Mourinho got a hold of him at Porto, Ferreira was a decent-to-good right-sided midfielder, but his new manager decided he would be of more use to his team playing in a deeper role.

He converted his new signing into a right-back, and effectively set him up for a stellar career for club and country, winning the Uefa Cup and Champions League with Porto before following his coach to Chelsea, where he retired from the game in 2013 after having collected every honour available to a player at a Premier League club.


Although the Brazil-born playmaker may have hardly been a footballer toiling away in obscurity when Mourinho took over at Porto in 2002, the midfielder went as far as to credit his former manager with saving his career back in 2010.

In an interview during his time at Chelsea prior to facing his old mentor’s Inter side in the Champions League, Deco said: “I was inconsolable [before Mourinho arrived] as I’d gone three years without winning the league title. Jose Mourinho was contagious in his way of being and working. We started winning matches straight away and soon felt it was possible to win the league.”

Deco’s impressive performances as the creative hub of Mourinho’s Champions League-winning Porto side caught the eye of Barcelona, who snapped him up in 2004.

He won the biggest prize in European club football again alongside Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho in 2006 before leaving to win league titles with Chelsea and later Fluminense in his native Brazil.

Jorge Costa

The veteran Portuguese defender was out on loan at Charlton Athletic the season prior to Mourinho’s takeover at Porto in 2002.

One of his first actions was the hand the centre-back the captain’s armband and together they went on to conquer the Portuguese league and Europe, with Costa making 67 league appearances prior to moving on to Standard Liege in 2005 for one final season before retirement.

His revitalisation under Mourinho would foreshadow John Terry’s own return to form under the Portuguese during his second stint in charge of Chelsea – more on that later.

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Nuno Ricardo de Oliveira Ribeiro was nicknamed Maniche due to a similar style of play to Michael Manniche – a hard-working Danish forward who previously played for the midfielder’s second professional club, Benfica.

However, by 2002, his spell at the Lisbon-based giants had hit a rocky patch. Fortunately for Maniche, Mourinho had already seen something in the then-winger to make his signing a priority upon his move to Porto.

There he converted the Benfica cast-off into a central midfielder, and he became a crucial figure at the heart of the team. After winning everything he could alongside Mourinho, his exploits in the middle of the park earned him transfers to Dynamo Kiev, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Inter and FC Koln, before returning to Portugal to end his playing days with Sporting.

What could have become a career that flew off the rails instead became a grand tour of Europe after working (and winning) alongside Mourinho.

Eidur Gudjohnsen

The Icelandic striker was already a fan favourite at Chelsea upon the arrival of Mourinho at Stamford Bridge but over the course of the two seasons they spent together in west London, the Portuguese made some important tweaks to his game that would serve him well later in his career.

Gudjohnsen not only won two Premier League winner’s medals and a League Cup but began to be used more often in other roles besides playing up front. Mourinho even deployed him as a midfielder at times, making use of his excellent awareness of space to link the play from behind the attacking lines.

That added an extra dimension to his game and in 2006 Barcelona made a move for the versatile attacker, who eventually became an important squad player for Pep Guardiola, winning five major trophies in a single year in 2009 under the Spaniard.

From there he moved to Monaco before beginning a nomadic final few chapters of his career.


Rejected by Louis van Gaal after his appointment as the new manager of Bayern Munich, Brazilian centre-back Lucio was taken on by Mourinho and Inter in 2009 and became a key figure in the club’s rise to win the first-ever treble in Italian football in 2010.

What could have been a crushing vote of no confidence in a player clearly rattled by his treatment in Germany was turned into the perfect riposte as Lucio helped lead his new club to a 2-0 victory over Van Gaal in the Champions League final.

Sulley Muntari

Premier League viewers have always struggled to appreciate Sulley Muntari, but Mourinho was clearly a fan, signing up the Ghanaian to help staff the midfield of his Inter side after failing to coax Frank Lampard away from Chelsea.

He played 42 games in all competitions in the Italian club’s treble-winning season of 2009/10 and eventually earned himself a move across the city to Milan after raising his game to meet his manager’s exacting standards.

Wesley Sneijder

The creative fulcrum of Mourinho’s treble-winning Inter side, it almost seems absurd that back in 2009 the Dutch playmaker was sat on the shelf at Real Madrid waiting for the Spanish club to attract bids.

Inter grabbed a bargain and the former Ajax midfielder found himself paired with a manager who knew just how to get the best out of him.

Sneijder reached his absolute peak under Mourinho and came fourth in the vote for the Ballon d’Or in 2010 – behind only Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi – after translating his club form to inspire his country to the final of the 2010 World Cup.

John Terry

In 2013, it looked as though the end was nigh for Chelsea’s captain after the club’s caretaker manager, Rafael Benitez, dropped and moved to marginalise the veteran Englishman as he suggested that his successor would do well to move on and replace the defensive stalwart.

After taking on the Chelsea job for a second time to succeed the Spaniard, Mourinho quickly moved to rubbish suggestions that Terry was finished, and continued to use him as the main figure at the back as the Blues built up their strength to win the Premier League title and League Cup in 2015.

David Luiz, a player once seen by some as the natural, ball-playing successor to Chelsea’s elder statesman at the back, was sold to Paris Saint-Germain the summer prior to that success – Terry’s turnaround in fortunes could not have been more definitive.

Cesc Fabregas

Like Sneijder, Fabregas was a high-end playmaker in need of an escape route from Spain’s top two in 2014, and with his own midfield in need of more quality and creativity, Mourinho used the money earned from the sale of David Luiz to move for the former Arsenal captain, who had become a forlorn figure at Barcelona.

He instantly became the new deep-lying mastermind of the Chelsea team, creating 18 assists in 34 league appearances as the Blues stormed to the title, playing some thrilling football in the first half of the season thanks to the Spaniard’s presence in the centre of the park.