English managers can learn a thing or two by studying the working methods of the late Bobby Robson, Manchester United's José Mourinho told The Mail on Sunday.
Mourinho formed a close friendship with Robson, who passed away in 2009 aged 76 - first while working as his interpreter at Sporting Clube de Portugal and then at Porto when he simultaneously acting as a tactical analyst; the duo's time together peaked during a season-long spell at Barcelona.
Robson's Barcelona lift Cup Winners' Cup in Rotterdam
The United manager, whose side takes on Arsenal later this afternoon in a crunch match in the fight to earn Champions League qualification, spoke to the newspaper as part of the 20th anniversary of Robson guiding Barcelona to a European Cup Winners’ Cup victory over defending champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Robson, who would later steer England to the World Cup Italy 90 semi-finals, was able to easily adapt to European football, said Mourinho, and handled the fallout of replacing Dutch legend Johan Cruyff at the helm superbly.
Robson's inquisitive nature helped him succeed in Europe
“Sir Bobby's mentality was to be very open-minded. He enjoyed living and coaching abroad, meeting different people” Mourinho noted. “He a very experienced coach but he was also humble with it. He wanted to learn the differences between the leagues and didn't mind asking for advice or asking for help. He changed and improved through the new experiences. He arrived in Portugal as a 4-4-2 coach when every team there played with lots of people in midfield. He understood that he needed to change so he became more multi-functional. Even as an older manager”.
A shoulder to cry on for Mourinho
Mourinho, who said Robson gave him boundless emotional support when he lost his sister and mother-in-law in the same year as his daughter was born, believes that this spirit of adventure and willingness to learn new things by coaching abroad is no longer a characteristic of modern English managers.
“Nowadays it looks to me that English managers either don't like to go abroad or people abroad think English managers are for the English game. They haven't had someone to open the door for them in the last decade”, Mourinho continued, going on to add. “To be honest, I think that myself, (Pep) Guardiola and (Carlo) Ancelotti are guilty of why it's quite trendy to have managers from Portugal or Spain or Italy. Obviously the other guys then have to do well to keep it going, Leonardo Jardim at Monaco is doing phenomenal, Antonio Conte at Chelsea, others. Maybe also in England, they don't have the jobs that give access to the big prizes. If you have a British manager like Tony Pulis and you are at West Bromwich Albion, it is very difficult to win a European Cup”.
Robson's former Barcelona pupils now making great coaches
Mourinho explained that it has come as no surprise to him that several components of those Barcelona sides of the early to mid-90s such as Ronald Koeman and Eusebio Sacristán, have gone on to become really successful club coaches themselves.
Amongst those are Luis Enrique, who guided Barcelona to the treble in 2015, Guardiola, who led Barcelona to two Champions League triumphs amongst a plethora of other trophies, and Juan Antonio Pizzi, who won the 2016 Copa America with Chile.
“When you are intelligent, you learn to drink from every source and Cruyff and Van Gaal were also important", Mourinho said. “But Bobby's leadership was phenomenal and that is a very important part of management”.
Mou donated the Ballon d'Or he won in 2010 to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. The Portuguese coach revealed that Robson had taught him another vital lesson in football. “I would always get really upset after bad results, I am still the same, but Bobby helped me by saying if I thought of the other dressing room, that the other guys are very happy, it makes you feel less sad”.