At one point in 2004, Liverpool looked set to hire Jose Mourinho rather than Rafael Benitez as the successor to Gerard Houllier, only for the Reds to be gazumped by one of their Premier League rivals.
As reported by ESPN, a new book from French journalist Nicolas Vilas called ‘Mourinho: Behind the Special One, from the origin to the glory’ includes a claim that the Portuguese native had agreed a deal to take the Liverpool job.
However, as revealed by his former adviser Jorge Baidek, the Reds had asked Mourinho to wait two weeks before formalising an agreement because Houllier was still Liverpool’s manager. That gave Chelsea the opportunity to present him with a much more lucrative offer which he ultimately accepted, with the Anfield club instead choosing Benitez as Houllier’s replacement. [via ESPN]
Mourinho and Benitez – what happened next?
Mourinho enjoyed huge success in his first spell as Chelsea manager in the mid-2000s, ending a 50-year wait for a league title in 2005 and retaining the Premier League crown the following year, as well as winning two League Cups and the FA Cup and guiding them to two Champions League semi-finals (via premierleague.com).
However, Benitez proved no stranger to silverware in his first two years at Liverpool. He led them to an incredible Champions League triumph in 2005 and the FA Cup the following year, along with winning the UEFA Super Cup and Community Shield. Coincidentally, the Reds eliminated Mourinho’s Chelsea from the former two competitions and also beat them in the Community Shield in Cardiff.
They both came to England off the back of success in European competition. Mourinho had taken Porto to Champions League glory before departing for London while Benitez won the UEFA Cup with Valencia prior to taking the Liverpool job. If the Reds were to miss out on a Champions League-winning manager, then securing the man who had just won the UEFA Cup and La Liga was probably the next best option.
It would have been understandable if, at the time, Liverpool fans looked on at Mourinho’s success with Chelsea with a degree of envy, especially with the Reds well off the pace in the Premier League. However, the achievements of Benitez in the first half of his Anfield tenure ought to quell any regrets about missing the boat with Mourinho.
Indeed, while the current Tottenham manager may have won several trophies at Chelsea and elsewhere, his conduct has often been questionable. His ‘shush’ gesture towards Liverpool supporters in the 2005 Carling Cup final, and his excessive touchline celebration after the Blues’ 2-0 win at Anfield nine years later, showed a certain disrespect for the Merseyside club which understandably may not have gone down well among the Reds faithful. He also courted controversy by allegedly gouging the eye of the late Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova in 2011 and frequently criticising his players in public.
Benitez quickly justified his appointment by Liverpool and Mourinho’s frequent touchline antics may have been hard for some Reds fans to stomach, so ultimately things probably worked out for the best for the Anfield club regarding that managerial twist of fate 16 years ago.
Liverpool fans, are you glad that the club didn’t appoint Mourinho in 2004 or do you think he would have done a better job than Benitez at that time? Join in the discussion by commenting below!