One of the many nice surprises on the “NSCAA Jose Mourinho Tactical Thinking Course’ was the fact that he brought his entire staff along with him for the presentation. Mourinho’s staff included Rui Faria, Aitor Karanka, Silvino Louro, Luis Campos, Santiago Lozano, Carlos Lalín and José Morais. Each of them would discuss the area in which they specialized in. Like Mourinho himself, the presentation was a lesson in attention to detail and the neccessary steps for a top European club to function. Despite joking and looking comfortable in each others company, this was a group of professional men who believed that wins and losses are all in the detail. The first thing that struck me, was that fact that they had a few academics among them, who have studied at top universities across Europe and were well aware of how to collect and analyze information that would be vital in helping to develop methods and programs.
Up first was Mourinho’s high profile assistant coach, Rui Faria. Faria is well know to be Mourinho’s right hand man, never too far away from him on the Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid benches. Faria is always referred to as a ‘Fitness Coach’, however, Mourinho dismissed that label right away. He explained to us that Faria has the same sports science qualifications as himself, so would refuse to give him that title. As Faria began his presentation, you could tell that it was not a million miles away from that of Mourinho’s views himself. His first slide, he explained, is the philosophy that guides the team with their training methods. (See Below)
The language barrier made this slightly difficult to understand through the chart, but luckily Faria explained it very well. Basically, the “Operationalization of Complexity” is all the areas within the football department that they have to work with. They then study at this model with the playing personnel available and find out what style of play will be most effective. With that determined, Faria and Mourinho can then work together to make sure that the training methodology is geared towards this style and is always connected to the game. Personally, I see both Mourinho and Faria look first at the desired destination for the team, and plan backwards to great effect. Faria added that there was a “Play Culture” that he defined as players knowing exactly what their individual roles and the collective roles are within the team. This is where Mourinho wishes to arrive to.
Easy right? Not quite. Faria certainly does not believe that his role is straightforward. “The most difficult thing is getting the right exercises. The one that the manager thinks about and helps select the best ones.” As Faria discussed training methodology, Mourinho could not help himself from getting involved. Mourinho explained that the selection of training exercises should always be consistent with the way you would like to play. “You can’t create a contradiction with the idea you want for the game.” Mourinho added, “If your team does not play from the back during the game, do not incorporate this in to your exercises.” He went on to answer what the rest of the world has always questioned: Where does he get his training drills/exercises? ”Don’t go to books or websites. First decide how you want to play. Think about it and sleep on it. From that idea, the exercise then arrives.” Mourinho was on a roll and then explained how he and his staff got the players to perform the expected tasks when they are required most: during a game. “Some players are smart and can see what you are asking them to do. Other players are not as smart and these players are usually pure intuition. They learn what to do because they learn automatic movements without thinking.” I think this is another example of why Mourinho is a players coach. All players can relate to his work on the training ground as he has different objectives for both, and keeps it all within his framework.
Rui Faria then touched upon the details of the training sessions. Each session would include tactical, technical, physical and cognitive elements. Again, Faria explained with the help of a chart how these all came together in a session. (See table below). The “Competitive/ Intensity” created concentration and awareness for the players. The “Details of the Sessions” included space, number of players, and principles. The “Pattern and Repetition” referred to the organization of what tactical element they were looking to work on that week. The end result was “Creation of Habits” which they believed would take them through games with the desired level of performance and result.
Jose Morais was next up and he covered ‘Team Analysis’. His task was a complex one – analyze games and answer all the demands for the manager. He did not mind sharing that Mourinho was a hard man to work for, because he constantly focuses on small details. He breaks a game down by focusing on the ‘Offensive’ and ‘Defensive’ organization of a team. Offensively, Morais looks at the following:
– Style of play
– Change of rhythm and direction
– Game orientation (What is their focus in getting the ball?)
– Do they have talented players who can cause problems?
Defensive organization focuses on shape, marking patterns, and breaking the team into sections e.g. Do attacking players pressure the ball immediately after losing it? The attention to detail in these reports was always of the highest degree because that is the base of how you prepare for a match, Morais explained. However, Mourinho was quick to point out that the information given to the players could not be as detailed. “Do not give thousands of information pieces to players.” Mourinho added, “It has to be short and objective.” Well aware of the attention span of a modern day footballer, Mourinho does not bombard the players with all the information in one meeting. Instead, there is a a video produced with 2/3 clips of each area of attention. During the week before a game at Real Madrid, this video is constantly playing in the locker room, medical room, cafeteria, and weights room. Another great example of influencing players with methods that may be slightly different to everyone else.
As the presentation continued, they covered the Scouting and Recruitment of Players. The biggest factors in bringing in a player to Real Madrid are the needs of the team, injuries, and the marketplace. He explained that, after initially watching a player play 6-8 times on TV or specialized websites, they then watch the player 2-3 times live. When evaluating a player, they look at the following:
– Connection with the ball
– Connection with ball and opponent
– Connection with ball and teammate and opponent
– Connection with ball and teammates and opponents
After evaluating the player, they then report back to Mourinho with a grade between 1-5 of how much they value the player. Mourinho makes the call but seems more than comfortable to trust his staff to evaluate the talent level needed to play for the Spanish giants.
Goalkeeper Coach, Silvino Louro, used a lot of diagrams and bar charts to show the training patterns of goalkeepers. Most of the factors he talked about related to physical rather than technical. The records of injuries went down to sessions, days, times, and always looked for patterns and any correlation they could find. If the keeper was fit enough and could train for periods of high intensity, he had a good chance of success they felt. There has not been much turnover in that department at Real Madrid for quite some time, so this possibly was the easier task of the coaching staff. When we watched the two training sessions, Iker Casillas arrived first for both and I was impressed by his workrate, especially with his warm-up routines involving his footwork.
Mourinho concluded the presentation with a short Q&A. He told us that he does not have role models in the game. Instead, he explained, his family and parents are the ones he looks up to. He also learns more from his players than fellow coaches, because he does not have enough time to share things with coaches. When asked what is the most difficult aspect in working with today’s global stars, Mourinho replied that the getting the players to “think as a team” is a great challenge. “Every player has money, entourage, influences, so the first and most important step is to learn how to live together, in a team philosophy.” The last question was certainly the most intriguing as Mourinho was asked how he handles he weaknesses. He explained that every team has a weakness and, like everyone else, he tries to hide. He focuses on his strengths and did exactly this as he made one last comment regarding having to act like he was perfect to everyone outside the room. He then jumped off the stage and went straight to practice, not wanting to miss the preparation time needed before the session started. Although, having just listened to his assistant coaches, I think they probably had it covered.
Gary Curneen is the Head Women’s Soccer Coach at Wingate University in North Carolina. Gary holds a UEFA ‘A’ License from the Irish FA and a “Premier Diploma from the NSCAA. Gary also works on the Sports Marketing side at Wingate University, where he gained his MBA in 2008. For more blogs and information visit http://garycurneen.com/.