Welcome back José: football photographers such as me are delighted

Tom Jenkins on 22 November 2019

On Thursday I bumped into a couple of friends of mine, both dyed-in-the-wool Spurs fans. Before I even spoke to them, their shoulders slumped in unison and they let out a joint groan. It was as if they had just been summoned for collective root canal surgery.

“Its not going to end prettily,” they grumbled. “Hang on,” I said. “He hasn’t even started.”

They weren’t as enthused by the return of José as I was. The unveiling of Mourinho, Special One version 10:3:1 or whatever it is, makes me very happy. I think I can safely say all football photographers in this country rejoiced when Daniel Levy’s latest recruit was announced. It’s not that we necessarily like him that much – but when it comes to manager antics, he is pure box office. He makes both pictures and our lives far more interesting. Whether it’s celebrating goals by careering down the touchline cupping his ears to opposing fans, or picking up a bunch of water bottles in his technical area and hurling them in anger, Mourinho just can’t stop himself. I love this about him: when he hits peak José, it’s a pleasure to photograph.

José Mourinho keeps the ball despite the efforts of Steven Gerrard
Mourinho keeps the ball despite the efforts of Steven Gerrard during the Liverpool v Chelsea league match at Anfield in April 2014. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

However, it does makes shooting a Mourinho game quite tricky; you need one eye on the match and the other on the touchline. I vividly remember in 2014 when he took Chelsea to title-chasing Liverpool. He had set up his team that day to frustrate Liverpool, wasting time whenever they could. The ball went out of play and he picked it up but refused to return it to Steven Gerrard, instead sticking out his chin and juggling the ball behind his back, riling practically everyone in Anfield. Soon after Gerrard took his famous tumble, Demba Ba waltzed clear and Chelsea were ahead.

My favourite José moment happened a year ago when he was in the last throws of his time as Manchester United manager. He was back at Stamford Bridge, somewhere he bizarrely still believed he had a point to make. Chelsea equalised with virtually the last kick and one of Maurizio Sarri’s assistants dared to celebrate right in front of his Royal Joséness. Red rag to a bull time! All hell broke loose and I took a photo of Mourinho being restrained as he sought revenge. The next day my picture was mentioned in a tweet by the Irish photographer @Daveysexton who likened it to Caravaggio’s The Taking of Christ. I was amazed at the response to this tweet: 2.2K likes. Never before had I such a reaction to one of my photos.

The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio. Reminds you of something?
The Taking of Christ by Caravaggio. Reminds you of something? Photograph: © The National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

It also got me wondering: what would Mourinho think of being compared to Christ? Maybe one day I’ll get to ask him. Until then, José, it’s good to have you back.

• Tom Jenkins is the Guardian’s sports photographer

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