The barrage of questions about Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has new FC Mumbai City coach Jorge Costa bewildered and a little amused, ever since he decided to take the plunge in the Indian Super League.
Costa was Mourinho’s leader at Portuguese giants FC Porto when the latter arrived on the world stage as a top-level manager. The 46-year-old was once revered by Mourinho as a player “who was ready to die to win”, underlining his significance to the Porto setup that went on to win the Uefa Cup (Europa League) and Champions League in consecutive seasons.
Costa, though, is quick to remind you that Mourinho wasn’t the only coach from whom the tricks of the trade were picked up as he transitioned from player to coach. “It was a pleasure,” the 46-year-old said in an interaction in Mumbai. “I worked with him [Mourinho] for two years, [but] [Current Portugal coach] Fernando Santos, [Iran coach] Carlos Quieroz – I picked up a lot of things from these great coaches too; things I will never forget,” he added.
It is easy to draw comparisons between Mourinho, and one of his earliest star protégés. Just like the former Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid coach, Costa is never running short of a quirky soundbyte, laced with dry wit.
“Pressure? If you are not used to this pressure, it’s better to change – perhaps work in a supermarket.”
“If I have Ronaldo, Messi and Modric, I’ll play a certain way. I have my team, which I respect a lot, and [I’ll try to] get the best of out them.”
“I want the ball, the Spanish coaches also want the ball, and that is where we have a problem: we have only one ball, but we will fight for the ball. Maybe, I’ll play like Portugal (smiles).”— — Jorge Costa
There is every reason to believe that it was Mourinho, not Costa, who spouted out the lines mentioned above. The similarities don’t end there either. Just like the self-appointed “special one”, the Mumbai City FC coach is widely known for his mastery in setting up a robust midfield and backline.
Mumbai City captain Lucian Goian further explains the philosophy of his coach. “Most people in football will tell you that when you build a house, you set up a good foundation first,” Goian said. “Defense is the foundation of the team.”
Goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, too, revealed that Costa’s ethos was to keep it tight at the back, much like former Mumbai City coach Alexandre Guimares.
And the Mumbai outfit has all the ingredients for being stingy at the back. Amrinder can frustrate strikers in front of goal on his day, and Goian is arguably the best defender in the league. In the 2016, Mumbai conceded just eight goals – an ISL record – in the group stages, when they finished toppers.
Atleast a few years ago, Mourinho’s teams were a tight-knit bunch: think Porto, Chelsea (1st stint) and Inter. The buzzword that Amrinder and Goian often repeated was “family”.
The Romanian defender explains unity with a story involving Brazilian goalkeeper Roberto Volpato, who spent the 2016 season with Mumbai. “Before the second game of that season, he talked about wanting a photo in the living room with the [ISL] trophy, not with individuals. I am still thinking about what he said. I want to make this possible and want fans to remember this after many years about this photo [that Roberto was talking about].”
After a memorable ISL 3, Mumbai were lackluster in the previous season, finishing a lowly seventh. Scoring was their Achilles Heel, putting the ball in the net only 25 times. Will that change under Costa? “Every coach asks for the same things in football....determination, attitude,” Goian said. “We have a coach who has played high level football; he won important trophies in Europe. He knows how to prepare us for the games, helping players to be 100 percent ready.”
Costa, though, was quick to temper expectations ahead of his side’s opener on October 2, where they face Jamshedpur FC. “We are far from perfect and have a lot of work to do,” Costa says, matter-of-factly.
The former defender, who has taken up his 12th managerial appointment in 11 years, has his task cut out as he tries to haul Mumbai back to becoming a top-four team. “When I go back home, I want people to remember me as someone who did good things.”
As for the average Indian football fan, it will take some doing for Costa to exorcise the ghost of Mourinho, which can be curse as much as a gift.