In this occasional series I will be introducing a few of my Flux Heroes. Expect some well-known names and faces, together with some ‘real’ people I know or have encountered along the way. ALL of them share one common theme – they have embraced the flux at some time in their lives and lived to tell the tale! They are an inspiration, they are a lesson to us all, they are my Flux Heroes.

Where better to start with Flux Heroes than with a divisive, decisive man who finds himself at the very pinnacle of his field, to whom success is a given and from whom drive, ambition and certitude ooze in equal measure. Oh, and he took a little-publicized break ten years into his adult life, returning with a ‘bible’ for success which has guided him into the sporting stratosphere.

Jose Mourinho illustration

Illustration by Alvaro Carrilho

Sporting superhero
Portuguese football (soccer) coach José Mourinho is like a character from a sporting comic book. Dashing and debonair, he has achieved legendary status at every club he has managed across Europe – winning major trophies and shattering win records in England, Italy, Spain and his native Portugal. He is a man who inspires supreme confidence in his players, draws plaudits from tacticians and scholars of the game, and entertains media and fans alike with a cocktail of egotism, humour and outspokenness.

Secret sabbatical
Yet whilst much is know of Mourinho’s achievements since becoming a front line football coach, some of his past remains curiously absent from the record books. I hadn’t particularly associated Mourinho with my own predicament until watching a documentary about the man which was aired on UK television recently (early 2013). The programme briefly mentioned a period in Mourinho’s life – after working under the legendary Bobby Robson at Barcelona and before he stepped up to his first head coaching job at Benfica – in which the Portugeezer took almost a year off. Voluntarily. This is not normal behaviour in football – breaks are forced by circumstance, not self imposed. Coaches are often sacked though failure and many take breaks because of the stress, but Mourinho apparently took some time out to just…become the man he is today.

A Flux of biblical proportions
Scouring his Wikipedia entry and many articles about his career, I couldn’t find any mention of this fabled flux break – until I stumbled across this article, taken from a book about the man and his career, which describes Mourinho enjoying a period of “purposeful unemployment” (that sounds familiar!). Following his break in 1999/2000, Mourinho took up the head coach position at major Portuguese club Benfica, before moving on to Porto, winning the Champions League, heading over to Chelsea then Inter Milan, Real Madrid and…well…the rest really is the stuff of football comic books.

Mourinho apparently took time out for two reasons – to focus on the more important things in life (family, in his case), and to finalise his theories on the game, which he bound into his top secret ‘Mourinho bible’. This is staggeringly avant garde for the relatively conservative world of football – stepping away from the game in order to hone tactical awareness, rather than accepting a glut of job offers? It must have seemed pure madness to his peers. In my eyes, this makes Mourinho a Flux Hero: a man who now appears completely dominant of (and dominated by) his profession was only able to draw the strength and strategic awareness to make the final push for success by stepping back and surveying things from afar. His rise to greatness was no accident – post-flux he tore back into the melee with fresh purpose and, in considerably less than ten years, became one of the greatest individuals the sport has ever seen. Jose, I salute you – you really are a special one.