Far from the imposing stature of Chennaiyin FC manager Marco Materazzi is the current Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, dressed in a suit, parading the technical area of his new home – Old Trafford. The differences between the two end there.
Materazzi, a former World Cup winner with Italy, is a self-proclaimed fan of Manchester United's Portuguese manager The Italian was recorded on camera crying when the Madrid- bound Mourinho bid farewell to the San Siro.
"One thing is certain: if he stayed, we would have won everything again that year. The championship and the European Supercup for sure, I don't know about the Champions League because it is a terrible tournament, decided by a thousand details. But the rest we would have won, because we had a squad full of quality," said Materazzi when asked about Mourinho's legacy at Inter Milan.
Materazzi has gone on record more than once to call Mourinho the best coach in the world, even during his tragic Chelsea slump last season. The records of Mourinho speak for him and he is definitely one of the best coaches in world football at the moment.
In his previous press conferences, Materazzi said his style of football is that if you score one goal more than your opponent, you win. Though many argue that Mourinho plays a more or less defensive style of football it cannot be forgotten that his championship winning Chelsea/Madrid sides were fluent free scoring teams.
Mourinho likes to play two holding midfielders with one of them expert in breaking up play when out of possession and the other to build up play when in possession (Matic & Fabregas in Chelsea, now Pogba & Fellaini/Carrick in United). His team is never based on individual brilliance rather it is based on collective team work ethic. He can dish out a defensive master class when the need be.
Materazzi’s Chennaiyin FC is not too different. The way that Chennaiyin's midfield duo of Khabra/Blasi and Raphael operated last season, was like a chapter out of Mourinho’s book. Most coaches would be inclined to play Raphael as a number 10 however Materazzi played him as a CM and achieved remarkable success with that. With a draw enough to secure their places in the semifinals, Materazzi pulled out a superb defensive performance from CFC (A team known for their porous defence and fluent attack) against Pune at the business end of last season.
Both men prefer team players, especially wide players who would help their full back when out of possession. Mourinho preferred Willian over Oscar for the exact same purpose. Materazzi played Thoi, the engine that never runs down instead of Rane who is a more creative player but would be a liability in defence.
Their philosophy is simple – the team comes first. They are not afraid to axe senior/star players if they are not contributing to the team as much as he wants them to. The footballing world was shocked when Mourinho sold the Chelsea player of the season Juan Mata to Manchester United when he arrived at Stamford Bridge for his second stint.
The decision was vindicated as Mourinho won the title while playing entertaining football. Materazzi dropped Elano midway through the season and used him sparingly depending upon the game situations. The turning point of CFC’s campaign came when Mendoza was dropped due to poor performance against Atletico de Kolkata. Mendoza sizzled by scoring a hat-trick in the very next game.
Off the football field, Mourinho is a self-proclaimed "Special One" and he does not shy away from showing his funny side. Occasionally he takes a dig at journalists knowing very well the fickle nature of the media. Materazzi is perhaps most similar to Mourinho in this aspect. In the title presentation press conference, Materazzi took a dig at the media by saying “I see a lot more people than there was, last year. That means that you enjoyed watching us”
Annoyed by serious of questions about how Chennaiyin FC would miss Mendoza this coming season, Materazzi said, “Stiven Mendoza didn’t sleep with us, there is nothing to miss.” He is a man run by his intuitions.
His touchline antics have earned him a suspension (season 1 semis). He has never shied away from voicing his concern about the standard of referees when his team was undone due to bad decisions (Against NEU Season 2). Very few coaches can personify themselves on the pitch through their players. Simeone’s Atletico Madrid and Klopp’s Liverpool are some examples of that. It is safe to say that Materazzi is a cult hero among the Chennaities. Just like Mourinho is among his fans.
He is as tough as Mourinho is. When quizzed about Chennai finishing in the bottom of the table for fair play awards he was direct in answering. He said "If the club wants a manager who can make the team fight and give their all for a win, then I'm their man. If they want to top the discipline charts, they'll tell me and I'll walk out"
This is 3rd season for Materazzi at CFC and Chennai fans will be hoping the infamous third season curse of Mourinho does not strike Materazzi. Well, that is one record he wouldn’t want to share with his mentor. Winning an ISL is far from winning a Champions league, but rest assured the former Inter Milan star is well on his way to hold that trophy as a coach in the future.
Materazzi said “It would have been easy for me to just win the title and leave. But I did not do that because I want to win it again. The approach will be the same as last year and the players are all ones that I have selected. With or without Elano and Mendoza, we are going to defend this title.”
Beware ISL; the big man from Italy is here again to walk the talk.
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