It didn’t take long for the media circus surrounding Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to get back into full swing. In fact, we couldn’t even get through a full 90 minutes for it to happen. If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have seen the recent debacle evolve but here’s the short version – Mourinho has demoted club doctor Eva Carneiro and Head Physio Jon Fearn to minimal duties following a touchline row in the dying minutes of Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea on Saturday.
The reason for the row? Following being reduced to 10 men earlier in the match thanks to a sending off for Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, Mourinho was seemingly irate that his medical team entered the pitch to treat star man Eden Hazard, as it would automatically mean Hazard having to leave the field of play for a short time, meaning the Blues would be down to 9 men in their on-going search for a winning goal. If reports are to be believed, Carneiro has received particularly harsh treatment, no longer being allowed to attend training, matches or enter the team hotel.
Mourinho, speaking to Sky Sports, called his medical staff “impulse naive”, stating that their entry onto the field showed a lack of understanding of the game and the fact that the team would be a player down as a result of their actions. Stating that the medical staff “must be sure” there is something wrong with the player before attending to treat him, Mourinho has been quoted in several sources as claiming that he knew Hazard had no serious injury to speak of and that the Belgian international was simply tired.
What’s of no doubt is that statements as bombastic as those made by Mourinho about his medical staff are nothing new. The former Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager is famous for his straight talking manner and here he’s been no different. Some have even suggested that the whole row was merely another patented Mourinho Mind Game, designed to distract from what was an ultimately poor opening game of the season for the defending Champions and one they would have been expected to win. There is, of course, no way to know for certain, whether this is all a rouse or whether Mourinho truly believed what he was saying in post match interviews, but the available video evidence certainly suggests that he was less than pleased with his colleagues.
You’ll notice I used a word just there that is not commonly banded around in football circles – colleagues. A word meant to symbolise teamwork and mutual respect amongst co-workers of each other’s role in that team, those on the bench and in the back room staff are not often considered ‘colleagues’ of the manager. In most footballing cultures, the manager is considered top of the tree, the man to whom all must answer and whose orders must always be obeyed. This certainly seemed to be Mourinho’s implication following his outburst on the Stamford Bridge touchline on Saturday. By stating he ‘knew’ Hazard wasn’t seriously hurt and suggesting his club doctor and head physio should not have attended the pitch, he showed an attitude that he, as manager, knew better than they, or anyone else, did about the condition of the player. And this is where I begin to have a problem with Jose.
There’s no doubt that the manager must be consulted when it comes to 99% of the decisions made in relation to his team on match day but, for me, the decision whether or not to treat an injured player should not come down to the manager. Speaking bluntly, Mourinho quite simply does not have the knowledge or training to be able to evaluate the physical well-being of his players from the side of the pitch. In fact, had he been on the pitch, examining the player himself, he wouldn’t have known much better whether Hazard was genuinely injured in this instance. What is imperative to understand is that we have to trust the instinct of the trained medical staff in assessing a situation and acting as they see fit in that situation. Carneiro and Fearn were obviously concerned enough to feel they needed to attend to the player and that action should be applauded.
What Mourinho has done is create a huge dilemma for any future medical staff he hires. He has created a pressured situation in which they will be forced to consider not only their instinct, an instinct borne out of years of training, but also the opinion of a man ready to verbally abuse them and publicly humiliate them if they take action he doesn’t deem necessary. I would hope that any future medical staff employed as part of Mourinho’s team would do the same as Carneiro and Fearn – to do otherwise would put players at serious risk of harm.
If you think I’m over-reacting, then lets look at another situation. It’s often very difficult to know exactly how serious an injury or medical issue is – the pace of the game is so fast that we often don’t know a situation has arisen until we’re in the thick of it. Let’s say then, that instead of a minor knock like the one Hazard suffered on Saturday, he had suffered a broken leg, or worse, a cardiac arrest. Are we really to believe that the medical staff should ‘listen to the manager’ and sit where they are, like good boys and girls? Of course they shouldn’t. A situation like that would surely show Mourinho’s reasoning that medical treatment should take second place to keeping players on the field to win points for exactly what it is – ludicrous and borderline negligent.
It’s plain and simple – Mourinho was wrong to berate his medical staff for doing their jobs – and doubly wrong for further punishing them in the aftermath of the game. The day we listen to an egotistical manager putting points ahead of player safety instead of listening to trained medical staff is the day we have a serious problem – and one I hope we never see.