After winning the Champions League with Porto, Jose Mourinho earned a move to mega-rich Chelsea.
While the Blues had spent big the previous season under Claudio Ranieri, Mourinho was given licence to virtually create a new squad with almost unlimited funds, creating one of the most formidable teams in Premier League history.
From there, Mourinho went to Inter, where he’d assemble the treble-winning side of 2010 before moving to Real Madrid, again assembling a team of all-stars before returning to Chelsea in 2013.
We look back at Mourinho’s top 10 transfers from his illustrious career.
A young Ashley Cole had established himself as the best left-back in the Premier League with Arsenal, becoming an indispensable member of the England squad. In 2006, he’d make one of the Premier League’s most infamous transfers. Cole won no friends with his comments that Arsenal’s offer of £55,000 a week had ‘incensed’ him, and a switch from North London to West followed.
The comments in Cole’s autobiography made him a deeply unpopular figure up and down the country, but Cole rose above it all and spent the best part of a decade as a mainstay in the Chelsea back line.
Only spending his first and last year at Chelsea under Mourinho across the Portuguese’s two spells at the club, Cole played under seven more Chelsea managers, twice winning Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year, winning four FA Cups, the League Cup, Europa League, Premier League and Champions League.
Upon his return to Chelsea in 2013, Mourinho’s Chelsea fell just short in the title race, with Cesc Fabregas making the controversial move to Stamford Bridge, bringing the end to an underwhelming spell with Barcelona.
The decision to bring Fabregas back to the Premier League was a gamble; with more than 550 career games on the clock, the Spaniard had suffered a dip in form in his three years with Barcelona, but was rejuvenated at Stamford Bridge.
His first season saw him register 18 assists – only Thierry Henry with 20 had achieved more in a season – as Chelsea were champions again.
Mourinho’s third season in his second spell at Chelsea was an unmitigated disaster, but Antonio Conte came in the following term and Fabregas recaptured his best form with 12 more assists as Chelsea won another title, adding the FA Cup the season after.
When Mourinho arrived in the summer of 2010, his first transfer window saw trusted deputy Ricardo Carvalho arrive as well as the likes of Sami Khedira and Angel Di Maria, but the pick of the bunch was Mesut Ozil.
On the back of an outstanding World Cup with Germany, Ozil would forge a reputation as one of the greatest playmakers of his generation.
Perhaps his height combined with a lack of pace and physicality gave off something of a languid impression, and Ozil never quite got the credit he was due following a relatively underwhelming spell at Arsenal, but the German was a creative machine under Mourinho.
In three seasons at the Bernabeu, Ozil ranked second, first and second in La Liga’s assist charts, and his time in Madrid would’ve been much more successful but for the presence of arguably football’s greatest ever team.
When Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge, there were some familiar faces in Petr Cech, Ashely Cole, John Terry and Frank Lampard. But they were all in their 30s, and everything else was brand new.
Joe Cole had been replaced by Eden Hazard; Michael Essien had been replaced by Nemanja Matic; Didier Drogba had been replaced by Fernando Torres.
Chelsea had a strong squad, no question; after all, they’d finished third the previous season despite replacing Roberto Di Matteo with Rafa Benitez partway through the campaign and would still go on to win the Europa League.
But the side sorely lacked firepower. Demba Ba had impressed at Newcastle but wasn’t quite Chelsea standard. Mourinho brought in Samuel Eto’o who was long past his best, and Torres never came close to recapturing his Liverpool form.
They’d stumble in the title race late on and despite only conceding 27 goals, they’d score 30 and 31 fewer than Liverpool and Manchester City. The problem area was obvious.
While Cesc Fabregas brought creativity and composure to the middle of the field, Diego Costa was the missing piece of the puzzle. A snarling, aggressive, bully of a centre forward who defenders would hate to face, Costa had the strength, speed, tenacity and goalscoring prowess to guide Chelsea to a title.
Costa scored 20 goals at a rate of 0.87 per 90, and while, like everyone else at Chelsea, he endured a wretched title defence, he was back to his best the following season under Antonio Conte, scoring another 20 goals as Chelsea won a second title in three years.
Upon his arrival at the San Siro, Jose Mourinho made only three major signings; enough to secure a fourth straight Scudetto, but the squad wasn’t yet ready to compete in Europe, losing to eventual finalists Manchester United in the last-16.
Mourinho’s striking options in his first season consisted of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, an increasingly injury-affected Adriano and a 33-year-old Hernan Crespo.
All three would depart and be replaced by Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o the following season.
Mourinho, as he had at Chelsea, preferred to pack the midfield, often leaving room for only once centre forward. Samuel Eto’o, one of the world’s best strikers, was sacrificed to play out wide, scoring just 16 goals in all competitions.
It left Diego Milito leading the line. Now 30 years old, Milito had scored an impressive 77 league goals across his last four campaigns for Real Zaragoza and Genoa, but saved his best campaign for Inter.
Milito didn’t have the longevity of some of Mourinho’s other signings, but it was his Champions League goals in the last-16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and brace in the final that saw Inter complete a historic treble.
There’s a tendency to remember players based on their later years as opposed to how good they were at their peak, and while Petr Cech played at a high level throughout his career, it shouldn’t be forgotten how good he was when Jose Mourinho signed him.
His first season saw him concede just 13 goals in 35 games, going on to win back-to-back titles in his first two campaigns. While the Chelsea defence will go down as arguably the best in Premier League history, Cech was no bystander.
Cynics might point out that Cech always had a strong back line which meant he’d typically keep more clean sheets than his contemporaries, but Cech’s save percentage was consistently outstanding. He ranked first in the Premier League in his first, second, third and fifth seasons and was second in his fourth (behind Edwin van der Sar).
While Peter Schmeichel is widely accepted as the best keeper in the competition’s history, there’s a good argument that Cech is next on the list.
It could be argued that of all of Jose Mourinho’s signings, none had a bigger, more immediate impact than that of Wesley Sneijder.
Having made a name for himself at Ajax, Sneijder’s move to Real Madrid didn’t quite work out, with Real selling Sneijder for half of what they paid just two years earlier.
Mourinho, now in his second season at Inter, had one of the world’s best playmakers at his disposal and Sneijder would have the year of his life.
So good was Sneijder that season that the shock wasn’t that he didn’t make the top three in the Ballon d’Or, but that he didn’t win it outright.
While Milito scored the goals that took Inter to the treble, Sneijder was the orchestrator.
Few players could leave a club like Barcelona, where they’d scored more than 100 league goals in five seasons at a rate of 0.81 per 90, to join a club like Inter, and be convinced by their manager that they’d be playing on the wing.
Then again, few managers would even try.
The Eto’o deal turned out to be one of the greatest transfers in recent football history. As good as Ibrahimovic was, Eto’o was every bit his equal if not his superior, yet Barcelona forked out £40m for Ibrahimovic (enough for Inter to sign Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder) and handed over Eto’o in the process.
Owing to his desire to play one central striker, Mourinho deployed Eto’o out wide, limiting his goalscoring abilities, but he’d utilise Eto’s lightning pace and excellent work rate to create a team that would win the treble.
Although Eto’o wouldn’t steal the headlines with the goals like he did at Barcelona, he played a crucial role in Inter’s greatest-ever season.
Though Luka Modric only played under Mourinho for one season, there’s an argument the Croatian is Mourinho’s best-ever signing.
His one and only season with Mourinho was one of a number of near misses; a Champions League semi-final exit to Dortmund, a Copa del Rey extra-time final loss to Atletico Madrid, and a runner-up finish in La Liga to Barcelona.
Nevertheless, Modric’s influence at Real Madrid would be felt for the next decade, as a crucial part of the team that won five Champions Leagues in nine years as well as three league titles and two Copa del Rey crowns with Modric even winning the Ballon d’Or.
Interestingly, despite being one of the best midfielders in history, he’s never managed double figures for goals or assists in a season, and he’s never been the tough-tackling midfielder whose presence is felt elsewhere.
But Modric is a player who transcends statistics with his qualities visible for all to see, and he’ll undoubtedly go down as one of Real Madrid’s – and indeed football’s – all-time greats.
Over the years, Jose Mourinho carved out a reputation as something akin to a cult leader to a number of his players. The clip of him hugging Marco Materazzi in tears after the Champions League final is almost as famous as the win itself. Former Porto striker Benni McCarthy described Mourinho as a father figure; as did Roma frontman Tammy Abraham. John Terry even admitted the Chelsea players cried after his sacking in 2007.
But it’s hard to imagine any player in the Chelsea dressing room took it harder than Didier Drogba.
Mourinho’s ultimate foot soldier, Drogba was signed for £24m – no small fee in 2004 – and led the line as Chelsea won their first league title in 50 years. Chelsea made it back-to-back crowns the following season, before falling short of a resurgent Manchester United in 2007, despite Drogba’s 20 goals.
Mourinho’s dismissal in the autumn of 2007 hit Drogba hard, and he suffered a lull over the next two seasons, but hit back with a ridiculous 39 goals and assists as Chelsea won a third Premier League in 2010.
Drogba was much more than the numbers, however; Drogba was about the moments. Arsenal’s ultimate nemesis, the Ivorian netted 13 goals in 15 games against the Gunners but it was the cup finals where Drogba shone.
Starting in four FA Cup finals, Drogba scored the winner in 2007, the equaliser in 2009, the winner in 2010 and the winner in 2012, lifting the trophy on all four occasions. In the League Cup, Drogba started three finals, giving Chelsea the lead in 2005, scoring a brace as Chelsea came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 in 2007 and even scored in the losing 2008 effort.
Then of course there was the Champions League final.
Not content with saccoring a dramatic equaliser with their backs against the wall, Drogba would step up to take the winning penalty, downing Bayern Munich in their own backyard.
With nine starts in cup finals, Drogba scored nine goals and won eight of them.
A Chelsea legend, and Mourinho’s greatest-ever signing.