League Cup still has prestige for trophy-hunting Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho

After Spurs' semi-final win over Brentford, Portuguese coach makes it clear he wants to win English football’s third-best prize

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The beauty of any piece of silverware is in the eye of the beholder. The League Cup may be English football’s third-best prize in terms of prestige, but as of Tuesday night it had a dazzling gleam even for a manager with league titles in four different countries and has won Europe’s leading club competition twice.

For all those decorations, and the moments in his career when Jose Mourinho has spoken in withering terms of certain prizes – “the Europa League would be a disappointment for me,” he said when Rafa Benitez won it at Chelsea in 2013.

The Europa League suddenly looked more handsome four years later when Mourinho’s Manchester United lifted it – he recognises that context applies the shiniest polish to a trophy.

Twenty-one years ago, when a young, ambitious Mourinho was promoted, for an evening, from assistant coach to Louis Van Gaal at Barcelona to main man in the technical area to take charge of the low-key Catalan Cup final, it certainly did.

No matter that Barca merely needed to beat lower-division Mataro to win a strictly regional trophy. It was Mourinho’s first Cup that he could call his own. That made it a very special one.

As a manager he has won 17 knockout competitions, including those two Champions League titles, with Porto and Inter Milan, Uefa Cup/Europa League gold medals with Porto and Manchester United and the main domestic Cup in each of the four countries he has worked in – Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.

Add the clean sweep of Super Cups, or Community Shield, one-offs – and Mourinho likes those to be counted – and the league titles, and Mourinho is averaging close to a trophy for each year he has been working as a manager.

The club Mourinho has guided to the final of the League Cup, where they will meet Manchester City old foe from Manchester, are not so blessed.

The drought of trophies at Tottenham Hotspur, whose last success in a final was the 2008 EFL Cup, is a notorious burden. It was to that long wait a jubilant Mourinho addressed himself after Brentford had been beaten 2-0 in a semi-final that advertised the sound organisation and drive he has instilled at Spurs.

The lesser of the English Cups matters to every club, Mourinho emphasised. Winning it endorses pedigree. “If you see the winners [list] you realise the big clubs want it,” he said. “Who was the last winner apart from the normal top six? Swansea.” That was back in 2013. “I remember Man City winning a lot of times, Chelsea winning a lot of times, I remember United winning a few times. I remember Liverpool in finals, and Arsenal.”

The list of winners over the last seven years heavily features City. The list over the last 16 seasons features another serial champion repeatedly, too: Mourinho.


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Three times he lifted the League Cup, as it is also known, at Chelsea, twice in an era when league titles were still scarce there.

In his second Stamford Bridge spell he won it again. Four seasons ago, the League Cup was the first of his knockout successes at Manchester United. In all, no manager has won the competition more than Jose Mourinho, and if he wins it a fifth time, he will overtake a pair of immortals in Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough.

If he was brought to Tottenham, mid-season in late 2019, principally to ensure top-four status in the Premier League, his reliable habit of collecting silverware addressed a nagging concern. The record of rapid impact is stunning: At every club Mourinho has joined, a trophy has been achieved in his first full season in charge.

To what did he owe that special knack? “There is no secret. I came to England [to Chelsea] in 2004 and I had to learn the meaning of the cups here. If there is any secret it's to take it seriously. I sense in the team exactly that desire.

“I'm not saying ‘winning mentality’, I'm not saying we are ‘this’ or ‘that’. I just say the guys, since the first game against Chelsea, then Stoke, and now [against Brentford] took it seriously.”

Take it as guaranteed: Wherever Spurs – who have finished runners-up in the Champions League, the Premier League and in a League Cup final all within the last six years – find themselves in the Premier League table, in the Europa League or FA Cup, when April’s EFL Cup final comes around, they will approach it very seriously indeed.