Soccer

"We are seeing a split in elite European football" - Graham Hunter on Mourinho

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

14:35 20 Feb 2020

Discussing Tottenham's loss to RB Leipzig last night, Graham Hunter believes that the clash signifies a fault line in elite European football - and Jose Mourinho may lose out.

Hunter spoke to OTB AM after Spurs' 1-0 loss against a motivated German side, playing intense attacking football - and he believes that a 'split' in philosophy is becoming ever-more evident.

"People keep talking about whether [Mourinho] is in the past; whether time has passed him by," said Hunter.

"One of the things that Mourinho stands for is that when his sides were at their best, they were brilliantly organised; each player was messianically-devoted to their leader and they played with what was considered then as a massive intensity.

"There are sides now in Europe - Atalanta being one, Liverpool being another and I thought Leipzig were one - that play a brand of football that is really clear-cut, it is systematic but they play at massive speed.

"Nagelsmann's theory is that you have the ball and win the ball as quickly as possible, which we have all heard from Marcelo Bielsa and Pep Guardiola, but instead of pulling teams apart - as Guardiola - you go at teams.

"Without casting mud at Mourinho, Spurs were second everywhere last night not because of a lack of quality but because there are teams playing with intensity."

Mourinho style

This is, in part, evident in the footballing styles seen in England's elite game and the Bundesliga.

"Even though Premier League football is held to be very end-to-end and open [...] we are looking at a real split in elite European football. How do you want your team to play?"

Hunter made the point that the demands on individual players and collective teams dictate whether clubs are in a position to play like this over the course of several seasons.

"There is a disparity between those teams that can opt to play that way and those that have to be a little bit cannier and shrewder about not just the intensity, but the speed, of their play.

"Timo Werner is an example - he plays at massive speed.

"I don't think that he is the most sophisticated striker we have seen recently and his finishing is not elite-level yet, as he himself admits.

"Yet, Liverpool are patently thinking about buying him because he represents that new brand of football.

"[Leipzig's] system - and their core belief - is where the most punishing teams in Europe are at."

As for Mourinho's explanations of where Tottenham are as a club, Hunter believes that a proper appraisal can wait until the end of the season - but he gives Mourinho's explanations short shrift.

"I don't like the excuses," he said.

"I don't like the way he is saying 'It isn't me, the injuries are too much, the players are dead on their feed - I'm not a great fan of that."

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