Jose Mourinho is undoubtedly one of the best football managers of his generation, if not of all time, and, although his methods and philosophy can often split opinion, the vast array of titles and trophies that he has won across Europe attests to his talent.
The Portuguese maestro rose to fame in Portugal with FC Porto, leading the club to Champions League glory, before stints in Spain, where his Real Madrid team won La Liga with a record points haul, Italy, where he secured a historic treble with Inter Milan, and in England with Chelsea and now Manchester United.
Mourinho was able to secure domestic and European cup successes in his debut season with Old Trafford but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to inspire the club to a first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Mourinho is renowned for his acumen in the transfer market and, although critics will always point to the extensive financial support he has received from clubs during his managerial career, he has a reputation of purchasing players and maximising their productivity and potential.
The FC Porto team that he built was a youthful group of unknown players whilst at Inter Milan he purchased aging players that he felt able to squeeze a last once of talent out of.
At Chelsea, he purchased and developed the likes of Arjen Robben, Didier Drogba and Nemanja Matic and at Old Trafford his initial purchase look to have the potential to make a definitive impact.
However, as with any football manager, Mourinho is no immune to making errors in the transfer market. It is significant that two of the Premier League’s outstanding performers so far this campaign, Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah, were both prematurely sold earlier in their careers by the Portuguese coach.
Here, The Boot Room looks at four players that Jose Mourinho sold too soon.
Kevin de Bruyne – Chelsea
When Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge for his second spell in charge of Chelsea Kevin de Bruyne was already on the club’s books. The Belgium midfielder had emerged as one of Europe’s brightest young stars in his native homeland with Genk prior to a £6.7 million move to West London in the summer of 2012. He was immediately loaned out to Bundesliga side Werder Bremen and his return to Stamford Bridge the following summer coincided with the arrival of Mourinho.
However, de Bruyne failed to cement a regular starting role in Mourinho’s new-look team and was sold by the Portuguese coach after less than half a season. Wolfsburg bought the midfielder in January 2014 for £18 million and he was able to reignite his career in Germany, where he set a new Bundesliga record for assists in a season, eventually leading to Manchester City splashing £55 million to secure his services just eighteen months later.
De Bruyne has flourished at the Etihad Stadium and has blossomed into one of the best creative midfielder players in Europe and, at just 26 years of age, his career has barely begun. However, that will lead to Chelsea supporters wondering what could have been had Mourinho given the Belgian playmaker more time to develop at Stamford Bridge prior to showing him the exit.
Mohamed Salah – Chelsea
Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah arrived at Stamford Bridge in January 2014 after forging a reputation as a direct, pacey wide-player in Switzerland with FC Basel. Chelsea paid £11 million to secure his signature and there were genuine hopes that he would inject some additional impetus and energy into The Blues’ title charge.
However, Salah would make just six Premier League starts in eighteen months at Stamford Bridge with his route into the starting eleven blocked by the flourishing duo of Eden Hazard and Willian. The Egyptian was eventually deemed surplus to requirements by Mourinho who shipped him out on loan to Roma, who would eventually turn the move into a permanent transfer.
It was in Italy that Salah rediscovered his previous form and he became a key component of Roma’s attacking unit as the club attempted to close the gap between themselves and Juventus at the top of Serie A. His performances led to Liverpool investing £34 million to bring him to Anfield in the summer where he has started the season with 12 goals in 17 appearances.
Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea
When Chelsea signed Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2011 they were purchasing one of the hottest young prospects in European football. He had risen to prominence with Anderlecht where his pace, power, physicality and eye for goal allowed him to become a first team regular despite only being in his teenage years.
However, Lukaku was never handed any significant game time during his spell with Stamford Bridge and was shipped out on loan to West Bromwich Albion and Everton where he demonstrated his ability with a deluge of goals at each club. This failed to impress Mourinho who opted to sell the striker to The Toffees for £28 million in the summer of 2014. Lukaku flourished at Goodison Park and became the key figure in Everton’s attack, averaging a goal every other game, which eventually led to Manchester United, now managed ironically by Mourinho, spending an initial £75 million to secure his services.
If only Mourinho had rated Lukaku so highly back in 2014 – the Portuguese maestro had a ready-made striker on his hands that had proven capable of scoring in the Premier League during his time out on loan and yet he chose to sell him. On reflection, Chelsea sold what would become one of Europe’s best strikers.
Ryan Bertrand – Chelsea
Chelsea are not a club that is renowned for progressing talented youngsters through their extensive academy system and into the first team and, like many starlets before him, Ryan Bertrand found his route into Jose Mourinho’s team blocked by more prestigious names. The left back was considered by many onlookers to have the potential to be the next Ashley Cole but his career at Stamford Bridge never really got off the ground.
Bertrand was shipped out on loan nine times during eight years and made less than thirty appearances for the The Blues in almost a decade of being contracted with the club. It was Mourinho that elected to sell the defender to Southampton for £10 million in the summer of 2015 and he has since blossomed on the South coast into one of the best fullbacks in the Premier League and also cementing a place in the England squad.
Mourinho may have been left wondering why he did not provide Bertrand with more playing opportunities at Stamford Bridge and the decision to sell the defender is even more peculiar considering that Chelsea spent a significant sum on his replacement, Baba Rahman. The Ghanaian never truly looked like a player capable of performing at an elite club and he was swiftly moved on after just one season, whilst Bertrand continued to flourish with The Saints.