I will never forget my first encounter with Jose Mourinho.
It was in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium during the 2005 League Cup Final, and the Chelsea manager rushed to the technical area to accuse my teammate, Luis Garcia, of diving.
Dashing to the scene, I let rip.
"Don't you f—— start about diving," I shouted. "Your Porto side was the f—— worst."
The altercation lasted 30 seconds. The Chelsea and Liverpool fans loved it.
Chelsea beat us after extra-time and I was distraught. After the game Mourinho found me. His mood was much different as he offered me his commiserations.
"You know I was just fighting for my team, don't you?" he said.
This was just the start of the Liverpool versus Chelsea rivalry which peaked in later Champions League encounters. By the time of the 2007 European Cup semi-final, the barbs were frequent.
"Mourinho is the funniest thing to come out of London since Del Boy," I told the media, knowing our crowd would be whipped up by the presence of the incoming pantomime villain. "Fighting for my team," which Jose would appreciate as we emerged winners.
Although it never seemed that way in the heat of battle, the mutual respect was massive. Other than Sir Alex Ferguson's best Manchester United teams, in my playing career I never faced a side that so epitomised the personality of their coach as Chelsea between 2004-07. I knew within a few weeks of Mourinho moving to Stamford Bridge that had he ever joined Liverpool I would have loved working for him as much as I did my favourite club managers. There was not a player in England who did not feel that way then, including those at United. The Chelsea players thought of him in the same way Liverpool's do Jurgen Klopp today.
Mourinho was the manager of the decade between 2000-10, changing English and European football, and I admired the street-fighting quality of his coaching .
When he joined Real Madrid in 2010, Mourinho went head-to-head with the best side in football history in Pep Guardiola's Barcelona and still won La Liga. That took guts as well as immense skill.
I saw aspects of my own sporting character in Mourinho, and it has been a pleasure to meet him and understand him more since my retirement as a player. I once spent time with him in the Real Madrid team hotel, invited with my son James, where he asked my opinion on how Manchester United would set up against his team in the next day's Champions League round-of-16 clash. I saw someone always thinking about the game, always second guessing and wondering where he could find that extra five per cent. Whatever supporters' thoughts on his tactics, Mourinho is a football man who will do whatever it takes to win, and demands the same from those around him.
When Jose was United's manager he invited me to the Carrington training ground where we talked about the modern game and challenges of getting his current squad to become warriors like John Terry and Didier Drogba at Chelsea.
We shared stories about one of our pet hates – players who refuse to play with slight injuries.
"I can't stand it when someone is out with what they call ‘a knock’. I don’t even believe they are injured," I said. Jose agreed. He is cut from the same cloth.
Then he lamented how a lot of modern players are untouchable, making it more difficult to enforce discipline.
At the time, France were about to win the World Cup.
"Imagine what Pogba will be like when he gets back!" he joked.
Our most recent meeting was at Goodison Park last week before what proved to be his final game in charge of Tottenham Hotspur. I was standing alongside the Sky TV reporter pre-match when he quizzed Jose on his formation.
"Jamie can work it out when the game starts," he nodded in my direction.
Why am I referencing all this as if his management career is over? Because in the aftermath of Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur sacking there is more focus on what he is no longer achieving rather than how much he has already done. Say what you want about his recent record. It does not change the fact Mourinho is one of the greatest coaches of all time.
Now it is over at Spurs , he deserves that recognition as part of a respectful goodbye from English football because I do not see how Jose ever works again in the Premier League. He has managed three of the 'big six' and the other three would never hire him. He does not strike me as someone interested in joining a 'project' that does not offer a realistic chance of winning the biggest prizes.
The events at Spurs will not tarnish his Premier League legacy. Only Ferguson has won more Premier League titles than Mourinho, who became the first to be a champion in England, Spain and Italy – as well as winning the Champions League with two different clubs.
Because Ferguson retired at the top after three decades of success at Aberdeen and United, we wrongly presume this is true of all the legends. It is more usual to suffer a dip later in a career, as Mourinho has 18 years after his first Portuguese title.
Johan Cruyff was sacked in 1996 after going trophyless in his final two years at Barcelona. Arrigo Sacchi finished 11th in his final season as AC Milan manager, and oversaw poor spells at Atletico Madrid and Parma. Closer to home, Brian Clough's management career with Nottingham Forest ended in relegation.
All found it difficult to maintain their level as the game evolved. Their greatness as managers surpassed that.
Ultimately, the spread of Guardiola's and Jurgen Klopp's philosophy has rendered the pragmatism of Jose's football outdated, which is a problem every coach fighting off the next generation must deal with. He may revive himself again in another country or at international level, but supporters, players and owners crave front-footed football now. Mourinho's sides were at their best as belligerent, winning machines. His downfall at United and Spurs has been his inability to build a team to buy into his philosophy and bleed for him like the Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan players.
Tottenham appointed him to bring some of that to North London, prepared to compromise their traditional style to eke out one trophy for a team in decline prior to Mauricio Pochettino's exit. That's why the timing of Mourinho's sacking is bizarre. A win over Manchester City at Wembley before a summer handshake would have made more sense. No-one will convince me Spurs’ chances in a final would not be higher with Mourinho in the technical area, fighting for his team and taking on any rival centre-half shouting expletives in his direction.
Spurs and United fans will say Mourinho will not be missed. For the rest of us, his personality will be . He has an aura unlike other managers, sprinkling gold dust in every interview, regardless of whether you agree with his comments.
Without the box office manager of his generation, the interview zones and technical areas of England are already less colourful. If Jose Mourinho has managed his final league game in England, we should say this; love him or loathe him, it was special.
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