Johan Cruyff and his Total Football approach has influenced the sport arguably more than any player, manager or tactic in history. At Ajax and Barcelona he the preached the gospel of possession heavy, high pressing football, a way of playing still used by both clubs. Cruyff has many disciples but none more loyal or more successful than Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola went from star pupil to master, evolving and updating the style for the 21st century. While Guardiola embraced Cruyff’s ideology, another who started his footballing journey at Barcelona flat out rejected them. That man was José Mourinho.
Referred to as the ‘Fallen Angel of Post-Cruyffian Barcelona' by Jonathan Wilson, Mourinho grew to loathe the Catalan club, eventually becoming its biggest enemy as he led arch rivals Real Madrid into numerous battles against Guardiola’s Barca. During those contests, Mourinho would employ a functional win-at-all-costs style of football. Even during his time at Chelsea, Mourinho became synonymous with a particular defensive structure: the mid-block. His detractors called it pragmatic while he insisted it was reactive, an approach that gave his side the best chance of winning.
Over the years the mid-block has become accepted, adopted and adjusted by many including the coaching staff at England’s St. Georges Park. In Football Manager 2020, we too can utilise the mid-block while racking up a CV worthy of the Special One.