Do mind games actually have an impact in football?
By Joe Harker
Football is not just played on the pitch, but also in press conferences between managers. Many football managers, particularly Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, like to play mind games with their counterparts.
Mourinho recently attempted to play mind games over the European Super Cup tie against Real Madrid, his comments being part of his plan to find out whether Gareth Bale was for sale.
Mourinho suggested that Bale, who suffered a minor injury a few days earlier, would not be sold by Real Madrid if he started the Super Cup game. His comments were impossible for Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane to ignore, as there was no way he would not be asked about them at a press conference. Zidane had not started Bale in any of Real Madrid's three cup finals last season, but he picked the Welsh forward as Real Madrid beat Manchester United 2-1.
Wales Online believes Mourinho's mind games have backfired, with any chance of signing the player now "dead". If Mourinho was daring Zidane to make a statement by picking or dropping Bale, it does not seem to have happened that way. Bale started the match and said he was very happy at Real Madrid, while Zidane did not make a big deal of including the forward in his starting lineup. Any response Mourinho was hoping to prokove does not appear to have surfaced.
Mourinho admits that his conduct is all about mind games, and he has targeted several fellow managers with them, particularly Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. In both of his stints at Chelsea, Mourinho targeted Wenger with regular derogatory comments. The "specialist in failure" jibe has stuck, and may follow Wenger throughout the rest of his career. Mourinho said: "Everything I say and do are mind games. The only thing that is not mind games are the results."
However, Mourinho has been managing for a long time, and new managers are less likely to engage in mind games. ESPN reports that they are no longer a staple of the Premier League, with younger managers more focused on their own teams rather than trying to make jibes at other managers. They may be passionate on the touchline, but are often more jovial in the press conference.
Do mind games in football work, or are managers just making tiresome fools of themselves?