Jose Mourinho was left “concerned” after his Tottenham team were dumped out of the Europa League by Dinamo Zagreb but he laid the blame solely with his players.
Spurs had one foot in the quarter-finals after last week’s 2-0 first-leg win, but they crumbled in Croatia and succumbed to Mislav Orsic’s sensational hat-trick, going out 3-2 on aggregate after extra time.
Even at half-time of the second leg it seemed unthinkable that Spurs would not progress, but Orsic struck twice in the second half to level the scores up and then won it in the additional period.
What made it even more unbelievable is that Dinamo’s manager Zoran Mamic was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison on Monday and was forced to resign.
Mourinho’s side could not take advantage of the disruption in the Zagreb camp though and he was left concerned by their attitude for a second successive game, having also questioned their desire in Sunday’s north London derby defeat to Arsenal.
In a cryptic answer, he said: “Of course it concerns me. Of course it concerns me. We worked very hard, we tried to provide the best conditions for the players to perform. Of course it concerns me.
“My position as a head coach is the position that stops me, or at least makes me uncomfortable to come in front of the cameras and go deep in analysis. I hope you can understand that.
“I believe all of us have to be humble enough to accept any criticism that you can make of our work. It is not for me to go on that.
“They played with a lot of desire that I can call it also professionalism, because for me professionalism starts exactly in the attitude. To be a professional you must have attitude every day and in every minute of every game.
“Then more talent, less talent makes a difference between players but what is never negotiable is attitude and they beat us on attitude.”
Going out means that any hopes of silverware this season now rest with a Carabao Cup final against Manchester City next month.
But even winning that might not prove sufficient as their European exit closes one avenue into next season’s Champions League and their Premier League form is unlikely to present another as they remain off the pace in the top-four race.
Mourinho added on BT Sport: “To say I am sad is not enough. What I feel goes much further than sadness.
“I just left the Dinamo dressing room where I went to praise their guys and feel sorry that one team that is not my team won the game based on attitude and compromised so I feel more than sad. That’s it.
“Football is not just about players who think they have more talent than others. I believe the players only realised the game was in risk when they scored the second and it went to extra time.
“If I forget the last 10 minutes of extra time where we did something to get a different result and go through, in the 90 minutes and in the first half of extra time was one team that decided to leave everything on the pitch, they left everything there, sweat, energy, blood.
You 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱 to listen to his Jose Mourinho interview 😳
He wears his heart on his sleeve as he looks at a horrible night for the club… pic.twitter.com/Wwi2THhPBH
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 18, 2021
“At the end of the game even left tears of happiness. And I have to praise them.
“My team, I repeat, my team, I am there, that didn’t look like they were playing an important match.
Mourinho prepared players for Orsic
“If for any one of them it is not an important match, for me it is, for the respect I have for my own career and for my own job, every match is an important match. I believe for every Tottenham fan at home every match matters and another attitude is needed.”
Asked about Orsic’s game and his three goals, Mourinho said his side had been warned.
“The first thing I tell you, which you can believe or not believe. My players they watch and watch and watch Orsic actions during his career,” added Mourinho.
“We prepared with analysts clips of the qualities of every player and the goals that Orsic scored I saw them all, I watched them all and my players watched them all. I don’t know what to say, all I can say is that the first goal I watched it before, the second goal I watched it before and the third goal I watched it before.
“That is the only thing I can say. I prepared my players to play against Orsic, I gave them all information to play against him and that is the only thing I can say. Congratulations to him because it is a great night for him.”