Richard Buxton: Jose Mourinho will give Tottenham an edge in Europe
Forget defeat by Bayern, Tottenham manager will come alive in knockout stages
Do not be fooled by Tottenham Hotspur's muted end to their Champions League group campaign.
A 3-1 defeat at Bayern Munich yesterday morning (Singapore time) will invariably draw some premature autopsies and inquisitions into Jose Mourinho's formative months at the helm.
But Mourinho is most dangerous after people have largely written him off, particularly when it comes to European competitions where his sides appear largely unfancied to progress.
Spurs' place in the Round of 16 had been assured long before they stepped out at the Allianz Arena, yet the overriding denouement was that the Special One has plenty of work still to do.
That is exactly what he would want the detractors to believe.
Lulling critics into a false sense of security has increasingly become a hallmark of Mourinho's latter-stage coaching career.
Almost all of the players that came through a second ordeal against the Bundesliga champions in Europe's premier club competition are likely to find themselves on the fringes by the time the Lilywhites' fate is confirmed in Monday's draw.
Ryan Sessegnon will be a notable exception, having opened his account on a first start since a £25 million (S$44.7m) switch across the English capital from Fulham during the summer.
Yet Juan Foyth's torrid ordeal against a Serge Gnabry-inspired Bayern promises to be a more reliable indicator.
Mourinho has routinely championed unlikely candidates; at Manchester United, he singled out Scott McTominay for the level of praise which was festooned on the Argentinian centre-back.
True to the football hipster code, he is not drawn to the appeal of mercurial and vaunted talents.
Given how Christian Eriksen continued to underwhelm in Bavaria, it is probably just as well.
The Denmark international shares an unlikely commonality with Mourinho by drinking in the last chance saloon, but virtually sealed his own long-term fate at Tottenham on what should have been a redemptive first full outing under Mauricio Pochettino's replacement.
PERSONA NON GRATA
Should there be no suitors for him in the January transfer window, as appears likely, Eriksen would render himself persona non grata in north London.
His manager's notoriety for cutting away perceived negativity ensures there is no way back.
Antonio Valencia can attest to that after being frozen out by Mourinho during his final half-season in the Old Trafford hot seat, amid accusations over an apparent lack of match fitness.
That ruthlessness will serve Tottenham in good stead as the Champions League's knockout stages kick off in the New Year, as will their manager's personal sense of history.
Last season's finalists are better placed with Mourinho to repeat the feat than his predecessor.
Exactly a decade since he last stood triumphantly on the winners' podium, Mourinho's hardened mentality will kick in, unlike his apathy towards yesterday's Group B dead-rubber.
The chance to join an illustrious fraternity of managers who have lifted the European Cup three times is already set to be firmly imprinted in his mind, especially that elite group includes the two men whose Real Madrid tenures overshadowed his own, in Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti.
Snatching the continental crown from Juergen Klopp and Liverpool makes the prospect all the more appealing to the former Chelsea and United boss.
Despite his public declarations of being a changed man, Mourinho remains a stone-cold winner at heart - and the Champions League will again bring out the best and worst in him.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE LAST 16
GROUP WINNERS: Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Juventus, Liverpool, Barcelona, RB Leipzig, Valencia
RUNNERS-UP: Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, Atalanta, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, Lyon, Chelsea
TEAMS DROPPING TO EUROPA LEAGUE
Club Brugge, Olympiakos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Red Bull Salzburg, Inter Milan, Benfica, Ajax Amsterdam