Back with a bang? Is this a new Jose Mourinho at Chelsea?
Over 250 journalists packed themselves into a specially prepared room at Stamford Bridge in South London to listen to the first immortal words Jose Mourinho would utter on his official return as Chelsea’s new manager.
Would they be as symbolic as ‘I’m a special one’? Would he unleash a chastising attack on his former employer Real Madrid, a place where the sparkle in Mourinho’s eye appeared to vanish? Would he dare try and call Sir Alex Ferguson out of retirement and challenge him to one last duel to the Premier League title?
Anything was possible in the minds of the waiting throng of reporters that had traveled from across the globe with the hope of catching the few sound bites that could define a chapter in the Premier League’s media driven history.
“I am the happy one,” he began.
That’s what everyone waited for? That’s what thousands of football fans ducked out of work or strategically took their lunch breaks to hear? “I am the happy one?”
It wasn’t the 50 minutes the world’s media was hoping for, but Jose rarely sticks to the script. In a calm and peaceful manner, Mourinho addressed the heaving pressroom with an air of professionalism that few rarely recall coming through during his previous spell in London. The arrogance of nine years ago was gone, replaced by the maturity and collected thoughts of a man who, at the age of 50, has wised up to the managerial game and has learnt the pitfalls that can come from an abrasive and brash opening to a spell at a high profile job. Perhaps his time in Madrid - after living through the eye gouging, the bickering with Pep Guardiola, surviving the taunts and abuse of his players and the writers who penned their words to paper – had brought him down to earth and taught the two time Champions League winner that his old, often arrogant and outspoken ways, might not be the right manner in which to start this new chapter in his life.
It would appear that it runs even deeper than that. That Mourinho is a manager who has evolved since he last was employed in England.
Mourinho’s behavious on Monday morning were akin to the musings of a person who packed up their home life and job at 24 to see the world, before returning after traveling for a number of years. More than just the gap year student who went away to South East Asia for cheap thrills and to ‘find themselves’, Mourinho appears to have truly released a pent up dream from his system. A dream to travel the football world’s elite leagues, be successful there and use the collective experience to become a wiser, better educated football manager.
“When I was managing for the first time I was thinking that I knew everything,” Jose recalled.
“After 13 years you realise that, at that time, you knew nothing and you have to learn every day and my adventure around Europe was fantastic for me. England Italy and Spain, different cultures, different mentalities, different clubs, different players, different leagues, different tactics, different media, different everything, was a fantastic period for me.
“You have to learn with experiences. I think experience in life is something very very important, especially if you visit in the right way.
“In football I analyze myself everyday, as a manager, as a leader, as a member of a club, I analyze myself everyday, I try to learn and I try to improve.”
Mourinho hopes he has can pool his new found knowledge of European football and use it to create a new legacy at Chelsea, but, after spending no more than three full seasons at each of his last three clubs, Jose is looking for a long term commitment to the club he has called, along with Inter Milan, his home.
“I am prepared for that [stability in long term management] because before I wasn’t because I had always this mentality.
“I was always a little bit of a navigator, but I did what I want to do. I always wanted to do it, I needed a special family which I have, they gave me the stability I needed to go around Europe, to live in Italy, to live in Spain, to live in England, to live in Portugal.
“I wanted very much to win the three most important leagues, the three most important cups, I wanted very much to do it. More than that I wanted to have the experience.”
Some called Mourinho’s press conference ‘dull’ and ‘drab’ compared to what we were expecting to hear. There was no slander of Los Blancos, even when pressed about his relationship and eventual fallout with the club’s influential captain Iker Casillias, although he did pause when discussing Real Madrid and the positive impact his travels have had on his career since he was last at the Bridge.
“It was a sad moment [to leave Chelsea], of course it was a sad moment but I don’t regret that decision because after that I went to Inter where I had probably the best moment of my career and after that I went to Madrid where…….um…… we have still the record of the best team in Spanish history.”
There was still too, a message to Roman Abramovich tucked away in his answer to a question about what had been discussed between he and the Russian billionaire owner before the signing of his new four-year contract, as he reminded the owner, and the public, just who was in charge of what happens on the pitch.
“I think my relationship with the owner has to be private. What we discuss has to be private, and not just with him, also with the board.
“The point is that we all want the same, we are all in the same direction. It’s a moment where is think that maturity, very good feelings, the same perspective of the future for the club, of course my area is the sports area, the football area but more and more and more in the world of football you have to be deeply connected with other areas in the club.”
It’s only just the beginning of Jose’s second coming to the Bridge and those who were expecting fireworks again straight from the get go should remember that this is not a Mourinho who is coming from the top of European football, nor is he the young, debonair leader he once was. A genuine maturity has graced the Portuguese manager along with an appreciation, possibly, of a home where he genuinely feels wanted - a comfort Madrid failed to provide in his final 12-months in the Spanish capital. He is, though, still Jose and the devilish smile and Mediterranean charm that graced the back pages and captivated football fans across the country was still present in small doses.
“Do you enjoy this part of your job?” was one question fired towards him midway through the conference.
“No, but it’s part of my job and again, you have to prioritize,” joked the now ‘Happy One’ as 250 journalists smirked along with him.
“I know I have to do it and I try to do the best I can, I try to give what you want but I cannot give a big headline because I didn’t come here today for that, but to try to be open to try to be honest as I always am and to try to give you what you are expecting from me in this moment, but what I really want to do is work, and many of the questions I believe you have for me will be based on work so please, lets do it fast and let me go.
“Will I have a different personality? No absolutely no. But will I have a different approach and a different way of looking at things? And again, I repeat, I am the same personality the same nature but a different perspective.”
Monday’s meeting with the media will be the first of many to see if former translator-turned-manager has really learnt to calm down and mature with the media. He, though, as he says, I still the same Jose, something a lot of us are looking forward to seeing in the Premiership once again.