The Father Returns, but it’s Mourinho who needs Chelsea
“We’re going to win the league next season!!!!”
That was the text message I received from a Chelsea fan minutes after he discovered that the prodigal son, Jose Mourinho, would be returning to Stamford Bridge this summer after signing a four-year long deal.
Chelsea fans will be partying this week, throwing out their Blues bunting to hang across the street and dreaming of a Premier League, or even Champions League, trophy next season as the man who kick started the ‘revolution’ in West London returns for another crack at English football.
When he arrived in the capital in 2004, Mourinho was on top of the footballing world. He’d just taken Porto side to Champions League glory, knocking off Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester Untied in dramatic fashion at Old Trafford in the process. He was jumping into a prized hot seat at the Bridge, a job with almost a blank canvas to it. There was no previous managerial merry-go-round, no apparent problems with interference from a meddling owner and no ego filled dressing room where it’s dominant figures had the power to make or break a manager’s career. He was ‘the Special One’ walking into a special job.
Things, though, have undoubtedly changed in the last eight years.
While Chelsea have had their problems after Mourinho abdicated the thrown in 2007 – eight different managers have passed in and out of the club while the squads leaders have allegedly had ideas above their station when it comes to on the pitch order – their success as a club has continued, accumulating another League title, three FA Cups, a Community Shield, a Europa League title and, of course, that seemingly elusive Champions League. While the turmoil behind the scenes has continued, Chelsea on the pitch have continued to find silverware both at home and abroad, without the spark of Jose.
Mourinho, though, has walked a slightly different path since his fallout with Roman Abramovich a month into his fourth season at the club. While he became a hero at Internazionale, winning an unexpected treble with the Nerazzurri, his three years in Madrid have seen the ‘Special One’ become the ‘Fallen One’.
“It’s an honour to have one of the most prestigious coaches in the world,” was how Los Blanco’s sporting director Jorge Valdano described the arrival of the clubs new manager in May 2010.
“The best thing for our club right now is to have Mourinho with us.”
The best thing of the club three seasons later was to mutually agree to terminate his contract. As I said, things can change very quickly.
“I am Jose Mourinho and I don’t change,” was the Portuguese manager’s firm but fair words as he touched down in the Spanish capital.
“I arrive with all my qualities and my defects.”
Those defects, combined with an apparent personal vendetta against Madrid’s biggest rivals Barcelona, turned his spell at the club into a anarchic disaster and Mourinho arrives at Chelsea in 2013 with a tattered and tarnished reputation compared to the one he brought from Porto. His spell in Spain has taken his managerial stock to its lowest point.
A frustration born out of the rejection of his application for Barca’s top job and the pressure to bring Madrid their tenth European title – La Decima - twisted and turned Mourniho. His competitive edge spilled over into a personal vendetta and the 5-0 humiliation in his first El Classico at the Camp Nou did nothing to smother the flame of revenge.
From that night on winning wasn’t enough for Mourinho, he wanted to beat Barca, and beat them badly.
The following three years saw Mourinho win one La Liga title – although Madrid smashed the records for most La Liga wins (32), away wins (16), goals scored, (121) and the goal difference record (+89) for a single La Liga season – one Copa del Rey, the clubs first in eight years, and a Supercopa de España, but no European Cup. Madrid continued to play second fiddle to a Barcelona side crowned by fans and pundits as ‘the greatest side football has ever seen’, while Mourinho’s Spanish dream fell apart. The horrific eye gouging of Tito Villanova during a touchline brawl in 2011 shocked even Jose’s most adoring fans and his final year in Spain was nothing short of miserable as he lost a third successive Champions League semi-final to Borussia Dortmund and the Copa del Rey final to local rivals Atletico Madrid.
He lost the backing of the fans as he clashed with almost every player in Madrid’s dressing room, even going as far as to drop the beloved Spanish national team captain and long time servant of Madrid Iker Casillas, after disagreements behind the scenes.
Pepe, Angel Di Maria and other important stars bore the brunt of Mourinho’s criticism in post-match outbursts and through leaks from club sources in the press and right up until his final game in the Bernabau Jose showered Spain’s back pages with controversial accusations and outtakes, as he claimed that Pepe, Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo had ruled themselves out of contention to play against Osasuna last weekend, a fact that Casillas claimed was untrue 48 hours later.
While Chelsea’s fans are elated to see a ‘true Blue’ back in charge of their beloved team, Mourinho should be grateful that, after such a tumultuous time in Spain, he’s been given a job so quickly after his departure. Manchester Untied didn’t look Jose’s way when Sir Alex Ferguson retired this year, nor have Manchester City cast their eye in the direction of 50-year-old. Mourinho always wanted to come back to the Premier League, but would anyone else have taken him?
Spain’s topflight is a now a desolate place for Jose to look for a job, with his bridges at both title contenders now burnt to cinder, while his second love in football, Inter Milan, could prevent him form emotionally attaching himself to Juventus, AC Milan or Napoli in Serie A. Not even German football would fit the Special One, as both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund appearing to favour the cooler and calmer breed of manager rather then the outspoken and sometimes irresponsible public speaker that is Jose. Mourinho without Chelsea would be staring down at a job queue and not a contract.
The fans may feel lucky to have him back but Jose is lucky to be in work again, especially one apparently so forgiving as the West London club. Chelsea fans must now hope that the Mourinho’s baggage was not checked onto his flight into London and that Chelsea’s instability doesn’t sour a man looking for his first love again.