Will and Kate this, royal baby that, who cares? The real London arrival worth getting your knickers in a twist for this summer is the return of the one and only José Mourinho, says Amy Eustace.
The self-proclaimed Special One has darkened English shores again, making the Duke of Cambridge Junior look like a mere commoner. Well, okay, maybe they didn’t light up the BT Tower for Mourinho, but when the football returns for real the only royalty anyone will be concerned with are those sitting on their Premier League touchline thrones.
For Chelsea, it’s a reunion to salivate over. Like a first love, ever since José Mourinho left all those years ago, they’ve been comparing his successors to him. And each one to try fill his larger-than-life shoes have failed the test miserably.
Avram Grant was a successful rebound at first, but his toadlike demeanour left something to be desired after the suave swathe Mourinho had cut. Chelsea’s dalliance with Luiz Felipe Scolari was an inconvenient marriage-of-convenience. You could have had it all with Guus Hiddink but fate and mother Russia got in the way. Carlo Ancelotti just couldn’t keep the spark alive.
André Villas Boas had the resumé to emulate Mourinho, but not the nerve. Roberto di Matteo practically turned water into wine and still couldn’t nail down the job. And Benitez? Well, we all knew that was never going to work out.
Back to his adoring audience
So, inevitably, the animosity that hung in the air when José first left Roman Abramovich’s side of London has been handily brushed under the carpet for the concession that yes, Chelsea and Mourinho are a match made in football heaven (or hell, depending on where you’re standing). They were fools to ever part ways in the first place.
According to the manager, the reunion was simple. “I asked the boss, ‘Do you want me back?’, and the boss asked me, ‘Do you want to come back?’ and in a couple of minutes the decision was made.” If only it was always that easy.
So that’s that then. José returns to his old flame, his beloved Premier League, and his adoring audience in the English press – having made more than a few enemies among the Spanish equivalent. The floor is wide open for a new sheriff with his old sparring partner, Sir Alex Ferguson, having hung up his badge; a badge José will no doubt be eyeing hungrily.
José himself is a rarity as far as football managers go. He never stays in one place too long. He never shies away from a challenge. He is never satisfied. No matter how long he manages to affix his attentions to one club and stay in the good graces of his employers, no club with the Special One at the helm will ever be considered ‘stable’. But to seal his Chelsea renaissance, he has pledged to change.
They [the players] need stability, stability I hope I can give them. Between me, the owner and of course the club, we have no doubts about what we want to do and the approach we want to have. I’m very confident I can help the squad and I can help the boys to do better.
[Jose Mourinho infographic – click image to enlarge]
Is the Special One really a safe bet?
Chelsea don’t really need stability though – a fact they’ve kind of admirably demonstrated, going through seven managers in six years and yet still winning the Premier League, the FA Cup (three times), the Europa League and the Champions League. Had Chelsea not started running out of reputable managers to turn to (and perhaps Roman Abramovich felt the severance pay fund was getting a bit thin), they probably could have continued hopping from coach to coach and their trophy haul would continue to grow.
While he’s no safe bet in terms of temperament and anything but a ‘yes’ man, he’s almost a guarantee of silverware, having won at least one trophy in every calendar year since 2002 (save for 2013, but he’s obviously not done yet). He knows the Premier League, and the Champions League, inside out, and his reputation has grown exponentially with each club he has moved on from, either in acrimonious or amicable circumstances, except for, perhaps, Madrid, where the nature of his legacy remains to be decided.
Perez was not convinced at Real Madrid
In Spain, the Special One claims to have broken Barcelona’s hegemony, but Florentino Perez was not so convinced. Real Madrid were the highest watermark Mourinho had come up against in his career and a tough nut to crack. His success at Porto was largely unexpected and achieving only domestic success would have been enough to placate both those in charge and those in the terraces – unaccustomed as they were over the preceding decades to progressing much further than the round of sixteen in Europe.
His arrival at Chelsea had been the result of what was then unproven hype, but José simply had the outrageous self confidence to flourish where later, André Villas-Boas eventually floundered.
‘Scourge’ of Spanish football
At Inter, Roberto Mancini set the bar extraordinarily high, leaving Milan fresh after winning the Scudetto, but Italian football was child’s play for Mourinho, who glided through his two years in Italy, winning two league titles, the Champions League and the Coppa Italia.
With Madrid though, there was an undeniable obstacle to success in the form of Barcelona. Mourinho was the unstoppable force, but Barca were the immovable object. Barcelona’s vice-president, Carles Vilarrubi, described him as a ‘scourge’ on Spanish football, so at the very least he got under their skin. He managed to impose an exciting playing style at the Bernabeu and break Barcelona’s consecutive league title streak but that was all, and Real Madrid’s long-craved tenth Champions League title – la Decima – eluded him. As Arrigo Sacchi put it to Carlo Ancelotti before the latter took to the Bernabeu as Mourinho’s successor..
Winning alone isn’t enough in Spain
Winning is more than enough in England, and with Ferguson gone and a host of new boys on José’s old hunting ground, he has a degree of seniority that he didn’t have the first time around. Having already made a number of interesting signings – including veteran Fulham custodian Mark Schwarzer, young German talent André Schürrle – and making no secret of his chase for Wayne Rooney, Mourinho can be king again if he can match the success he had with Chelsea in his first spell in London.
Infographic design: Leo Kellenberger/Paddy Power Blog. Words: Amy Eustace