So the ‘special’ one makes his return to Stamford Bridge tonight with Inter Milan in what is likely to be an interesting match on the pitch, and you can be sure that every now and then the cameras will shift their focus to a person called Jose Mourinho who will be sitting in the away dugout. This is the first time Mourinho is coming back to Chelsea, and in what is no doubt going to be a standing ovation from the Chelsea faithful, tinged with emotion, will the reaction of a 40,000 plus crowd identify just how much he was loved at the club? And what will Roman Abramovich be thinking?
Returning to the club is a manager who won six trophies in a three year period in charge. Two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two league cups is why the Blues faithful have nothing but respect and admiration for the Portuguese man. His status as Chelsea’s best manager in recent times is backed up by the fact that since he left in September 2007 the club has gone through three managers, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Avram Grant and Guus Hiddink, and has won one FA Cup, which was last season. Even though the seasons since his departure have seen Chelsea continuously remain in the hunt for the major competitions, if not win them, Mourinho left such a mark that his replacements struggled to emulate his success. No matter who has come in to replace him, current boss Carlo Ancelotti included, it seems that the fans will always hold Mourinho in higher regard but it was his relationship with Abramovich which the Russian could end up regretting depending on the club’s fortunes tonight, at the end of this season and the near future.
The deterioration of their relationship came to the fore at the start of the 2007/08 season. Mourinho thought that he did not receive the correct backing and that some of Chelsea’s players at the time were not doing enough. In one of his legendary press conferences, incidentally his final one prior to the Champions League match against Rosenborg, he said: “If you have no eggs, you have no omelette. And it depends on the quality of the egg. You need the right eggs for a good omelette!” This was mainly in reference to Abramovich’s signings of Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack- something Mourinho was clearly not happy with. With there being enough pressure to try and reclaim the title back, having lost out in the race at the end of the 2006/07 campaign, it seemed like one ego was trying to outwit the other ego. In the end Abramovich’s power seemed to tell and when the club is like a toy to this extremely rich man it is hard to imagine him being effected by the loss of Mourinho.
The now Inter Milan manager can be considered to be better than the ones who followed in his footsteps at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea were better with him in charge. Mourinho will be proud and somewhat confused due to the fact that virtually the same group of players are still at the club but few things appear to have changed. The noticeable adjustment there has been from Ancelotti is the style of football- Chelsea arguably play a more attractive game now. Abramovich has seen the managers come and go in the last three years but failed to realise that Mourinho was ideal for a club like Chelsea. He is young for a manager, gives the impression he is more like a friend than a strict boss to the players, witness his relationship with Frank Lampard and John Terry (even though the latter reportedly fell out with him during the end of his tenure) and is the character that is needed to fit the description of managing one of the world’s richest clubs.
One thing that is being proved to Abramovich is that you cannot have it both ways in football. Chelsea won trophies with attritional football yet he wanted entertainment with style mixed in to it. The fact that the former method has shown to be the most useful for Chelsea during the Russian’s reign highlights that football management is tough, especially at the London club. Mourinho certainly had the toughness and if he puts one over his former employers tonight, thus knocking them out of a competition Abramovich desperately wants to win; Roman’s empire will have been overruled by Mourinho’s magic.
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