John Terry has been fairly consistent throughout his Chelsea career. Look at his season-by-season appearances, personal accolades, and the years where Chelsea won most of the trophies on offer, and Jose Mourinho doesn’t really seem to feature as a constant to suggest a significant influence.
In fact, you could argue that a player of Terry’s calibre is hardly reliant on an inspiring manager to make him turn out good performances. With the qualities that he possesses and the team that he’s usually surrounded by, turning out solid defensive displays should be fairly straightforward.
With that view, Terry’s general career consistency makes sense. Mourinho’s first Chelsea spell ended in 2007, yet Terry was named as the UEFA defender of the year in 2005, 2008 and 2009, away from Mourinho’s time at the club. Chelsea continued to win trophies in that time at a fairly decent rate too. In fact, Mourinho’s return last season was their first trophy-less campaign for some time.
All of that being said, there’s still something undeniable about a certain chemistry between the pair of them.
“There are no doubts that he is going to get another contract,” Mourinho expressed last week. “I know that, he knows that. We in the club, in the board, all know that and I think, also, you have to feel that. He’s a very important player in the team, so the next contract is a formality.”
And a contract extension for a 34 year-old at Chelsea is no formality. David Luiz was intended to be his replacement – a younger, athletic, technically adept Brazilian – a sure on fix to Terry’s ageing, tired legs. Andre Villas-Boas rarely used Terry, while Rafa Benitez only sought to use him sixteen times in his six month interim stewardship. His career could easily have faded under other big managers.
Frank Lampard’s blatant remaining quality and legendary status at the club also shows that loyalty and club-status are not dependable shields from the Abramovich guillotine. Terry’s performances and consistency in recent years have been remarkable.
Yet, in a quite contradictory way, it’s not really that surprising that Terry’s maintained this level of stature around the club. That’s a credit to his relationship with Mourinho.
“He (Mourinho) knows how to get the best out of myself,” Terry confessed to the BBC in mid-December. “He pushes me on a daily basis, sometimes I feel like I’ve upset him, and then I go out to training and feel like I have to impress him.”
Mourinho’s always been a famously excellent man manager; the video of an inconsolable Marco Matarazzi embracing him after Inter’s Champions League victory into 2010 is a striking testament to that. Perhaps Terry, being a large personality and egotistical narcissist (perhaps a harsh turn of phrase, but his racial and sexual history suggests a vindictive introspectiveness), benefits more than others when led by a manager of Mourinho’s charisma and calibre.
There’s also a very relevant tactical facet to consider relating to Terry’s pace. He struggled at times in the past because new managers sought to play with aggressively high defensive lines, a strategy that leaves him remarkably vulnerable to pace in behind. Just watch Sadio Mane’s goal against Chelsea last week to see how Terry is ruthlessly exposed when playing up the pitch against a speedy forward. Or, moreover, rewind to Arsenal’s 5-3 victory at Stamford Bridge in October 2011 to see that prognosis demonstrated crudely.
Ultimately, Terry’s at his brilliant best when he sits deep, able to read the game and lead with the pitch in front of him. Which means, in essence, both Mourinho and Terry adhere to one another’s on pitch preferences. Mourinho has always thrived with intelligent, dependable defenders as opposed to extravagant ones. Ricardo Carvalho has never been excessively quick and has followed him through Porto, Chelsea and Real Madrid, while Lucio and Walter Samuel were both well into their thirties when they formed an incredible partnership at Inter.
Look at Terry’s career and you’ll see then that, alternatively, Mourinho has made him peak at very particular times. His first run of accolades began in 2005 – the year after Mourinho took over at Chelsea. And now, when Terry should be retreating into the abyss of retirement, the Portuguese has extracted the best from him again.
It may almost be customary, but there’s something quite special about the Terry-Mourinho partnership.