In the last few days, Mourinho mania has really kicked in. Despite the Portuguese’s return to Stamford Bridge being well documented and widely rumoured for the best part of Rafa Benitez’s interim reign, the media world has waited until now, the moment Jose Mourinho’s appointment as Chelsea boss became official, to throw at us everything they have regarding the former Real Madrid manager.
Will he be a success? Will it all go wrong after a matter of months? Will he enter another futile power struggle with Roman Abramovich? Will he still carry his comedic qualities which appear to underline his enigmatic persona? Will he be as special as before? Only time will tell, yet it is clear from the offset that the situation is not so simple as the superficial headline ‘Mourinho returns to Chelsea’ might have you initially believe. His tenure will almost certainly be in sharp contrast to the last one, although Mourinho will be hoping the amount of silverware will remain the same.
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Andre Villas-Boas provided the ideology and philosophy behind Chelsea’s transition from a team based around robust physicality and a mechanical style, originally conceived by Mourinho himself, into one centred around flair, imagination and technical ability, Rafa Benitez saw over the teething pains it caused and installed a sense of balance to it, yet the new Blues gaffer will now be handed the task of finalising the process, fine tuning it and making it into a complete product that abides by Abramovich’s requirements on and off the pitch.
It will disallow Mourinho the chance to revert back to his more defensive approach – he quite simply does not have the players for it. That should not be too much of an issue though; the Portuguese coach has rather unfairly become synonymous with a style of play that looks to grind out results due to his previous tenure with the Blues, yet over the last three years, working under the Spanish sun, Mourinho’s Real Madrid team focused almost exclusively on scoring goals, in fact, their inability to defend set pieces competently was one of the biggest on-pitch criticisms of his reign at the Bernabeu.
Although Chelsea may be lacking that star quality in defence, the missing piece of the jigsaw is undoubtedly a striker. Fernando Torres’ season has at least been lukewarm as oppose to ice cold, recording 22 goals in all competitions, but only eight in the Premier League, yet the Blues’ reliance this year upon the midfield for goals, with Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata all claiming double figures in the scoring charts, tells its own story of how the West Londoners currently don a strike-force incomparably weaker than the two Manchester clubs.
A few weeks ago, you’d argue that this summer would be the perfect opportunity to go out and buy one. Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski and Wayne Rooney, four forwards whom can all easily claim to being amongst the best in Europe, have all been put up for sale by their respective clubs, yet with news that Falcao will be joining the French revolution in Monaco, while Lewandowski will be jumping ship to none other than Bayern Munich, the remaining duo come with their fair share of drawbacks.
For all of Cavani’s goals, having found the net 104 times in 138 appearances for Napoli, the decline in quality in Serie A means he is still very much an unknown quantity, that will cost an apparently non-negotiable €63million. Should Abramovich decide it’s a risk worth taking, the Blues will still be in direct competition with Manchester City for the Uruguayan’s signature, although Mourinho will be hoping his reputation and prestige will be a strong enough influence for Cavani to opt for a move to West London.
On the other hand, Wayne Rooney’s strengths and weaknesses are incredibly well known; he is well acquanted with the Premier League, he can score and create goals, yet he often comes up short on the European stage, and he will never go on to exceed his current level of ability, which is still behind his continental counter-parts. He will also not provide the glitz and glamour or dominance in the Champions League that the Chelsea owner is desperately searching for.
As well as it being the overall aim of Abramovich, success in Europe is undoubtedly Mourinho’s biggest motivation in returning to Stamford Bridge. The Blues defied the odds to win the Champions League trophy in the Special One’s absence, and it still remains the only noteworthy feat on his repertoire that is missing from his first stint with Chelsea.
Despite claiming the most prestigious accolade in club football just over a year ago, Chelsea are still a long way off in terms of quality in comparison to this season’s semi-finalists, and the project to establish the club as a European superpower on par with Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid will take at least a couple of years – time which Mourinho, in addition to almost every manager currently plying their trade, can no longer be granted. Furthermore, if he wishes to make Chelsea’s successes more sustainable, he will have to undertake a well rounded approach to club management that the Portuguese is not particularly familiar with.
The biggest contrast from Mourinho’s previous tenure to his current one however, will undoubtedly be his personality. Revista de la Liga regular Guilleme Balague has argued that the Chelsea boss’s true self is relatively unknown; what we have witnessed from him during spells at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid are four different characters and personas, or at least heavy variations on two characters.
If the role last time was ‘the young rebel’, coined by Balague himself, this time there will be a much different character bursting through. He no longer has the power of relative anonymity that added to his enigmatic status which he was privy to upon his first arrival in England, and far from being a young buck with revolutionary ideas, he now represents a breed of football and style of management that we are all familiar with. Furthermore, the concept of him being ‘The Special One’, an unbeatable, unstoppable, unbreakable force, has been flawed by his lukewarm tenure with Real Madrid.
Even the situation at Chelsea requires a different approach in terms of motivation. Whereas in the past, the Blues were in desperate need of belief to break the glass ceiling between themselves and the Premier League title, the squad at Stamford Bridge is now filled with trophy winners. They will still hang on to Mourinho’s every word, but they are already well aware of the heights of their abilities and what they can achieve in terms of accolades.
Similarly, the weight of expectation will be much heavier upon the squad’s and Mourinho’s shoulders in comparison to before. Whereas last time, the Chelsea manager invited pressure upon himself with an arrogant showing in his inaugural press conference, there will already be pressure for results before the Portuguese has even made his first official statement as Blues boss. The players will expect much of him, the fans will expect much of him and the owner will expect all of him. It is the type of intensity Mourinho is used to and often thrives under, but the fact it is no longer self-imposed takes away some of the magic of it, and loses the positive effect it has on the players.
They say you should never go back in the world of football management. There are plenty of examples which argue for and against that statement, yet if any manager can return to a former club and bring the same level of success, it’s Mourinho. The task presented to him is not necessarily harder; Chelsea possess a strong squad with a mixture of depth, age, ability and experience, and require only a few key purchases in the summer to seriously challenge the dominance of Manchester United and Manchester City, but it will be incredibly different.
Our relationship as fans with Mourinho is different, Chelsea’s stature and reputation is different, the style of football is different, and as a result, Mourinho will have to be different. He will still have his quirky edge and subliminal sex appeal, yet his tone and persona will be modified to better suit the situation. Chelsea no longer need the charismatic leader and young revolutionary, and even if they did, Mourinho’s exposure to the European public would no longer allow it. What the Blues need is consistency, and rather than using his own self confidence to push onto others, he will be hoping his reputation alone will be enough to allow the players take confidence in him.
Expect the humorous comments to get us onside, and the constant sense of self-belief in front of the media, but overall, we will see a more relaxed, professional, calm and collected Mourinho. The young revolutionary has grown up during his time in Spain, and the Special One has lost some of his shine in the process, yet he is still by far the most consistently successful manager in Europe, and he will be using his abilities and reputation rather than the psychological ploy of arrogance or character to get results.
Will Mourinho’s second tenure lose some of the magic of ‘The Special One’?
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