“We have top players and, sorry if I’m arrogant, but we now have a top manager.”
June 2nd, 2004. These were some of the first words uttered by the current European champion, Jose Mourinho, who had just replaced the sacked Claudio Ranieri.
It smacks of utter irony, then, that it would be Ranieri’s Leicester City that proved to be the final straw for Roman Abramovich.
In truth, the writing had long been on the wall. Nine defeats in 16 Premier League matches renders the Champions League spot for next season a mere miraculous dream. It sends Mourinho packing, most probably off to Manchester.
Damningly, it leaves Chelsea back to square one: player power prevails and the managerial merry-go round will continue. Chelsea churned through eight managers in the six years Mourinho went away. They have learnt nothing. Chelsea will hire another Avram Grant, disguised as Juande Ramos. Mourinho will be yearned for again. But this is the end. There will be no third coming.
How times change. Just four months ago, a new four-year contract was signed, heralding the start of a “10-year dynasty” which Mourinho wanted to create. Senior members of the Chelsea board have repeatedly said Mourinho was the stability they had long been searching for, and their business model had turned to one of longevity.
Perish the thought anyone believed it. Abramovich was reported to have met with his four most trusted aides on Tuesday, with the five-strong team democratically making the decision. It was three votes to two to rehire Mourinho back in 2013. Who knows what the swing was to get rid of him today.
Forget the fact he leaves his club one point about the relegation zone, his true legacy will forever remain in tact. Taking a side in 2004 who had always underachieved to one which is now a major domestic and European superpower takes some doing. Three of Chelsea’s five Premier League crowns have his name on it. As do three of five League Cups. The Champions League was the big one missing. He would have got there, with Paris Saint-Germain recently drawn in the last-16 round. That chance has now been robbed by his own players.
Yes, the football had become tired. Yes, Chelsea had no longer become fun to watch, but Mourinho had always found a way to grind out those wins, which made matches enjoyable. Nobody knows how to do this more than Mourinho. But, this season for some reason, even the wins could not be ground out in the most dull 1-0 of fashion. Chelsea were being beat left right and centre, home and away.
It cannot be the manager’s fault. Ultimately it is always the players who set foot onto the pitch, and it would be non-sensical to think Mourinho did not warn his players that Jamie Vardy is a threat, that Mahrez is a threat. But the players could not match Mourinho’s work and, dare I say it, deliberately opted to not match Mourinho’s work. Mourinho’s blue-blooded. He loves the club, he moulded the club to its present form. So too did the Drogbas of last season. The same desire cannot be said about this new crop of players.
And yet, as illogical as it sounds, it is this new crop of players who are going to be Chelsea’s future. Whatever went on behind the scenes, Mourinho just could not bring the best out of Matic, Fabregas, Hazard or Costa this season, despite being able to last season. It would be nigh on impossible to sack them all, so the manager is the easy target and has to pay the price.
The flaw Mourinho must shoulder is his inability to galvanise the squad and get them out of very dark times. His personal bond with players worked wonders with Drogba, or Lampard, or Ibrahimovic, and where he showed loyalty to them he received loyalty back in gallons. His loyalty to the likes of Fabregas and Ivanovic bore no same fruits this season and this die-hard tactical inflexibility would have made fringe players disillusioned also.
Some comments smacked of utter desperation. Whinging over Eva Carneiro set the season off to a dreadful tone for which Mourinho would never recover. Moaning of player “betrayal” bring echoes of the dark days of his spell at Real Madrid. Incessently blaming referees, needlessly picking fights with opposition managers and being passive-aggressive in post-match interviews were all signs something was not right in the heart of Mourinho’s mind. It did go too far and Mourinho would be the first to admit it.
But whatever Chelsea’s future holds, it will not be with a serial winner. It might be Guus Hiddink, it might be Juande Ramos. The spell of relative tranquility has ended. Same old Chelsea have reached the same old conclusion. Mourinho will not regret coming back a second time: he won two more trophies. But back in the day there was comradery and loyalty in it, and six years of service with seven trophies should have bought four months of bad form.
It has not.
Mourinho should not be concerned — he does not need to prove anything to anyone and he will succeed at his next club, arguably at Chelsea’s expense. Abramovich needs to prove he made the right decision. The players need to prove they are worthy of representing the club as Mourinho was.
José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix, we thank you for your work. Chelsea will not be the same.
Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had four years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.
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