It was Thursday 20th September 2007 and in the early morning came a statement on the Chelsea website: “Chelsea Football Club and José Mourinho have agreed to part company today (Thursday) by mutual consent.”
Before Chelsea fans had even woken up, the news was out and the tears were inevitably flowing. Sad that three glorious years — an era in Chelsea terms — had come to an end. Sad that the constant stream of trophies would end. Sad that this charismatic man would no longer be the manager of this football club, but above all, sad because of the brutality of this act.
A 1-1 draw against Rosenborg proved to be the final straw for Roman Abramovich and his men. It was hardly ghastly, and of the six league matches Mourinho had been manager for at the start of the 2007-2008 season, only one was a loss.
The separation was put down to internal politics. Mourinho, in return for a €20 million compensation package, was to keep quiet for the remainder of the season as he and his backroom staff took an impromptu sabbatical. Avram Grant, the source of much discontent, would take over at the helm as Henk Ten Cate came in as assistant, but Chelsea just could not win without Mourinho. Runners-up in the League Cup, runners-up in the Premier League, but more agonisingly, runners-up in the Champions League spelt the end for Avram Grant also. What would have happened had Jose been there?
It was never going to be easy to keep Mourinho out of the game. The man brought success and life post-Chelsea would start at Inter Milan. The league was won, so too the Supercoppa Italiana. Mourinho was coping just fine, receiving the affection of Italy.
Chelsea, meanwhile, could not move on post-Mourinho. Three managers were turned over in a year: Scolari, Wilkins and Hiddink. The FA Cup was won, but third in the league and the cruelest of Champions League semi-final exits put an end to any more success. Chelsea needed Mourinho more than Mourinho needed Chelsea.
The games continued. Mourinho, having calmed down from his shock exit, referred to Chelsea as “my Chelsea”. His heart was still there. But the pattern continued into the 2009-2010 season. Mourinho showed, in sublime fashion, what Chelsea were missing, winning the Serie A, Coppa Italia and the Champions League. There was no stopping him. Chelsea and Ancelotti recorded the domestic double, but a last-16 exit in Europe’s premier competition would have stung Abramovich.
Chelsea, under Ancelotti, were seemingly moving on from Mourinho. The Italian had a strong first season, but his second proved to be his last. Inter, meanwhile, were struggling also. It is no coincidence that a club deteriorates once Jose leaves. Inter Milan felt the effect: his successor there, Rafa Benitez, was fired before Christmas.
And so it was destination Madrid for Mourinho. The Portuguese manager won the Copa del Rey and promised to topple Barcelona from the helm in his second season. He delivered in emphatic style, setting a new La Liga points record of 100 from the 114 available. Chelsea, meanwhile, were sinking back: Mourinho’s prodigee, Andre Villas-Boas, was to be fired in March. Another caretaker was needed, but success resulted in the Champions League.
Even that elusive trophy would only buy Di Matteo four month’s of time, and Benitez was in and out for the remainder of the season. Mourinho was to endure his “worst” season, winning none of the major Spanish trophies and having key fall-outs with players.
And so to the present day. Six years of waiting. Chelsea had toyed with managers but they have exhausted nearly all options. They now look back to go forward. Expectations will be raised but Mourinho joked this time it will be “even better”. The humour will flow: from the omelettes to the bird flu, the man has an incredible way with the English language. Chelsea are at a time where stability is needed. Mourinho is at a time where he wants to be loved. This second coming will bring tears of happiness to the Chelsea fan, tears of laughter to the media and tears of sheer agony to any rival fans.
Welcome home, Jose. Welcome home.