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At Chelsea, the enduring legacy of Jose Mourinho

Photo courtesy:
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

In the end, it came down to a bitter defeat, a strange interview, and a short statement.

In the course of three days, three events led to the exit of one of the game’s best managers from a club that had seen unprecedented success under his watchful eye: Chelsea lost to Leicester City (their 9th defeat in 16 games), manager Jose Mourinho blamed his players of betraying him and his methods, and the club issued a release relieving the manager of his duties.

It was a sad day in Chelsea history, not because Mourinho was sent packing, but because it was the second time this had happened, and how similar the circumstances were the first time around.

Eight years ago, in 2007-08, Chelsea began the season poorly, despite establishing a new record for most matches at home without a defeat (64). In the opening stages of the campaign, Chelsea turned in sub-par performances, and in September, Mourinho left the club “by mutual consent”.

This time, too, the phrase “by mutual consent” was bandied about.

In a statement to the press, Chelsea said: “Chelsea Football Club and José Mourinho have today parted company by mutual consent. All at Chelsea thank José for his immense contribution since he returned as manager in the summer of 2013.

“His three league titles, FA Cup, Community Shield and three League Cup wins over two spells make him the most successful manager in our 110-year history. But both José and the board agreed results have not been good enough this season and believe it is in the best interests of both parties to go our separate ways.

“The club wishes to make clear José leaves us on good terms and will always remain a much-loved, respected and significant figure at Chelsea. His legacy at Stamford Bridge and in England has long been guaranteed and he will always be warmly welcomed back to Stamford Bridge.

“The club’s focus is now on ensuring our talented squad reaches its potential.”

That last line is telling: the club’s focus is now on ensuring its talented squad reaches its potential. In a way, it is a direct accusation against Mourinho that he could not bring out the best in his players. If the outsider looked at the Chelsea team and its performances this season, and saw the likes of Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar aimlessly trotting around the pitch, the only conclusion to be draws would be that this was an uninspired team. But look at Mourinho’s contributions as a whole, over five years, and an enduring legacy of greatness, success and spirit come to the fore.

The Special One

Jose Mourinho delivers the Premier League in his first season in charge of Chelsea. Photo courtesy: Daily Mail
Jose Mourinho delivers the Premier League in his first season in charge of Chelsea. Photo courtesy: Daily Mail

Leading up to 2004, Chelsea were in dire straits. They were on the brink of financial ruin, they hadn’t won anything of note in four years and were in serious need of an overhaul. That came in the form of Roman Abramovich, who took over ownership of the club and brought with him the kind of monetary clout that would eventually turn Chelsea into a force on the footballing stage. One of Abramovich’s first decisions was to sack existing manager Claudio Ranieri and bring in Jose Mourinho, a Portuguese manager who had worked wonders at Porto, including a record-breaking 2002-03 season that saw the club win the Primeira Liga 11 points clear of second-placed Benfica, and a stellar 2003-04 season which saw Porto not only winning the league, but also the UEFA Champions League.

Mourinho’s reputation was one of meticulousness, scientific training methods, and razor sharp wit. The first two would be seen over the course of the next three years; the first was evident in his debut press conference at Stamford Bridge: “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”

‘The Special One’ would soon let his work do the talking, taking Chelsea to a Premier League title for the first time in 50 years in his first season in charge. He did it by scoring the most points ever in a Premier League campaign (95) and by conceding the fewest goals (15). And to add to the glory, Chelsea did the double, picking up the League Cup as well.

The next year, it was more of the same – a buccaneering Chelsea marauding its way to the Premier League title. And winning the Community Shield as well.

The 2006-07 season, however, brought with it murmurs of Mourinho’s dissatisfaction at the club and a growing animosity towards owner Abramovich. The manager was increasingly getting agitated by Abramovich’s interference in footballing matters, most notably in the case of the signing of Andriy Shevchenko. Shevchenko was a one of the most feared strikers in the world at the time, but his stint at the club was largely nondescript, which led Mourinho to bench him in several key games. However, Abramovich’s insistence that Mourinho play the Ukrainian was a point of severe contention. However, despite the growing unrest, Chelsea won the League Cup and the FA Cup that year, though they failed to win the League.

At the beginning of the next season, the club announced they had parted ways with Mourinho.

The Second Coming

Mourinho had a tough time getting his players to do his bidding in his second spell in charge of Chelsea. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Mourinho had a tough time getting his players to do his bidding in his second spell in charge of Chelsea. Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager once again in 2013. Mourinho told Chelsea TV: “In my career I’ve had two great passions – Inter and Chelsea – and Chelsea is more than important for me.

“It was very, very hard to play against Chelsea, and I did it only twice which was not so bad. Now I promise exactly the same things I promised in 2004 with this difference to add: I’m one of you.”

It was a typical interview, the sharp Mourinho tongue out in full view. And if his words could match the performances he brought out of his players in his first stint, Chelsea were sure they were destined for greatness. However, very quickly Mourinho began playing down Chelsea’s chances of winning the Premier League. His press conferences would often highlight his exasperation. He once said after a game against West Ham, which ended in a 0-0 draw: “This is not the best league in the world, this is football from the 19th century.” He constantly gave out an image of a grumpy man not getting what he wanted.

At the end of the season, Chelsea finished third.

The next season, however, Chelsea were in fine form. The arrivals of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas brought new impetus, and Chelsea went on to secure the league title. On the way, they won the League Cup too. Mourinho was named Premier League Manager of the Season.

It was all going well for Mourinho. Then, 2015 happened. And with it brought a slew of inexplicable results that saw Chelsea struggling to escape the bottom of the table. With 15 points from 16 games, Chelsea were 16th on the table, one point above relegation, when the club announced they had had enough of him.

The Legacy

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With Mourinho gone, Chelsea have lost an astute manager, a great tactician, and an honest critic. He would drive his players and make them perform even if they themselves did not want to. He would inject energy in losing causes and galvanise his wards to make that one final push. He would break down oppositions with clever strategy and sheer will. Never one to mince words, he would speak his mind and ensure his philosophy was understood by one and all.

With Mourinho gone, Chelsea have lost the greatest manager they have ever had, and will ever hope to have. Three league titles, one FA Cup, a Community Shield and three League Cup wins – this is what Mourinho will be remembered by, and what his successors will be reminded of when they eventually sign the dotted line in the near future.

With Mourinho gone, Chelsea have lost ‘The Special One’.

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