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Has Mourinho’s bubble finally burst?

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Betray, verb
To give aid or information to an enemy; commit treason against

Jose Mourinho chose a rather strong word to describe his feelings after Chelsea slumped to yet another loss in the Premier League, against Leicester City. “I feel my work was betrayed,” he said once the game was over. “I worked four days on this match, I prepared everything related to the opponent….”

On current evidence, it is difficult to believe that Chelsea are last season’s champions. Their title defence has been so abject, their desire so non-existent and belief so lacking, it would almost seem their manager Jose Mourinho pulled the rabbit out of the hat last year. And Mourinho seems to believe that is true.

“Last season I did phenomenal work,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself thinking that last season I did such an amazing job. I brought players to a level that is not their level and, if this is true, I brought them to such a level where this season they couldn’t keep the super motivation to be leaders and champions.”

Hidden agenda

But there is something in his choice of words that belie his true intentions. Mourinho is as media savvy as they come. He chooses his words carefully, he is aware of every sentence he utters. Had he spoken about betrayal once at the heat of the moment and then tapered down to “frustrated” or even “angered” in later interviews, there wouldn’t be much to read into. But using “betrayed” in every interview points to a possible agenda.

Is Jose burning bridges, believing his time is up at the Bridge?

Experts anticpate Mourinho’s sacking in the very near future, with some saying the Portuguese is still at the club because the management still do not have a viable replacement lined up yet.

If Mourinho is sacked, Chelsea lose the best manager they ever had, and one of the best in the world. Former Chelsea striker Tony Cascarino said, “Either the manager won’t be there, or they’ll have to completely change the players because I don’t think there’s any way these players and manager can work together for a long period of time.”

Mourinho may already have seen the writing on the wall, and may be looking to go out on his own terms.

How else can one justify such choice of words from a man who would defend his players at any cost, for whom the players would lay down their lives? After all, Mourinho was the man who worked so hard to instill a feeling of brotherhood in the Chelsea dressing room – that sense of camaraderie, the knowledge that everyone would back each other, that led the Blues to Champions League triumph in 2012.

Frank Lampard, who watched Chelsea’s capitulation against Leicester City, once said at a ceremony felicitating Mourinho after the Champions League victory: “That all started from him. He might not have been there, but that spirit came down from him.”

Mourinho and his team were inseparable. He was almost always right about his players, his philosophy, his methods. Not anymore.

Chelsea’s players have not betrayed the manager; he has betrayed them.

Mourinho said: “I don’t think in this moment they can feel they are top players or they can feel they are superstars. They have to look at the Leicester boys and feel these are the stars, these are the top players. They have to look to Sunderland and Watford and say: ‘We are at the same level, I am not the superstar, I am not the player of the season. I am not the world champion, I am not the Premier League champion. At this moment, I am at your level.’”

Though veiled, his barbs were reserved for Cesc Fabregas, a World Cup winner with Spain, and Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s player of the season last year. He made it amply clear what he thought of Hazard’s injury against Leicester.

Hazard went off the pitch half an hour into the game after picking up an injury. But Mourinho seemed to suggest the Belgian simply lost the desire to play.

“He made the decision in a few seconds, he was on the floor, he came out, when he comes out he says he can’t do it. A couple of seconds later he says I go to try and when he goes on, two seconds or two steps and immediately he decides to go back.”

Giving up

The fact is, Mourinho, who for so long has had unequivocal control over his players, is foxed by growing murmurs of dissent.

That Chelsea were forced to make a public statement saying all was well with the players and manager, speaks volumes of the growing discord at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho’s tough-as-nails coaching style may finally be taking a toll on the players. Insiders say can Mourinho is brutally honest with his players in the dressing room about anything that goes wrong on the pitch. Mourinho has been unapologetic about his ways: “Of course, [I criticise] in front of the other players – because I coach. When I criticise the mistake of my right back and Ola Aina is present, it’s an education for him. When I criticise a mistake of Gary Cahill and John Terry is in the meeting … then he knows what I want. If I criticise Willian for his movement, Pedro is listening and learning.”

But, this season, his brash, often humbling sessions have failed to inspire the team, which often resembles a bunch of kids throwing a tantrum. The sad part is Mourinho is now throwing a tantrum of his own. Rather than finding new ways of inspiring his team, the manager seems to have given up and is looking for ways to make an exit.

If that’s not a betrayal, nothing is.

When Mourinho first took the job at Chelsea way back in 2004, he showed up at the press conference announcing his appointment and delivered these unforgettable words: “Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”

And he looks to be going out with a strong string of words as well.

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