With Chelsea limping into the last four of the Europa league, becoming the only English side left in European competition this season, Chelsea fans will have their eyes trained on the future. Due to the fixture list, the Blues could amusingly be the holders of both the Champions League and the Europa League at the same time, albeit for ten days, if they reach and triumph in Europe’s second tier cup final on the May 15. While this will be a cute novelty for many Chelsea fans, most will be looking past that to the more pivotal future aspects of their club’s year; what will happen in the summer?
With a gradual acceptance of their, albeit, ‘interim’ predicament, the Blues faithful are focusing on the positives, and the warm hope of better times ahead. It is all that many can do to just avoid dwelling on the club’s unsightly present, or ‘Benitez’ to give it a name. With the word ‘Jose’ whispered in the winds like a code-word for political revolution, the war-torn London club are hoping for a real upturn in fortunes come the new season.
That most coveted of presences, Mourinho, has been his usual ambivalent self when it comes to discussing his future. Upon guiding his Real Madrid side into the last four of the Champions League, he simply said to craning journalists,
“When the season ends, I will sit down with who I have to.”
While his choice of words are testament to his still active respect for his current job, it remains to be seen who Mourinho actually ‘wants’ to sit down with come the close season.
The likes of PSG, Manchester Utd and Manchester City have been touted as other possible destinations for the eccentric Portuguese; but with Roman Abramovich’s apparent number one choice, Pep Guardiola to take the reins at Bayern Munich next season, and the plethora of talk about the ‘Special One’ returning to the Bridge, there are plenty of indicators that suggest Chelsea fans should start rolling out the red carpet, again.
But if Jose Mourinho, or indeed any top class manager (even Manuel Pellegrini) is to take the job at Chelsea, then they will be watching intently at how the club performs and acts come the business end of the season. This includes the treatment of the much maligned Benitez. Yes, he will be packing his bags at the end of the season, but will he be hailed a cab, or kicked unceremoniously out the door?
Chelsea have a reputation now for minimal patience with their managers, and for unsavory sackings, just ask Roberto Di Matteo. And while Mourinho’s relationship with the Spaniard is known to be fraught, his own treatment at the hands of Abramovich will surely mean that he will view how Benitez’ makes his exit as an example of how far the Russian owner has come concerning dismissals.
While most Chelsea fans just want to see the back of Rafa, as supporting him has been as appealing as rubbing salt into an open wound, they would do well to support the club as the close season approaches. Benitez is the ultimate test of faith for the club, and if his imminent departure is smooth and amicable, it will surely be assuring for the new, permanent man.
The players too, will be judged by the potential managerial candidates. Mourinho, for one, loves players with fight and determination. It is no coincidence that he named Didier Drogba as his all-time favorite player – Chelsea’s warrior for so many seasons, the man for the big occasion – just ask Bayern!
They will be playing for their right to be at the club, and if they end the season with a whimper, ducking out of the latter stages of their remaining competitions, then the new manager may see the need for change in personnel. But, considering the wealth of young talent to be found in the ranks, Chelsea should also be keeping one eye on the gossip column.
For example, Brazilian midfielder Oscar has the talent to mature into one of the best players of his generation. With his first season in English football almost at its end, the world has certainly taken notice of his relaxed but devastating attacking potential, his willingness to track back, and his confidence that stretches far beyond his youth. While Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are the headliners, Oscar quietly pulls his strings behind the scenes, which makes him just as much as a potent force as his superstar colleagues. Already the ‘secret weapon’ in the Brazilian national team, his talents will be fully on display come the World Cup in 2014.
Footballing ‘royalty’, Real Madrid and Barcelona, have a history of poaching the best players from all over the globe, in their quest in building the best teams around. Players in the mould of Oscar are prime targets for the Spanish duo, considering his flair, and natural exuberance on the pitch. Eden Hazard chose to join Chelsea in the summer on the merits of their newfound label of ‘European Champions’, and his is another name that would interest fellow European giants looking to reinforce, should the deposed kings continue to flounder.
The list could be extended to include David Luiz, Petr Cech, and even Juan Mata.
Chelsea need to finish the season strongly, and prove that they have not been swallowed up by all the uncertainty and disappointment that has threatened to engulf the club. Currently 19 points behind runaway leaders, Man United, the Blues need to at least finish in the top four. With the likes of Mourinho looking on, they would also do well to get their hands on the last piece silverware they are able to contest.
The club need their young talents to want to stay, and to know that Chelsea is still a wonderful place to be, considering that if they perform to their ability in this most unenviable of footballing climates, they could well be welcoming back glorious, ‘Blue’ skies.