Jose Mourinho was easing into the philosophical, waxing about “being where people love him” until he was rudely cut off by ITV’s unfortunate interviewer. Mourinho is not often cut off in press conferences – especially when it’s the English media asking the questions – but was there any real suspense in what Mourinho was going to say if his interview hadn’t been bushwhacked by beckoning commercials?
Mourinho is headed back to Chelsea. It’s been a near certainty for months. Chelsea need Mourinho, and Mourinho needs Chelsea. The club has to retrieve some of the soul that has fallen away in the last few years, and was completely assassinated with the inhumane sacking of Roberto Di Matteo. Chelsea are also mindful of appeasing the fans who have revolted in the face of Rafa Benitez.
Mourinho, on the other hand, really would like to return to a place where he is loved. Constant bickering and back-biting this season at Real Madrid have taken a toll on The Special One, who seems generally worn out from an incredibly high-stress three years in the Spanish capital. Both the club and manager are in need of rejuvenation. The return of Mourinho makes sense for all parties.
Who is going rule Chelsea? Is it going to be Mourinho or Roman Abramovich? The power struggle between two of the most egotistical men in football wrecked the pair’s first marriage, and it is the single dark cloud hanging over their reunion. It’s been said that the pair have buried their hatchets since their 2007 falling out, but with Chelsea in a rebuilding period in which the squad and style of the team will be turned over, who is first in charge? Who signs the players?
For instance, it has been widely reported that Chelsea are closing in on the signing of Bayer Leverkusen winger Andre Schurrle. Now, the Blues don’t have a manager – Rafa Benitez surely has no say in new signings – so who wants Schurrle?
The owner makes the signings, and it doesn’t matter if the manager wants the player or not. Will that fly with the dominating and controlling Mourinho at the helm?
Will Abramovich continue making demands over who plays, and decisions over the contracts and the captaincy and new players? Because that’s how Abramovich operates. He’s always done it that way. Sometimes it works – often times it doesn’t.
Think Carlo Ancelotti wanted Fernando Torres, form already slipping away, plopped in his lap in January 2011? Think the Italian wanted Torres, with a price-tag so high and pressure so great that he had to be played over Didier Drogba, plopped in his lap with his job on the line?
It will be interesting to see what happens with Frank Lampard’s contract situation. Mourinho loves Lampard, and would see him as a leader and connection to the squad. If he is completely in charge, Lamps will have a contract for life.
But the battles fought by Mourinho and Abramovich and the battles on the horizon again go way beyond who buys and sells players.
One of Abramovich’s gripes with Mourinho the first time around was how direct Mourinho’s teams played. Since ’07, Abramovich has only become more swept away in the romantic, tiki-taka game Barcelona and Spain have so effortlessly mastered, and so, the owner has populated his team with little Brazilians and Spaniards.
But Mourinho teams don’t always play pretty. Mourinho’s style is power. He likes the core of his team to be made up of warriors, leaders, toughness and heart. Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and the like may have many talents, but they wouldn’t be described with any of those four adjectives.
What gives? Chelsea have been sensational at times this year, but also undeniably soft in the belly. Mourinho would change that – and point to the two Champions League finalists, Bayern and Dortmund, to make the point that the days of winning football matches with character and physicality and presence have returned. Will Abramovich be satisfied if Chelsea win ugly?
Another problem last time around: While it may seem like he works exclusively on his own, Abramovich does have trusted advisors. Ron Gourley, Michael Emanulo, Bruce Buck – these guys have the owner’s ear. Mourinho was irked at the influence of Frank Arnesen in his first spell at Chelsea, and it’s been reported that one of the conditions of Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge is the removal of Emenalo.
It’s a power struggle. A power struggle all the way. That’s the thing with Mourinho. He could run the show at any club in the world, and yet he pines for the club at which he has to battle and grapple to be top dog. The Special One is always up for a fight.
Politicking hasn’t always been a strength of Mourinho’s – it wore him down at Real. Take out the politics, however, and Mourinho is the best manager in the world. No one else has the gravitas, the style, the mind, the focus, the charisma, and the connection with players that Jose suavely combines.
It has been over six years since Mourinho left Chelsea. He has since won the Italian and Spanish leagues and cups, plus another Champions League trophy. The question is, how much has Mourinho matured in these six years? Will Jose be able to stay calm, and stay cool in the oven of Chelsea’s backrooms?
Probably not. If he was, he wouldn’t be Jose Mourinho. If Roman Abramovich was able to step back and hand over the reigns, he wouldn’t be Roman Abramovich.
Mourinho is on his way back to Chelsea. The fans will greet him like a returning god – realistically, if Chelsea hired anyone else at this point, it would be a debilitating letdown. Most likely, there will be constant tension and struggle over who is captaining the ship at Stamford Bridge. It’s going to be one entertaining ride.