All the great managers learn. They evolve and adapt. Failure doesn’t give them blind, reckless motivation to win; it teaches them, directs them, and makes them better. When Sir Alex Ferguson retired in May, it was impossible to finger a tactical legacy, because the manager’s style evolved consistently over time.
Jose Mourinho certainly fancies himself as one of the great ones. A Special One, in fact. Mourinho also fancies himself a smart one, so he’ll know that there is a lot riding on the results of his second spell at Stamford Bridge.
After three years of tumult and division at Real Madrid, Mourinho’s name is viewed with more apprehension than it ever has before in football. For the first time in a long time, there are doubters. There is no question: Mourinho sullied the gleaming reputation of the Real – he led the most aristocratic club in football like he was in a street gang.
The Special One may have aged in appearance since first came to Chelsea in 2004 – a gray buzz-cut replacing a wavy head of black hair – but Mourinho’s wit and charisma are as vibrant as ever.
In his recent press conference, Mourinho mixed philosophy and sass, memorable one-liners with thoughtful, revealing responses. Mourinho is a gifted speaker. He draws attention like a magnet – there was more media in attendance for his introduction today than Roberto Di Matteo’s press conference before the 2012 Champions League Final.
But Mourinho has always been a gifted speaker. The wit and charisma hasn’t aged a day. Littered in Mourinho’s press conference were signs that Mourinho doesn’t want this job to go like every other job he has had in football.
First of all, Mourinho wants us to believe he’s in for the long haul at Chelsea. Mourinho said that he had made up his mind that he wanted to leave Chelsea in 2007, that he wasn’t fired, but instead flew the coup through a “mutual agreement” with the club.
Believe him? Who knows. But Mourinho was revealing in his press conference, talking openly about his career, his plans for Chelsea, and his plans for his future.
Is Mourinho at peace? He’s always been a man focused on what’s next, the next Champions League title, the next job. This is a man who has celebrated both his Champions League triumphs by leaving his club, Porto for Chelsea, Inter for Real. On both of those occasions, he was going to a bigger club.
But Mourinho can’t go up on the managerial ladder anymore. The only two clubs possibly bigger than Real — Barcelona and Manchester United — won’t have him, even though he’s tried to get both jobs. As much as Chelsea need Mourinho right now, Mourinho needs Chelsea. It’s the only job for him at the moment.
At Real Madrid, Mourinho slashed, and he got burned. If he truly is a manager for the ages, he’ll have processed what went wrong, and he’ll strive to fix it. Already, he’s extended an olive branch to John Terry, a man who he fell out with around the time of his departure in ’07, in an effort to unite the Chelsea dressing room. Terry may not be the player he once was, but he still has clout.