He’s gone. We all knew it was coming. For the second time in just over eight years, José Mourinho has been sacked by Chelsea. After winning the Premier League title with relative ease last season, Mourinho’s Chelsea have started this year so atrociously that they find themselves just a point away from the relegation zone. The players had clearly stopped responding to Mourinho, and for the first time in his career, he went so far as to publicly lambast them.
With few exceptions, Chelsea’s players should be ashamed of themselves. It’s natural that the team would suffer when key players lose form, but when so many players are performing at a sub-par level at once, it’s hard not to presume that they’ve collectively decided to down tools. Neither should Michael Emenalo — Chelsea’s Director of Football — be spared from blame. For a side that should’ve built on last year’s success, Chelsea’s summer recruitment was a joke.
But it was Mourinho himself who was largely the architect of his own downfall. He picked a series of unnecessary and embarrassing rows, and refused to shoulder any of the blame for Chelsea’s awful form, right down to the bitter end. Much of the charm and the mystique that made him The Special One is gone, and the man who lost his job is a pale imitation of the one who Chelsea thought they had re-hired in the first place.
This is without question the lowest point of his career. Which is why now is the perfect time to buy stock in José Mourinho.
From one perspective, Mourinho has failed to deliver on the mandate given to him in his last two jobs. At Real Madrid, it was to win La Décima. At Chelsea, it was to create another multi-title winning, entertaining team. From a different angle, it is only in the context of Mourinho’s astonishing career that those two jobs can be deemed failures. He won the Copa del Rey and La Liga at Madrid despite facing directly against the greatest club team in history. At Chelsea, he won the Premier League last season with a team that has now been exposed as flawed and limited. The field of competitors may have been unusually poor, but Mourinho is not totally wrong in his suggestion that he got more out of that team than the sum of its parts.
Expectations at big clubs are extremely high, but even so, it is churlish to call any tenure that involves at least a league win in two or three seasons a failure. By that standard, Mourinho has never truly failed, having won the league in every job since joining Porto over a decade ago. It’s not unreasonable to make the case that he is now past his best, but his best was astronomical; once-in-a-generation. As he proved in his time at Chelsea, even a lessened Mourinho guarantees a trophy or two.
Fans of rival clubs and the general population of Mourinho-haters (of which there are many, and for good reason) have been taking no little joy in the Portuguese being suddenly out of work. One of the most popular narratives is the schadenfreude. Mourinho’s petty combativeness has finally come back to bite him. He constantly belittles the achievements of Claudio Ranieri, and it was a loss to Ranieri’s league-leading Leicester City that proved to be the final nail in Mourinho’s coffin. He called Arsène Wenger a “specialist in failure,” but now it is Mourinho that has failed to even win enough games to keep himself in a job.
Much of the delight at seeing Mourinho get his comeuppance is fully warranted. Mourinho is not a gracious winner, and he’s shown himself to be an even worse loser. He’s an arrogant, egotistical jerk. But he’s also a far superior manager to either Ranieri or Wenger, even now. In the time since Wenger has last won a league title, Mourinho has won six in three countries. How many Arsenal fans would happily trade places with 16th place Chelsea today if it meant that they could have also been watching their team lift the Premier League trophy last spring? Ranieri may be a nice man whose team is playing great soccer, but he’s a middling manager who has never won a league title.
At his worst, Mourinho is insufferable. For those massive clubs whose fans are used to success, and who value more than just winning, Mourinho and all his baggage may just not be worth it. His appointment at Manchester United, Real Madrid (again), or Bayern Munich would definitely not be universally lauded. But in the cases of the former two, he’s unquestionably a better manager than the ones currently in situ. Anyone who thinks that clubs with the size and ambition of United, Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, or even Manchester City shouldn’t at least feel out Mourinho’s availability in the summer is deluding themselves.
Mourinho’s powers may have faded. The stint at Real Madrid amplified his worst instincts, and maybe he’ll never be the same for the experience. Perhaps his second spell at Chelsea exposed a weakness: an inability to rebuild graduall, without first imploding. On the other hand, he is still one of the greatest managers of all time, and even in his diminished state, he’s one of the top two or three still in the business today.
The chastening experience of his “failed” Chelsea return could well reinvigorate him. A few months to recharge his batteries after his ignominious Stamford Bridge exit could help him refocus with an eye to another big job next summer, where he could be better than ever.
It wouldn’t even be the first time that’s happened. Just ask Inter.
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