Confed Cup Underdogs: The three participating countries with no relevance to Chelsea at all, by coincidence are also the three sides without any real hope of winning. Tahiti are probably the worst team to ever take part in the competition, with their only professional player/hope of scoring a goal being Ligue 1 veteran Marama Vahiura. Given his shameless riding of the Tahiti bandwagon, making his first caps only this year at the age of 33 however – I honestly hope he doesn’t score. (Call me harsh – I don’t care). Mexico are another side with no real chance of getting out of their group. Since their Gold Cup win in 2011 they’ve been consistently very average; eight of their nine games in 2013 have been draws, with 5 nil-nils. In my opinion, with attacking options like Giovanni dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Javier Hernandez, there is no excuse for Mexico’s scoring record to be so poor. Lastly, probably the only entrant of the eight who could sensibly be labelled ‘underdogs’ are Japan. The team has hardly changed since their Asia Cup win two years ago and if they play well they have both the organisation (and in players like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa) the quality to control games and perhaps cause some upsets.
Nigeria: Probably the biggest blow to the Super Eagles ahead of the competition is the absence through injury of Chelsea winger Victor Moses, who was key to their impressive ACON win earlier this year. The club made Moses unavailable for selection, informing the Nigerian FA at the end of May he needed to recover from injuries sustained in the last games of the season. It’s often interesting, I find, to watch Nigeria (from a Chelsea perspective) just to see Mikel play in a more creative role, spraying passes to the wing and even occasionally moving into the final third!!! Without Moses or centre forward Emmanuel Emenike however, it’s unlikely we’ll get to see him do much creating – except against Tahiti obviously.
Edinson Cavani: On the one hand, Cavani’s often omission from the Uruguay XI is sort of understandable; Luis Suarez’ international record is the more impressive and Diego Forlan, tactically, is a more natural strike partner for the Liverpool forward, as he tends to stay slightly deeper and more central. On the other hand, Cavani is an absolutely beast and he has to play. His goal against Venezuela last week probably has confirmed his starting place for the next couple weeks.
His versatility and heading ability put the Uruguayan ahead of the likes of Robin Van Persie and Robert Lewandowski for me and only Falcao is in the same league. Objectively I’d say Cavani is just edged by the Colombian, though I think the Napoli striker’s age, more aggressive style and the fact he’ll more than likelihood be moving to a better side than Monaco this summer means that the title of the world’s best #9, may be conclusively his before long.
Chelsea’s interest in the player has been confirmed by Napoli’s president, though Mourinho’s insistence that we aren’t looking to spend big, rather make use of the younger players that have been out on loan, perhaps would suggest otherwise. It has been made clear Napoli aren’t looking to sell and only a bid of £53m would suffice. However, if Chelsea are looking to move on both Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, investment in a centre forward would of course be necessary. The prospect of Cavani moving to a rival should also be a factor in the club’s decision making. If Man City get the Uruguayan, along with Isco, Navas and Fernandinho, the league is surely as good as over before it begins.
Daniele De Rossi: Another player linked with Chelsea in action in Brazil this month is the AS Roma cult hero and Capitan Futuro. At first the idea seems crazy and indeed, De Rossi’s loyalty to the Roman club should never be underestimated. However, the Italian is the highest paid player in the Serie A and with Roma once again failing to qualify for the Europa League, let alone Champions League, his wages are becoming harder to justify. Some reports have suggested they are looking to sell for around 20m Euros, which in spite of his disappointing campaign last year, I’m convinced is an absolute bargain. Though never quite as good as either, De Rossi’s style is a like a mixture of Andrea Pirlo and Rino Gattuso, combining his incredible long passing ability with a physicality that would be perfect for the Premier League. If available I think he’d be a great signing for Chelsea.
Spain: I don’t think there’s much doubt that Spain’s current starting XI is currently the weakest it’s been for quite some time. Their striker situation is becoming more hopeless by the year. The Torres and David Villa of 2009 are gone (probably forever), whilst Soldado and Negredo are never likely to hold down a regular starting position. Also with Xavi relatively out of form and Xabi Alonso injured, though they’re still favourites, Spain are looking more than beatable than ever at this moment in time. How Del Bosque deals with Alonso’s absence is probably what will decide the tournament. If he chooses to use Busquets as the sole holding midfielder and play Juan Mata, then Spain could end up playing the best football of the tournament at the risk of being more open than usual. If he plays Javi Martinez however in a double pivot I think it’s more than likely they’ll end up winning all five of their matches 1-0, boring us to death in the process.
Brazil: The host nation come into the competition finally with a good idea of what their team will look like at the World Cup next year. Contrary to the common cliché of Brazil’s compulsory flamboyancy, the best players in the Selecao currently are the defenders. Thiago Silva is the best CH in the world and the perfect partner for David Luiz. Dani Alves and Marcelo are two of the best attacking full backs in the world and Julio Cesar is still a fine keeper. The most shocking omission from Scolari’s squad without doubt was Chelsea’s Ramires, who apparently is being punished for refusing to attend some sort of team building weekend in England. The ex-Chelsea manger has replaced him with the incredibly similar (though less energetic) Luis Gustavo of Bayern Munich. Aside from Neymar of course (and maybe Silva), Oscar’s place in the XI is as secure as anybody’s. In Brazil’s last two friendlies (against England and France) the speed and the fluency of their play dropped off noticeably when the Chelsea man was subbed off. He knits together the quality of Brazil’s individuals seamlessly and will be vital to his countries hopes of winning in Rio on the 30th.
Andre Schurlle: Finally, today it was announced that Chelsea and Leverkusen had agreed a deal over the transfer of the 22 year old, German forward Andre Schurlle, ending a saga that had began over 12 months ago. Whether or not he’ll be a first team regular is hard to predict, but as a fast and technical inverted winger, it isn’t difficult to see him fitting into a Jose Mourinho, counter attacking side at all. Him and Hazard bombing down the wings, cutting inside and overlapping could be devastating and great to watch.
Personal terms still have to be agreed but the player has been plainly anxious to join Chelsea for over a year. Expect an announcement next week. Welcome to Chelsea, Andre. KTBFFH
The embarrassingly recent ‘cottoning on’ of the Spanish media with regards to the extent to which Mourinho uses psychology in his conferences/interviews, seems to have given birth to this bitter perception of the Portuguese coach as someone who is totally and very deliberately disingenuous in the public eye. And sadly it’s a perception that’s steadily flowing into Britain as well. That Mourinho uses his personality as a part of his methodology in coaching a side cannot be doubted, that he uses it expertly is just as much of a fact. He is at all times acutely aware of how his behaviour and comments affect the psyche of his squad and when at his most intense, you can sense how every word is being chosen to bring about certain actions.
Those in Madrid who became disillusioned with his sombre (hated Portuguese in Spain) persona last season, probably now think that they see Jose for what he is, a man behind a newly designed mask, vacuously narrating platitudes about ‘happiness’ and ‘stability’ in hope of scoring cheap humility points with reporters and fans. But in my opinion there isn’t anything insincere about Mourinho’s public comments or conduct. He doesn’t wear a mask. My perception is that having intuited what intended effects need to be wrought upon his players, like a writer creates a story, Jose creates a persona and then exercises it in a tone best served to establishing these preconceived effects. He doesn’t pretend to be anything for the good of his teams in other words, rather literally becoming what he feels they need him to be.
So what is he becoming this time around? So far it seems he hasn’t managed to progress his character any further than a man who’s delighted in his new job. And right now even the harshest critics of the legitimacy of his disposition would have a hard time imagining there’s much pretending going on here. There are very few ways in which the coaching of Chelsea won’t be evidently easier/more enjoyable than his work at Real Madrid…
Roman Abramovich isn’t the most easy-going owner in world football, but on a scale of obtrusiveness he is well to the left of Florentino Perez (with his legendary propensity to meddle wherever possible). Michael Emenalo’s involvement in recruitment and with the academy might not provide Mourinho with the total autonomy over football matters we assume he’d prefer, but the Nigerian’s recent rebuffed offer to step down from his position shows he isn’t quite as keen as Jorge Valdano was to constantly be in the way. And whilst we know there are some egos at Chelsea – very proud club legends mixed in with some pretentious young talent – the core of the side it is now Mourinho’s job to build, should all be receptive to the importance of the “meritocracy” that Iker Cassilas was foolish to disregard as a policy for lesser men than himself.
Obviously, Jose will know this isn’t the easiest dressing room to manage, though the probability of a Chelsea player saying to him “you wouldn’t know; you never played the game”, as Sergio Ramos infamously did, must surely lie pretty close to zero. Reasons for Mourinho being “the happy one” at this moment in time aren’t particularly difficult to think of; very few coaches’ jobs have recently become so much more straightforward.
Press Conference Review
British football journalism might be a tad sensationalistic at times, quotes may be excessively ramped up whilst the drama it seems is always destined to be bigger the game itself. The hyperbolic/melodramatic nature of the profession however, isn’t to say anything about the professionals themselves. For the most part, British football writers are clever enough to have worked out and to understand Mourinho methods. His Spanish critics would have us believe that our journalists are gullible and ignorant in their enjoyment of Mourinho, as they eagerly await his next anecdote.
To be honest, I think this is to grossly misunderstand why Mourinho is appreciated so much in my country. Whilst his arrogance probably does resonate more with British humour than anywhere else, the prospect of a 50 year old man calling himself special and making fun of Arsene Wenger isn’t enough to attract an audience of 250+ to a press conference. We’re owed more credit than that.
Having said that, the conference probably didn’t live up to its hype – a lot of the questions lending themselves to some pretty banal responses. The only typically snarky answer came in response to a question about Andres Iniesta’s accusations that he’d ruined Spanish football. Mourinho gave the predictable yet perfect response by describing his pride in having ruined Spanish football for Iniesta personally, by destroying Barca’s dominance. Elsewhere, I thought these were the pick of the quotes from Jose yesterday:
On the need for stability when instability has bought success so far: You need stability for identity, and I think identity becomes more important in football. If Chelsea bought lots of young players, those players need to be developed. For me, as a manager, it’s something I want to experience. I have 15 years in my career still – 20 is too much, 10 is not enough – … It’s about changing the club. I think so. And the club thinks so too
On the profile of the squad: We’re happy to go with these fantastic, talented boys. We’re happy to show that the investment Chelsea made in recent seasons, by putting young players on loan, was a good decision, especially with FFP arriving. If you bring back Lukaku, De Bruyne and perhaps Kalas, who is at Vitesse. Bring three guys back, that’s zero (spent) because the investment was made before. We want to go in this direction and to help these young guys grow up. Not build the team, because the team has a structure on it. But I want to help the team improve.”
And on the likelihood of immediate success: These ‘kids’ – and I say that respectfully – have big potential and big space for improvement. They’ve not reached their best level yet. The stability the owner and I can give them is related to work. In the methods, the coaching philosophy, in my leadership, in everything that can help them improve. Mix with them those who are over 30, we’ll keep a balance and try to go on. When you have this profile, you can’t think the best will come next year. It has to come in two, three, four, five, six years time. In the media age, we are speaking about boys with 10 years to play football. I’d expect to be here to win it in that second season. Of course.”
The papers this morning are all praising Mourinho’s “performance” as a more humble coach, with many asking/predicting how long he can keep it up for. The question, although I think it exacerbates the dramatic aspect of Mourinho’s methods, is a potent one, given we know that the psychology of his style is a constant. How he will go about creating stability remains to be seen but you can be sure he will continue to fight for his own and confront anybody who threatens Chelsea’s interests. That unforgiving, impassioned and relentlessly intense desire to win is still an immutable part of his personality. And that should be a constant source of security and optimism for Chelsea fans, however he decides to behave.
Myth #1: Jose and Roman are too egoistic to join again
Until the rumours had started, almost no one thought that a re-union would be possible. Jose is known to have a big ego. And Roman’s was bigger. That’s still quoted as the key reason for Jose’s departure in 2007. And a re-union was always seen as a display of weakness for both. From Roman’s point of view, it was seen as his admission that he was wrong to have interfered with Mourinho. From Mourinho’s point of view, it’s like going back to the employer that didn’t support you when it mattered. So there you are. When two massive egos and very strong personalities part ways, it’s hard for anyone to predict that would come together again.
People thought neither of these individuals are of the ‘eating humble pie’ types. The best part of the Jose Mourinho interview with Chelsea Tv was the story of how Roman and Jose decided to join hands again. Jose asked Roman ‘do you want me back’ and Roman asked Jose ‘do you want to come back’ and in a few minutes the deal was done. This just didn’t fit with the persona that’s been created for these two gentlemen.
Probably, they weren’t what the media made them to be. Both Jose and Roman are built up like totally narcissistic, dictatoral, ruthless and selfish. Probably, it’s a great expose of how the characters are built by the media for such personalities. When things such as ‘the return of Mourinho’ happens, all that image that was built until now comes down crashing. Yes, they are strong personalities but not to the narcissistic levels that the media wanted us to believe. What I gathered from the interview was two friends that have great respect for each other, learning from their past and wanting to come together. This was more than just a professional contract. This was some kind of re-bonding that the world didn’t see it coming. Myth busted.
Myth #2: Roman didn’t / doesn’t like Jose Mourinho’s style of football
Jose Mourinho hasn’t changed. Neither has his style of football. Actually, I don’t think Jose’s teams have a particular style of football. His football is very pragmatic. His football is certainly efficient. His football is based on winning. He alters his team’s approach based on the squad, their abilities, the opponent, the culture of the league and the context of the game. His football is all about versatility. Steve Clarke once said Jose’s Chelsea can play and win against a physical opponent and the next week they can play and win against an opponent that plays possession football. His teams always knew the way to win.
His football style came under a lot of criticism, especially in his third season at Chelsea. It was a popular media theory that Roman didn’t like the style of football Chelsea were playing. I don’t think so. I think he was perfectly bought in. Chelsea were the pioneers back then. We had to hit the road straightaway and had to start making heads turn. Jose delivered exactly that. It was tailored to the exact needs of the club. We have much evolved since then but quite clearly Chelsea got what they wanted. Always the style of football that’s played is the combination of the club’s philosophy and the quality of players in the squad. The manager is just the connecting link.
Jose Mourinho’s style of football hasn’t changed. It’s still pragamtic, efficient and winning football. And that wouldn’t change. If Roman thinks Jose Mourinho’s football style is hardcoded and if he wants a different style, he’s not going to hire him again. I don’t think Roman was ever unhappy with Jose’s style of football and he’s got him again now. Another myth busted.
Myth #3: Jose Mourinho is a short-term manager
Well this one is yet to be busted. Will be soon. This is again one of those double standards that people choose to apply just for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea FC. In the last 30 years in Real Madrid, out of the 30 appointments, only two managers have last three seasons – del Bosque and Jose Mourinho. This is long term in Real Madrid terms.
The average term of a first team manager in England is 16 months. That’s the state of football now. Chelsea have had 13 managers in the premier league era. Spurs have had 16 managers in this period. When it comes to the topic stability, who gets pilloried? Chelsea. Jose Mourinho has coached 5 clubs in 13 years (excluding the 3 month stint at Uniao de Leira) and that’s perfectly fine in modern football. Average of 3 years in a club is what most top managers do. Examples like Ferguson, Wenger and Moyes are just outliers. Capello has managed 8 teams in 22 years. Guus Hiddink has managed a dozen teams in 25 years and he doesn’t go with the ‘short-term’ tag. Ranieri has worked in 14 clubs in 26 years. Marcelo Lippi has managed a dozen teams in about 25 years. Yet none of these greats are tagged as ‘short-term’. But Mourinho gets seen differently, doesn’t he?
Mourinho’s emphasis on stability was great to hear. In his own words, he’s done the grand slam – league champion in England, Italy and Spain and of course in his home country Portugal too. He’s won champions league with two different teams and he’s in elite company with that record too. He’s running out of top challenges. Managing Bayern Munich is no challenge and I’ve been saying this since the beginning of the year and not after they clinched the treble. Jose has got nothing much to prove from a success point of view. He might want to take his career to a new dimension. He wants stability and so do Chelsea. Though I don’t think Jose Mourinho is a short term manager (that term needs to be defined), I think he will stay longer at Chelsea in this term and would surprise a lot of people and bust this myth too.
Myth #4: Managerial comebacks don’t work in football and this will end in tears
This one is also yet to be busted. That statement on managerial comeback is a poor generalisation. There are cases where it worked. There are cases where it didn’t. Success has several ingredients and the manager is only one of them. The players, the manager, the club administration and the environment bring you success. Let’s compare 2004 and 2013. Now, we have a better quality players than we had before. Now we have more matured and experienced manager than before. Now we have an owner that has a better understanding of how the football industry works. Now the environment (the situation with our rivals) is more conducive for success than before. You could say that the hunger in 2004 was much more than it is in 2013. That’s debatable because both Jose and Chelsea have always had the fire in their bellies, and past success has never diminished their hunger and desire. That’s why both Chelsea and Jose have continued to be successful even during their 6 year separation.
I think there are enough and more reasons to believe that this comeback will be a successful one. Of course, we are never going to be able to predict the future. And fot that very reason, no one should be able to say ‘this won’t work’, but many do. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, Jose Mourinho is a wounded animal now. He said he’s sorry he cannot start the season tomorrow. If you think he will let this comeback to be an unsuccessful one, you’re probably making a mistake.
In many ways, this new era in Chelsea could be a chance for redemption for all parties concerned. The club, the owner and the manager might want to ensure sustained success and earn some respect and admiration from the neutrals in the process. We should have more neutrals supporting us and more people following us as their second team. And we should get the respect that we deserve as a football club. I’m not the one to play to the gallery. I would always totally disregard the jealous, malicious and sinister voices but as Jose always claimed ‘Chelsea deserves more respect’.
And this is going to be very hard work when the media is still hanging on to their stereotypical myths based on hallucinated projections. The quashing of these myths will have to be much publicised – from the Chelsea side – by the fans and by the administration, in the online world and in the offline world. It’s quite important that the media does not stereotype Chelsea Football Club and that too a wrong stereotype that goes unchallenged by the Chelsea folks.
I can’t wait to see these myths shattered by another successful and, this time, longer Jose Mourinho reign at Chelsea FC. That’s it from me today. Keep the blue flag flying high!]]>
In the end, the only real surprise about yesterday’s announcement was the level of excitement it managed to create, given the entire world knew what was happening and even more than roughly, when it was going to happen. And yet still, social media erupted, whilst the poor Sky Sports News anchors became inundated with calls and emails of people sharing their opinions (of varying expertise). The inevitability of the news obviously doing nothing to restrain the anticipation, yesterday our club made surely the most intriguing managerial appointment that English football has seen for a very long time.
Speaking from a completely personal perspective, the way in which my perception of my own support and interest in Chelsea football Club changed so drastically, mostly in terms of what I now feel is reasonable (and safe) to expect, before he had even said a word, very much helped to confirm my own hypothesis that Jose Mourinho has created (within the Premier League) the most extreme cult of personality in world football, perhaps even in all of modern sport.
His unique character coupled with a relentless intensity makes it impossible for anybody to feel indifferent towards him, as a person or as a professional. And as a result, most opinions about him tend to be pretty passionate one way or the other. And whilst people think that the media loves him because his quirk and his wit makes a reporter’s job easy, in my opinion the real reason for the press’ obsession with him is that he represents a challenge no other manager seems capable of offering. There is a subtext behind everything Jose says. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it isn’t but the care with which he chooses and delivers his words never changes. His intelligence and enjoyment of psychology make him insistently interesting in my opinion and I think quite evidently in the minds of football writers all over Europe, whether they like him or not.
His first interview as Chelsea Manager since 2007 was aired yesterday by Chelsea TV at 6:30pm. Full transcript here: http://bluechampions.com/2013/06/03/jose-mourinho-the-second-coming/. Of course, the whole thing is worth a read/listen but I thought there were three things really worth pulling out and discussing:
The first was his own highlighting of how ironically poorly he had concealed his own happiness – in other words – how happy he was! With his unveiling at Chelsea the first time around (and at both Inter and Real) he was a man who had it all to prove to himself and to a whole new sporting culture that is talents corresponded to his ego. Now however, that he has completed his own personal ‘Grand Slam’ of league titles across Europe, and his ‘formation’ as a coach is complete, for the first time he can embark on a challenge without having anything specific to prove to anybody or without any specific opposition to target. He can simply turn up to work at a club he already loves, in a culture where he feels “loved” and comfortable and simply do what he loves doing for a living. Whether that’s enough to keep him motivated and ‘happy’ in a job for very long could possibly be debated. Right now however it quite obviously is a very attractive proposition.
The second thing worth noticing was the explicit statement, “I’m more ready to be in a club and stay for a long time”. This, followed by the doubtlessly mediated repetition of the word “stability” I think showed that a repeat of his usual 2/3 year cycle wasn’t on the agenda this time around. Not a novel statement of intent given 12 months ago he verbally committed himself to Real Madrid until 2016 but this time the notion has notably more credibility given, as he went on to explain, “this is the first time in my career that I’ve arrived at a club that I already love. To be at the same time a Chelsea fan and a Chelsea manager is a new feeling for me and it’s a fantastic feeling”.
What will have been the most propitious part of this answer for Chelsea fans I’m sure will have been Mourinho’s clear acknowledgment that long term stability, with him at the club, wouldn’t just be favourable but actually necessary for him to do his job here successfully. This is the youngest squad he has ever had and in order to maximise their potential so they can reach “a high point in their evolution”, they will need constancy, which the club expects him to provide. Even if, as usual, he hits the ground running and wins major trophies straight away, he’ll know that the potential of this group to improve will still be immense, and that’s where the motivation to build a legacy at Chelsea should lie.
One final issue to take from yesterday was his emphasis on the importance of having 4 or 5 players still here from his last spell in charge, or as he calls it, “the beginning of the winning Chelsea”. He said a few times that he likes the current “profile of the squad” with the mixture of talented youngsters and veterans/club legends. The ability of the likes of Cole, Lampard and Terry to contribute on and off the pitch cannot be called into question – Mourinho’s history and loyalty to the latter two in particular however, may however, represent his greatest challenge in helping Chelsea to fully embrace the changes they’ve been moving towards since 2011. The character and leadership of Terry and Lampard was paramount to the successes of his first stint, but now with neither automatic first team choices, he needs to find a way of continuing the good work Benitez was doing, slowly fazing them out, yet keeping them on side.
If he was to end up being undermined by the player power that his management style essentially created seven years ago – the irony may just be too much. Fortunately that famous clip of Marco Materazzi crying with Jose in Madrid after Inter’s UCL win, despite having been given next to no playing time in Europe that season, shows that when it comes to man-managing older players, Mourinho seems to know what he’s doing.
His first press conference will be on the 10th of June. You’ll be able to read a full review and analysis here next week.
I’m very happy. I had to prepare myself not to be too emotional for my arrival at the club but obviously I’m very happy.
How big a decision was it for you? It’s not common for managers to go back…
It was an easy decision, I met the boss, the owner, and I think within five minutes after some short and pragmatic questions we decided straight away. I asked the boss do you want me back, and the boss asked me do you want to come back, and in a couple of minutes the decision was made.
It worked out well for both parties; while you left you did what you wanted to do, and Chelsea have continued to do things and build on what you did…
It was a difficult moment, September 2007, because I love it here and I have a big connection with the club, and also for the club it wasn’t easy. But if you analyse it in a cool way, emotions apart, it was fantastic, because my career after that, I had everything I was aiming for in my career. I wanted to win the grand slam, to win in England, Spain and Italy. I did it, I got all the trophies in three countries. I got my second Champions League too.
I enjoy being in different countries, in different football cultures, and I think it’s important for my evolution as a manager and a football coach, and Chelsea Football Club got important trophies after that and had important moments in the history of the club. Now we are back together and we are getting together at a great moment for us both, so I think we are ready to marry again and be happy and successful.
What’s the plan now?
The plan is always the same, evolution and to establish the club at the highest possible level. I left Chelsea in 2007, since then I’ve spoken about the club many times, especially in my privacy. I remember the day we went to the United States in 2004 pre-season. We had open training sessions with only a couple of kids watching the sessions, nobody was following the team. It was the beginning of Roman and his second season I suppose was the beginning of Chelsea. After that Chelsea started winning the Premier League, for the first time and then the second time, and after that when we went back to the United States we found a completely different situation around the club.
I can imagine now after especially the Champions League, that was the highest point of the club’s history. This is now a bigger club, the social mass around the club is much bigger.
I am the same, physically the same, but every day you have to think about yourself and about evolution. I have the same nature but I’m much more mature with a different approach to things, I’m more ready to be in a club and stay for a long time.
Normally you haven’t spent a lot more than about three years with a club so you are saying this is longer-term building?
I hope so, when you look at the profile of the Chelsea squad I think it’s what they need at this time. If you look from my time, there are around four or five boys and these are the older ones. It’s very important for this football club and very important for the balance of the squad, but it’s a young squad with a lot of talent and I think they need stability to reach a high point of their evolution and for their careers. They need stability, stability I hope I can give them and between me, the owner and of course the club, we have no doubts about what we want to do and the approach we want to have. I’m very confident I can help the squad and I can help the boys to do better.
I think of myself not only as a Chelsea manager, because this is the first time in my career that I’ve arrived at a club that I already love. Of course, I go to a club, I love the club and I wear the shirt with the crest and I give everything I have to do it, but this is the first time where I love it already. To be at the same time a Chelsea fan and a Chelsea manager is a new feeling for me and it’s a fantastic feeling.
You have a head start with the fans as you are already popular…
I know I am [popular with Chelsea fans] and I know at this football club there is a culture for the fans to be loyal to somebody who gave. When I watch a Chelsea match on TV and I see, for example, a banner which says Didier Drogba, that’s fantastic, and it makes Chelsea a special club.
I know they have a special feeling for me. I played against Chelsea with Inter and it was difficult because I was feeling it wasn’t a normal situation for me, and I think the people in the stands felt the same as me, so I belong to them and they belong to me. I think they know my nature, and they know I’m not coming here to sleep on what I did in the past and be comfortable just because we have a great feeling and we have a great relation, and probably the first day I put my foot in Stamford Bridge again they will sing my name, I’m not that kind of person and professional. I’m very demanding of myself, I need of course their support, but I want to start from ground zero, I need to work hard again and build a different team from the team I built in the past, and I want to give everything I can to the club, to the owner and to the fans, forgetting a little bit that I was champion here and I want to have that pressure on myself like it is the first time I am here and I have to work hard and to make sure they have a reason to be happy with me.
In the past six years you won the treble with Inter, had one incredible season in the league with Real. You say you are more mature now, how do you assess your development since you’ve been away from us?
Italy was something I wanted very, very much to do. Italian football is for sure the most tactical one, very difficult, especially if you are a team that wants to win, competing against teams that don’t want to lose. It was a big challenge for me. I arrived in a club where there was an atmosphere of frustration because they couldn’t succeed in the Champions League and we got that trophy and for the first time in Italian football the treble. It helps me a lot to be more cultural. After Portugal and England I went to the football with a different perspective. It was a big challenge for me, I had to challenge myself a lot and to study a lot. I think I became a better manager living in Inter. I went to Madrid because I wanted to try to do the Grand Slam, the three most important championships in the world, and also because twice I had the chance to go to Real before, and I never did it because I decided to stay at Chelsea. The last one was the day after we won the FA Cup final at Wembley, and I thought “no way, I am going to stay”. That was the third time, I wanted to go, I wanted another culture and another club with a worldwide dimension in terms of social approach and it was a fantastic experience for me. I think it was really important to get it in this period where I call it the last step of my formation as a manager. It was the last step of my formation. I just turned now to 50 and just finished my lap around European football.
This experience in Madrid was fantastic because culturally it was hard, it was difficult. Portuguese and Spanish, and Spanish and Portuguese, and Real Madrid, a special club in a season where they have elections for the presidency, lots of politics around. Last year we beat the record and got 100 points and 121 goals. This season everybody was focused on the Champions League. We reached the semi-finals and we all know, especially in this club, that semi-finals are a critical moment where you need that click to do it. In our club the semi-final we lost on penalties against Liverpool. The semi-final we lost with Guus Hiddink against Barcelona. You have the semi-final that took us to the final when we won with Roberto, and we know in the Champions League semi-final you need that click. We didn’t have that click and couldn’t get the 10th European Cup that was an ambition for the club, but it was a fantastic experience for me and I think I arrived in my club, in my Chelsea, in the best moment of my career, of my stability of a manager, my stability as a person, always with my incredible family always supporting me and I think I arrived in my best moment ready to give everything I have to try to make the club happy.
Seems like you lost your smile in Madrid, but you’re happier now?
I’m not happy, I am very happy. As I was saying I was preparing myself in the last couple of days to control emotions, to come here in a cool way but really emotional. I try to hide it a little bit but I am so happy and so proud because I think when you return to a place it is for some reason, not just because you have good results in the past or because the fans like you very much, it’s also because as a human point of view you left something here. People know the person I am, I kept a fantastic relation with the owner and the club, and it’s something that makes me proud to be back. Not just because of the professional I am, I believe so because of the person I am.
Top three all under new management next season, very exciting time…
I think the Premier League is the Premier League. This season in terms of the Champions League, which is normally a thermometer of world football, I think English football was too early outside the competition. People were speaking about the level of the Premier League moving down comparing it with other countries, but I don’t believe so much on that. Sometimes things happen and there are no really thorough reasons. I still think the Premier League is a fantastic competition and I don’t know but I can believe there will be five or six teams very strong. In my time here in 2004 it was more about us, Man United and Arsenal, and after that a gap to the other teams. In this moment I think you can put five or six teams in the same plan, aiming to reach at the start, the Champions League spots which is very difficult at the time, with more ambition to win the Premier League again, and so the competition will be fantastic. I hope I can beat the competition.
Will it be the priority?
We have to improve the team, and when I say improve the team people are already thinking about how many millions Chelsea are going to spend, and when I say improve the team I am saying improving by work. My work has to improve players and improve the team. If I don’t do that I am not happy with myself. If after that we can improve the team by buying a couple of players it is fantastic but I have to improve the team and the players with my work. That’s a priority, improve. In the last two years we were struggling in the Premier League. If you didn’t win the Champions League you would be out of the Champions League this year. This year we had to fight until the last match to qualify. We have to try of course to improve, but the priority in a club that reached the level is exactly that – improve individually, improve collectively and improve the structure of the club around the football team, and try to win the next match. Which one is the next match? The Premier League? Let’s go for the Premier League. If the next match is the FA Cup, let’s go for the FA Cup. It is difficult for me to say something is the priority. The priority is to work hard, work professionally and make the team better.
How are you thinking about the style of the side right now?
First of all I need to work with them, of course I like, and I like the profile, I like the fact we have three, four or five players from the beginning of the winning Chelsea, and I think they have to be always a part of the Chelsea soul, so I’m pleased we kept some of these boys.
The profile of the younger players with long-term space for improvement and development, I like very much that kind of profile. I’ve come with a four-year contract so if I read the situation with the immediate age of Hazard, Oscar, Luiz and these boys, I think it will be good for me to work with them and good for them to work with me. Together we can improve and make a better team than we have now.
Can you tell us exactly what the staff you are bring with you are going to do?
Rui as we know is my methodology right arm, the guy that understands best my information and the way I work. He’s been with me since the beginning, the same as Silvino. [Jose] Morais started working with me at Inter, at the time Andre [Villas-Boas] went to coach in Portugal. Morais does the same work Andre was doing, with scouting and analysing, working hand in hand with James Melbourne. He’s been a friend for a long time and has been coaching in many countries, in Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Tunisia, Sweden, Morocco. He’s a guy with fantastic experience and he’s working in that area.
From the previous staff I get Christophe [Lollichon], Steve [Holland] and Chris Jones. They are people who have been here a long time and are very much trusted internally, and I’m happy to have them in my staff. From this moment they become only one staff, which is Chelsea staff, and we are going to work together and hard to try to give what everybody is waiting for.
Presumably you need a holiday?
I am sorry we don’t start training tomorrow. I say to the players during the season when sometimes they look tired, victories make miracles. When you win, win, win, you are never tired. In my case, it’s not about winning, it’s about moving, moving to a place I love and happiness. I’m so happy to be back; the players need a holiday, I don’t, I’m waiting for them and when we start they will find somebody with great motivation, in spite of my white hair, which I didn’t have in 2004.
Asia, then America and then the Super Cup. You against Pep Guardiola, that’s a good start…
It’s not Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, it’s Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Mourinho did nothing to play this match, and Guardiola did nothing to play this match. The players did it, and the previous managers did it, so I will be in that match just by trying to help my club and my players win the trophy, nothing else. It’s not going to be crucial to our work or our season. We have to go to pre-season, work hard in pre-season. We have club commitments, that’s also important, and socially it’s important to go to areas such as Asia and the States, and give what the club need us to give, but we have to work hard.
Nine years ago when we interviewed you in our Chelsea TV studio, you looked in the camera and you said I can promise you quality, work and love and passion to bring success to the club. Would that be the same message you give today?
It is exactly the same message but now I can say I am one of you and that makes a little bit of a difference, I have never had that in football, I had in my career two great passions Inter and Chelsea and Chelsea is more than important for me. It was very, very hard to play against Chelsea and I did it only twice which was not so bad so now I promise exactly the same things I promised in 2004, with this difference which is I’m one of you.
For the full interview with Jose Mourinho please visit chelseafc.com or watch on Chelsea TV.]]>
Certainly not in my living memory has there ever been a summer with so much change at managerial level, amongst the top clubs in Europe. Moyes to United, Benitez to Napoli, Pellegrini to Man City, Guardiola to Bayern, Ancelotti to Real, of course Mourinho to Chelsea; plus all of the situations regarding both Milan clubs, PSG, Benfica, Roma etc. Even Barcelona might be looking for a new coach if they decide they want Vilanova to take a year off. The landscape of top level European football is about to change immensely and that’s even before you even start to think about player transfers.
Naturally, all of these deals are relevant to Chelsea as we look to maintain and improve on our status as one of the world’s leading sides. This article is essentially just a closer look at the two particular deals which will affect us the most. They have been (rather lazily in my opinion) dubbed as equal ‘risks’, in spite of the fact one is clearly a greater risk than the other and consequently should be a far greater concern for Chelsea next season.
Pellegrini to Manchester City: I really don’t understand why City fans were so disappointed to see Mancini get the sack. It obviously makes sense that supporters should like the coach who wins them their first trophy in over 40 years, but I think the fact that so many wanted the Italian to stay on after the awful job he did last season, shows the hierarchy at the club are clearly more ambitious than the fan base. Fortunately for the City fans however, ignorantly and loutishly chanting to the directors they could “stick Pellegrini up their arse” on Cup final day, the men in charge are a lot more intelligent as well. That the Chilean is a huge step up from Mancini isn’t up for debate, as far as I’m concerned.
I confess, since his days at Villarreal, I’ve been a huge fan of Pellegrini; and I think the scale of his achievements at that football club have always been terribly underrated. To take a side from a town with a population of only 50,000 to the semi-finals of the Champions League is simply ridiculous. Admittedly my 12 year old self was only really interested in watching Juan Roman being a genius but looking back, the genius of Pellegrini in his coaching of that team couldn’t be more obvious. He took great players (Sorin, Senna , Forlan) and made them world-class, he took average players and made them great and he nutured young talent (like Bruno and Santi Cazorla) perfectly into complete well-rounded players. Most impressively of all though without doubt, he took the aimless brilliance of Riquelme and made him (albeit briefly) the world’s greatest player, at the same time the world was busy overrating Ronaldinho.
If you look at what Pellegrini has done at Malaga this year, much of the same praise can be made. In a side with virtually no cash to pay player’s wages, he took his tiny squad and made them solid, consistently great to watch and had them punching well above their weight since week one, both domestically and in Europe. He beat AC Milan, humbled high spending Zenit, knocked out Porto and came to within a last minute (off-side) goal of eliminating Borussia Dortmund! I know small teams can and often do go on great and inexplicable runs in Europe, but when two equally tiny clubs both get to the latter stages under the same coach – I think it’s fair to deduce the coach must be something special.
Put simply, I’m very concerned about City next season. Under the Chilean I expect them to be completely solid, professional, motivated and you can bet your life that he’ll get the very best out of David Silva (whom he tried to sign for Real Madrid). In my opinion if City can just match us in the transfer market then they’ll be definite favourites for the league next year – and a respected force in Europe before long also.
Moyes to Manchester Utd: Meanwhile in the other half of Manchester, a big risk is most definitely being taken. In all honesty however, there probably isn’t a coach on the planet who wouldn’t be a risk following Sir Alex Ferguson and in some respects, Moyes makes a hell of a lot of, if not perfect sense.
Perhaps most importantly to the club, they know in Moyes that they have a manager who is loyal, having spent 11 years at Everton. They know that he is committed to the development of youth team players as shown in his cultivation of Wayne Rooney, Jack Rodwell, Seamus Coleman and Ross Barkley. At 50 years old and with 28 years as a qualified coach he will have more than sufficient experience. He also, it seems to me, is a naturally cautious coach – not the sort of person who’s ego will prevent him from taking advice from Ferguson if he needs/is offered some.
I think obviously, Utd’s main reason for hiring Moyes is that he is the most similar coach to Ferguson, probably in the world. And Utd of course, don’t want anything to change. Why would they? For the past 27 years the club has been managed by a Glaswegian, a workaholic, an astute tactical analyser, a perfectionist and ultimately a pragmatist and in hiring Moyes they have ensured that will continue for at least a while longer.
However, there are also a lot of reasons to assume these upcoming few years won’t be at all easy for the Scot. One of the biggest concerns is obviously that he has never won a trophy as a manager, and whilst he has been operating on a small budget, many teams with smaller budgets than Everton have picked up silverware over the last eleven years. The main issue however is a lack of experience in Europe, or rather a lack of experience at the top level altogether. He has never coached in the Champions League apart from a qualification round defeat to Pellegrini’s Villarreal in 2005. And he’s never got past the last 16 of the Europa League. He might only be moving up six or so league positions but the nature of the challenge that awaits him at Old Trafford in terms of expectation levels, will be immeasurably different. The issue of how well he can manage a budget is also in doubt, having only ever worked with modest funds before.
At the start of the 2013/14 Premier League season, we know there will only be three contenders. Two of which will be coached by men without a European trophy between them, whilst the third will be coached by a man with two Champions Leagues, seven league titles and six cups. At the very least I expect Mourinho to break the Manchester duopoly next season with Utd the side most likely to fall behind. Looking at our league finishes over the past two season it’d be a big step forward no doubt, although, given Mourinho hasn’t finished outside the top two for ten years, it’s hardly the bravest prediction ever made. For sure it will be absolutely fascinating to see.
Jose never hid this love for Chelsea. He always wanted to come back to England and probably manage Chelsea because he thinks this is the ‘natural’ thing to happen. The rumours of Jose to Chelsea have been on for a couple of months now. Only in the last couple of weeks, I’ve really started believing that this could actually happen. The very possibility of Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea has resulted in celebration and jubilation among the Chelsea fans. You can see his name being sung at the Stamford Bridge even after all these years and you see the euphoria in the social network as soon as the possibility of him joining Chelsea back arose. Chelsea fans want Jose Mourinho back.
Amidst all this, the long pending formality has indeed happened. Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid have agreed to part ways. The press conference was very carefully worded and left no room for certain usual doubts. Was this a sacking? No. This is no sacking. Was this based on performance? No. This is not. Was his time to be seen as a failure? No. Not at all. Perez did answer these questions quite clearly and also almost sounded very disappointed that Jose Mourinho had to leave Real Madrid. The long ensuing debate since the Copa Del Rey final is whether Jose Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid has been a success or not. Let’s look at it from two angles: (a) from Jose Mourinho’s perspective (b) from Real Madrid’s perspective. Only these two perspectives matter and anyone else’ just doesn’t matter. We are all by standers who are no party in the contract.
Jose Mourinho’s perspective: FAILURE. By his own admission, this has been the worst season of his career. That’s also because he has set such high standards for himself, even one trophyless season makes him say it’s the worst season of his career. For a man who has won major trophies at every country he has worked, this season was a low. Won the league, UEFA cup and champions league at Portugal, won back to back league titles in England, won the back to back league titles and champions league in Italy, and won the league in Spain – for an exceptional manager like Jose Mourinho, this was going to be his worst season. During his time at Real Madrid, he did manage several things that are very unexpected of a manager there. In Real Madrid, the manager was never a powerful figure. Real Madrid have this habit of putting in a squad and then finding someone to coach that squad while he works under the directives of the football director, chairman and even the captain and players to some extent. Jose Mourinho was never going to play this game. He is what he is.
Jose bought the players he wanted to. It was quite clear that he was in charge. After just one season in Real Madrid, Jorge Valdano was shown the door. That’s not a simple political battle to win at Real Madrid. That’s a massive win. True to his stlye, he pulled up players where they didn’t perform as expected – didn’t matter if that was Iker Casillas. Unsurprisingly, I’m firmly on Jose’ side in his treatment of Casillas. Many think Casillas won finally. No, until the day Jose is the manager, Casillas will be on the bench. Nobody, just nobody, could pressurise Jose into picking Iker Casillas in the starting line-up. Jose always was particular in ensuring that the dressing room is fully behind him and treats any dividing or negative elements quite strongly. Casillas was dealt with.
The one key mistake was probably getting a bit complacent in the first half of this season. It’s my theory that Pep leaving Barcelona did not help Jose. Undoubtedly, Jose’ motivation levels did come down as Pep left Barcelona. Jose always needs an antagonist. He loves a strong opponent. Someone who’s worthy of giving him a good fight. When Pep left, both the team and Jose probably did get a bit complacent and started the season very badly and finally paid the price. Even an extraordinary second half season from Real Madrid wasn’t enough. Toppling Pep’s Barca was his key target. In Jose’ defence, most top managers wouldn’t even have tried that or even if they had, wouldn’t have had much success. Jose, by taking the Real Madrid job, knowing that he had to bring down the powerful Pep’s Barca, had taken a massive risk. Jose is a risk-taker. Some people would try to move mountains. Jose wants to move volcanos. Such is his nature, he wants the high-profile jobs, high-profile challenges and high-profile risks. And he delivered. It took only two seasons for Jose to brilliantly defeat Barca in the league and to top it all win the league right there at Camp Nou. Fairytale finish.
Most Real Madrid fans would agree that Jose Mourinho gave the manager’s position a real authority in Real Madrid. It was long overdue at Madrid and it needed Jose to do that and not many could have done that.
Real Madrid’s perspective: SUCCESS. Real Madrid have improved tremendsouly and have finally have got what they were missing all along: BELIEF. Until Jose was there, Real Madrid were just pushovers and also-rans and at best an ‘almost’ team. Jose gave them a real belief that they can win trophies and they can topple Barcelona. Consider this:
While these are all interesting facts, the last one is probably the most important. When Real Madrid lost 0-5 to Barcelona in his first season, many thought, he’s never going to succeed against Barcelona with Real Madrid. Then he went on to prove them wrong in an emphatic fashion by winning the La Liga by breaking all Spanish records and by beating what’s considered to be the best Barcelona team of all time. I’m sure no other manager would have managed this feat. Many could have come closer. Many could have won the hearts. But only one could have beaten that Barcelona team in such emphatic fashion and win the title in April and at Camp Nou. The record of winning four and drawing three in the last eight clasicos surely show how much Real Madrid have improved and how Jose has managed to remove the psychological barrier that Real Madrid players had over beating Barcelona. Now it’s changed. Last season, Barcelona did not want to play Real Madrid. They knew that their domination was slipping away. Jose’ biggest achievement at Real Madrid was to bring this belief in the minds of Real Madrid’s players that they can beat Barca and proving that with the results.
Until Jose Mourinho, as a Chelsea fan, I never took Real Madrid seriously. They were a team that consistently under-acheived like England in international stage – big names but you can count on them to fail where mattered. Teams were picked based on star value and not based on form or tactics. They struggled to get out of group stages in champions league and at best were getting beaten at first knock out rounds. Weren’t they beaten by Alcoron, a segunda B division team by a 4-0
scoreline in Copa Del Rey. That was the Real Madrid I knew before Jose Mourinho – a decade of underperformance, underachievement and failure. They had all the money and all the investment during this period but still underperformance, underachievement and failure.
Under Jose, Real Madrid earned the reputation back of being a favourite to win every competition they entered. You only need to look at the champions league odds for Real Madrid over the last 10 years to see how much they have become favourites to win. This is a massive improvement, in my eyes. His job was not over. It’s cut short abruptly. It’s cut short not because he cannot deal with Real Madrid’s demands or nor because Real Madrid are unhappy with the progress. This was cut short due to various non-football reasons – (a) Media (b) Casillas. Media: Spanish media never embraced Mourinho. And you know what, Mourinho gives you right back what you give him. Jose treated the media the same way they treated him. Unfortunately for him, he is just a football manager while they controlled what people saw, heard and read. No one can win against the media. I’m sure he’d have known that too well. But that doesn’t mean he was going to lose. He was being called Nazi, Satan and all sorts of names while he was there. And he was Portuguese as well. Most of his detractors were going to be detractors no matter what happened. But hats off to Mourinho for treating the journos exactly the way they deserve to be treated.
Casillas: Youth team product. Life long Madridista. Club captain. Euro winning captain. World cup winning captain. Benched. Another first for Jose. No other manager was going to bench Iker Casillas at Real Madrid while he’s fit. Nobody. No matter how poor he’s on and off the pitch, no one would even fathom the idea of dropping him and facing the consequences. Once again, this is a battle that Jose entered probably knowing very well where this is going to lead him to. But the consequences don’t matter. Jose is a big believer that he, and no else but him, is in charge. Firstly, he wasn’t happy with Casillas’ form and later he wasn’t happy with his attitude. He dealt with Casillas like how any self-respecting manager worth his salt should have. This is a very predictable end to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid career. We all knew he was never going to change. We all knew he would get into controversies and altercations. We all knew he will challenge anything he will have to. We all knew he would win trophies. Everything went as per the
script. There’s no surprise whatsoever.
Why is all this important here in this Chelsea blog? It’s very important to understand this man. It’s very important to see the patterns in his career. So you don’t be surprised when he joins your club. So you know what you’re taking on and what you should expect. Jose brings intensity, belief and pride and what he had done with Chelsea in his first stint has stood with us for more than half a decade. Jose doesn’t make a lot of friends because of his personality. And you come to know about these ‘enemies’ in moments like these. You can see how many are keen to stick it in during his worse moment. Kicking a man when he’s down is media’s bread and butter. If you know Jose very well, you will know that this set back will only make his come back with more desire and hunger. He’s a wounded animal now. For this reason, I’m sure this is the perfect time to hire Jose as your manager. I’m very hopeful that he joins Chelsea. As far as I’m concerned, I’d give my right arm to get Jose Mourinho as the next Chelsea manager. For me, Jose is the best football manager ever. And he’s spent only one-third of the time a certain Scottish manager has managed. Let’s bring back The Special One!]]>
Yesterday it was announced by the President of Real Madrid, Florentino Perez that the time had come to “end the relationship” between Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho. He euphemised the evident simultaneous sacking and resigning a “mutually agreed upon deal” before adding that the season hadn’t been at the level required for Real Madrid. Mourinho himself called the campaign the worst of his career and I don’t think there can be any doubt that’s true.
The debate over whether or not the Portuguese’s three year reign in the Spanish capital was a success, has already been running for a while. It seems almost insulting, to me at least, to reduce the impact of a figure as complex and multifaceted as Mourinho to the balance sheet, but I think it serves as useful tool for being able to sympathise with his critics. Over the course of his three seasons Mourinho has: won two major trophies (including a record-breaking league title win). He has feuded and publically fallen out with Ramos, Cassilas, Pepe, Ronaldo and Jorge Valdano. He has often resorted to embarrassing outburst and rants – most notably his paranoid diatribe suggesting there was a conspiracy between UEFA and UNICEF. There have been disgraceful sending-offs aplenty. He has often neglected his duties to the Spanish media and bullied journalists when he did give conferences. And surely most reprehensible of all – his pusillanimous eye gouging of Tito Vilanova.
Even since 2004 I have been a huge fan of Jose Mourinho and it gives me no pleasure at all to outline his shortcomings, but I feel if we’re being honest, as we must be, given his imminent return to our Chelsea, then we have to admit to the fact we are hiring a coach who for the first time in his career, is coming off the back of an unsuccessful job. He is leaving Madrid without any major trophies in the cabinet, with the majority of fans glad to see the back of him and with, allegedly, all but four members of his squad sharing this sentiment. Contrast this to his exit from Chelsea and Inter Milan where he left such a deep ingrained loyalty, and I think his biggest failure at Madrid becomes apparent.
Having said all of this, there is one important point that needs to be made. Some have suggested that Mourinho has sullied the name of Real Madrid and is breaking with the club’s principles, when the truth of the matter is that Madrid broke their own principles by hiring him in the first place. If Perez and his officials were naive enough to expect Jose not to start fires and cause controversy when they approached him, after his first press conference where he stated “I am Jose Mourinho and I don’t change”, I think the club lost all rights to criticise the man for his values. It’s understandable to me why any chairman would want to hire the world’s best coach, but knowing his character in advance, what on Earth did Madrid think was going to happen, given the officious hierarchy and egotistical core of players they were giving him to work with?
It’s also worth noting that whilst they may be outweighed by the negatives, the scale of Mourinho’s few achievements were immense to say the least. Ultimately we all know why he was brought to Real Madrid – and that was to stop Barcelona, which he of course did by winning La Liga with 100 points last season. To suggest anything along the lines of “once in three years was a minimum” I think is to seriously underestimate the challenge. This Barcelona are probably the greatest club side of all time; they are fronted by possibly the greatest player of all time and I think that to maintain anyone but Mourinho could’ve wrestled the league away from them would be a difficult argument to make. Sadly, it might take Barcelona winning the next five Spanish leagues before people realise just how impressive an achievement it was.
Regarding his three UCL campaigns, tactical decisions made by Mourinho in all three of his semi-final defeats could have and were severely questioned, but in the end, teams don’t reach finals without a measure of luck and Madrid never got it. For the club to have reached the semis in three consecutive seasons after not getting past the last 16 since 2004, I think shows Mourinho has at least got Madrid back to where they should be, if not where they wanted him to take them.
So now with announcement expected within the next fortnight of Jose’s return to Chelsea, what exactly are his targets and what can we expect?
In my opinion his first job will be to address a criticism made by his former opposition scout, Andre Villas-Boas about the club – a criticism I thought was actually quite fair. Before Tottenham’s draw at Stamford Bridge, our former coach said that Chelsea lacked “a style”, which to him is “always more important than success”. It’s important to note carefully what AVB said here because of course Chelsea don’t lack style (with Mata, Hazard, Luiz and Oscar we have style to burn) what we lack is a style/a distinguished way of playing. Under Di Matteo initially of course we were a team who defended deep and counter attacked and by the end of his reign the Italian had us playing extremely directly, giving the three playmakers pretty much completely free roles. But since Benitez took over, the club has very much lacked any sort of identity on the pitch, external to the identity of its players. We haven’t counter attacked, we never pressed particularly high up and we were certainly never a possession based team. Overall, tactically, under Benitez I think Chelsea have been pretty bland. This won’t be an issue under Mourinho for very long I feel. He will make Chelsea solid and lethal on the counter attack – Eden Hazard in particular could be turned into a world-beater by Jose’s tactics. That he will solve will this issue (if you even choose to see as an issue) is not in doubt – only how long it will take is the question as far as I’m concerned.
Finally, what is it Chelsea fans can expect in the long term? Everyone knows he doesn’t exactly leave his clubs in great shape and he’s never stayed in a job for more than three full seasons. However, there exist so many reasons why I think things could be different this time around and why Mourinho might stay with Chelsea long term. Most importantly, the Chelsea job at this moment in time is a totally different challenge to any he has ever taken on before. In every job he has had since 2004 he has benn given the same mandate – to win the league and to win the Champions League at pretty much any cost. This summer he’ll have different priorities. Of course he will still be expected to challenge heavily for every available trophy but the main challenge for Mourinho this time is to build. In as stable an environment as he could reasonably hope for, with a supportive backroom and a largely adoring fan base, the Portuguese’s directive will be to take one of the greatest assortments of young talent in European sport and to turn them into a world-class side.
We know Mourinho ‘doesn’t change’, but what we don’t know is what happens when his situation changes. At a club which he loves and where he knows he can be happy long term, with resources, a loyal fan base and group of world class players whom he can instil his principles into early, does the prospect of Mourinho lasting longer than three years or thriving without confrontation seem that unlikely? Not at all in my opinion.
Chelsea and Mourinho need each other at this moment, but it’s still an absolutely fascinating move. Next year’s Premier League season will be so much more interesting than 2012/13, for a lot of reasons, but none more so than the return of the world greatest coach. Bwin.com currently has Chelsea at 3.50 to win the league with the Manchester clubs at 2.90. I can’t wait to see what happens.
So in the end, last night was a result and a performance so fantastically typical of this Chelsea side in recent years, frustrating, tense, unfathomably inconsistent and yet simultaneously bestowed with moments of pure quality and of course it was never boring – not for even a second. And most importantly it ended how it always seems to, with John Terry and Frank Lampard raising the trophy elatedly above their heads. The 2013 Europa League is now Chelsea FC’s 11th major honour in 10 years and our second European Trophy in 12 months. We are the first club in history to hold both of UEFA’s major competitions at the same time and though the chants in the terraces may be slightly tongue-in-cheek from now on, for the next twelve months at least, ‘Champions of Europe’ we shall remain.
One of the most famous stories of European football (and one which has become legendary to the torment of our opponents last night) is the ‘Curse of Bela Guttmann’. The Jewish-Hungarian Benfica coach who left the club on bad terms in 1962 having just won his 2nd consecutive European Cup. He told club officials at the time that they wouldn’t win a European final for another 100 years and half a century on, his prediction has held. At times Benfica’s luck seemed as though it genuinely was cursed, as they did everything but score in the first 20 minutes. Few could deny also that for the majority of the game Benfica outplayed Chelsea in terms of pressing and passing and creativity – if not for some unlucky slips and bad ‘final third’ decisions we could’ve lost the game in the opening quarter. The online betting sites I checked had us generally at 4/6 to win last night but those odds must surely have lengthened across the duration of the first 45. Fortunately our incredible last-ditch, panic-mode defending skills remain from last year.
Benfica dominated the first half. We were standing off their centre halves and Nemanja Matic, allowing them to play from the back, whilst they had us under constant pressure, forcing us into aimless passes downfield , taking no advantage of Mata’s off the ball movement. After half time however, Chelsea immediately pressed higher and began to stretch Benfica further. The first goal when it came was atrociously defended by the Portuguese side as they allowed the ball to come right down the middle of the pitch from a Cech throw out and a simple Mata flick on. But the finish was sensational – surely the biggest and best goal of Fernando Torres’ Chelsea career so far. He showed fantastic strength and speed to break away from Luisao and then wonderful composure to round Artur in goal. Torres is clearly the happiest he’s been right now since he came to Chelsea and it has shown in his football. A few months ago, most Chelsea fans were calling for/half expecting his departure this summer, now it seems though the he has decided he has a lot more to say and lot more goals to score in a blue shirt – and I’m very much looking forward to them.
Benfica equalised through a blasted Oscar Cardozo penalty after Azpilicueta was unfortunately penalised for a handball (spoiling an otherwise solid performance, keeping Nico Gaitan quiet), before both Frank Lampard and Cardozo came close to sealing the trophy with phenomenal long range efforts, with the latter drawing a great save from Petr Cech. Then in the 92nd minute, with Benitez and the supporters surely beginning to mull over extra time substitutions, Ramires won a corner. It was a nice piece of play from the Brazilian after an honestly poor performance. And of course it was Juan Mata who swung in the delivery to the back post, where it was met perfectly by Branislav Ivanovic, to head it in to far corner. According to the Serb it was the single greatest moment of his career and it according to me, it is a 100% fully deserved accolade for a player who has embodied the resilience and the passion and the quality that has seen Chelsea go unbeaten in major finals since 2008.
The emotion in the ground obviously didn’t begin to compare with Munich but the scenes following the final whistle were still fantastic to watch. Lampard holding aloft the trophy in front of our supporters, Paulo Ferreira and Ramires celebrating with their sons and David Luiz sportingly consoling his former teammates before rejoicing with his current colleagues. This obviously meant so much to the players and it’s no less than they deserve after such a difficult season.
Perhaps the most touching scene however was the unanimous appreciative applause that the Chelsea fans gave to Rafa Benitez when he stood alone with the trophy. There has been, no doubt, a fair sized group of Chelsea fans that have treated him despicably throughout his tenure, but generally I think the overall apathy towards Benitez has been overstated. I’d even go as far as to say I think the majority of Chelsea fans have always respected his talents and achievements and never bore stupid childish grudges. Now that he gets to leave with his head held high as only the third manager in history to have won European trophies with three different clubs, I think he can also rest assured that he’s leaving with the respect and the appreciation from the Chelsea fan base for a difficult job, particularly well done.
One other story from last night (since confirmed officially) is that Frank Lampard will be staying at the club for one more season. There existed, in my head at least, a good number of pros and cons for the retention of Lampard on the squad list for next season but irrespective of them all, the fact of the matter is that Lampard has earned the right to stay. He is the perfect professional and an obvious inspiration to all of the young players in the team. His presence will no doubt help Jose Mourinho settle back into his old job that extra bit more easily, too. The Chelsea goal record will always have been the big one on Lampard’s agenda, but now he’s only 11 goals away from overtaking Thierry Henry as the Premier League’s 3rd all time highest scorer! At this stage, who could possibly be stupid enough to bet against him?
For me the whole evening was perfectly summed up by a single nine word statement allegedly made by Eden Hazard after the game: “People questioned me, why Chelsea? This is the answer”. And it’s a pretty resounding, definitive answer if you ask me. We may struggle at times, we may get into trouble and we might get stitched up from time to time, but we win. These blokes are categorically, undeniably, full on, relentless, bona fide winners and long may they continue to be.
Congratulations Chelsea FC – Europa League Winner 2013 – KTBFFH
The number of times this charming little parody of a Christian hymn was boisterously descanted by Chelsea fans on the train home to London from Villa Park on Saturday, whilst teetering dangerously on the verge of excessive, most certainly helped to create the sort of atmosphere that the occasion deserved. I know I wasn’t alone in feeling incredibly privileged to have seen firsthand, Frank Lampard score his record 203rd goal for Chelsea Football Club, and of course it had to have been a beautifully worked match winning goal coming from a perfectly timed run into the box.
It was one of the most touching moments of live sport I’ve ever seen, watching Frank run over to the fans and soaking up waves of pure passion, emanating from two thousand ecstatic screaming Cockneys. Unfortunately I was sitting in the home stand, adjacent to the Chelsea fans and had to limit my celebration to a falsely sombre applause. I still however, felt as much a part of the moment as that one-legged chap who ran on the pitch (escaping obviously the worst security in the world) to hug our iconic #8. A bizarre but rather telling scene I feel – not even the loss of limbs can hinder our love for Frank Lampard.
Of course that goal also means that a top 4 (and most likely top 3) position is completely secure and we can start anticipating (like my singing travelling companions) the Europa League final in Amsterdam on Wednesday night. After having lost 3 separate finals this season as well as two Cup semi-final ties, the Europa League is our last chance for silverware at the end of an ultimately disappointing, yet simultaneously promising season. I think a victory would allow us to philosophically reflect on the highs and lows of the last nine months and move forward with a sense of achievement and development with some important lessons learned, whilst defeat would have us wiping the slate clean and looking to start from scratch. I concede this is more of a quasi-poetic overview, rather than an honest objective outlining of the situation, however we’re all aware of the importance of momentum to a team’s mentality, and for Jose to return to a team still very much in the habit of winning Cup finals, I think should be important to the club. The opportunity to become the first side in history to hold both of UEFA’s major club competitions concurrently (if only for a few days), shouldn’t be disregarded either.
In complete contrast to the elation and to the pride that Saturday’s game brought to Chelsea, our opposition on Wednesday night will come into the game broken hearted, having lost arguably the biggest ‘O Clasico’ in recent history. A 92nd minute winner from Porto’s Kelvin knocked the Lisbon side back into 2nd place with only one round of fixtures to go. The pictures were moving as Benfica coach Jorge Jesus tearfully slumped to his knees on the touchline.
Consensus in Portugal is that Benfica have improved yearly since their current manager took charge in 2009, whilst Porto’s strength has fluctuated with the purchase and sale of Hulk and Radamel Falcao. Three years ago, Jesus’ stylish side were booted off the pitch by a physical Porto side (denying them the draw they needed to seal the title that night) before Andre Villas-Boas’ team steamrolled the division the following year. This season however, fan’s and pundit’s perception of the Lisbon outfit has been more positive. Both mentally and physically Benfica are a strong side and regardless of their domestic setback this weekend, Chelsea fans should expect to face a tougher side than the team we eliminated in the Quarter finals of the Champions League last season – Even though Jesus stated in his press conference after the game, his side’s failure to avoid defeat to Porto would “leave scars” ahead of Wednesday’s match.
The majority of previews being written for the final around Europe, regarding Chelsea specifically, mainly are focused on two players, for whom Chelsea paid Benfica over £40million.
The obvious star of the game is David Luiz, the man who led Chelsea to the final with goals in both legs of their semi, the second of which – a beautiful in-swinging 25 yard curler with his weaker foot – is a genuine contender for Chelsea’s goal of the season. Luiz has stepped up this year and transformed himself from the impulsive, slightly erratic player perhaps Benfica fans may remember, into a leader and a key player for this Chelsea team. All in all, I think David has been exceptional for us this season wherever/whenever he’s been selected and for reasons explained here: http://bluechampions.com/2013/05/03/why-mourinho-luiz-will-take-chelsea-back-to-the-top/… I think he’ll be integral to any future success that Chelsea will enjoy.
The other man being given the headlines is a player I feel (in spite of his red card this weekend) deserves this trophy more than anyone and could well be the man who wins it for us. Ramires’ story (in case anybody hasn’t read it before) is similar to a lot of South American professionals, in that he grew up in an extremely poor household, having to work daily on a building site to help provide for his family, whilst training whenever he could in the evenings. It’s that same energy and spirit that’s endeared him to Chelsea fans since his arrival in 2010.
Other than his talent and incredible stamina however, one reason Ramires’ name will be amongst the first on Benitez’ team sheet for sure, will be the fact he missed out on our Champions League final win last season through suspension, especially having done as much as anyone (bar Drogba perhaps) to get us there – assisting the Ivorian against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge and scoring that stunning, match-turning goal in the return leg. That wasn’t the first big game he was unlucky to miss either, having been injured for Brazil’s World Cup quarter final defeat against the Netherlands in 2010, with Coach Dunga offering up our #7s absence as a key excuse for the result. Wednesday’s re-union with the club that spring boarded his career in Europe should finally give Ramires the opportunity to star in a major European final and I very much hope that the result will make all of those long days as a teenager in Sao Paulo worthwhile.
I for one was particularly happy to see Benitez looking so relaxed and comfortable in his interview on Saturday. Now that the diabolical treatment he’s been given from Chelsea fans (and certain internet bloggers) and ceased, and with his position cleared up completely by the club, it seems he’s finally getting to properly enjoy working with this squad and it shows. We’re unbeaten in eight games, defending well, attacking well and although he hasn’t been able to implement any apparent style (understandable given all the rotation the fixture list has forced him into) I think the football has been pretty good to watch. Whether or not Chelsea win on Wednesday, I think the record will show Benitez to have a done a good job at the club. In our minds however, and I assume in his as well, this final is what determines whether all of the aggravation surrounding this “marriage of convenience” will have been worth it. I completely aware that it is wishful thinking on my part to expect a seconder for the following notion but I don’t care – Rafael Benitez deserves this trophy as much as any Chelsea fan or player for his work since November and I’d be extremely happy to see him lift it.
LINE-UPS AND PREDICTIONS
Given Saturday was unquestionably Benfica’s most important game of the season, I think it’s reasonable to assume their line-up will be extremely similar if not identical. The back five of goalkeeper Artur, Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Ezequiel Garay and Andre Almeida is well established. Pereira in particular I think is a great player; I’m always expecting him to soon be snapped up by a top European side – I don’t know why it never happens. Enzo Perez will play in midfield alongside former Chelsea-man Nemanja Matic, who has made great leaps forward this season (according to Ben Shave at least, my favourite ‘Portuguese football’ journalist). Young Argentine attackers Eduardo Salvio and Nico Gaitan are two of Benfica’s most dangerous attacking players and will probably start alongside either young Portuguese winger Ola John, or the veteran Pablo Aimar. Up front they have the choice of either Lima or Oscar Cardozo.
As for Chelsea, with captain John Terry missing once again for a European final, this time with an ankle injury, it’s looking as though Benitez will get to select what has seemingly become his preferred back four of Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic and Cole, with David Luiz starting in midfield. It may seem cruel not selecting Lampard after his heroics on Saturday, but the manager, having now achieved the top 4 target demanded of him, is unlikely to make a sentimental decision ahead the game that will ultimately have always meant the most to him personally. If he’s fit then I think it’s almost certain Mikel will play, meaning Ramires will start on the right and Oscar, who missed out in the Club World Cup final in December will make up the midfield three with Juan Mata. It might also seem harsh to leave out Victor Moses with the Nigerian having scored in his last four Europa League games, but in my opinion his premier league form hasn’t been at all consistent enough to warrant a starting place on Wednesday. I am sure however he’ll be used at some point to provide width in the absence of Eden Hazard
Benfica: Artur, Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Almeida, Perez, Matic, Salvio, Gaitan, John, Cardozo
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Mikel, David Luiz, Ramires, Oscar, Mata, Torres
Despite what Jesus and Aimar have said leading up to the game, about there being “no favourites” and Chelsea being at their weakest in the “Abramovich era”, Benfica will know they’re the underdogs here. However, we have reasons to be concerned ourselves, with Hazard unavailable and those defeats in the Super Cup and CWC potentially playing on the minds of the players should we make a bad start.
Occasions like these however are where winning cultures count for more than almost anything else. This group are accustomed to winning on the big stage, obviously far more than Benfica and they’ll know that. Let’s not forget our coach is no stranger to big finals and his record isn’t exactly bad. I think Chelsea will win the game by two goals and I think Fernando Torres will score; I’ll also predict both Mikel and Ramires will have brilliant games and Juan Mata will be Man of the Match.
Here’s hoping we do all that’s needed to win a final. A final is not any other game. A final is where you take some risks and risk some gambles. Sometimes depending on the situation, you might even have to take the online casino gaming approach. And when you do that you will be the winner more often than not. Chelsea and Rafa Benitez know that only quite too well. Both the club and the manager have had their share of successes and failures in the final stage. It’s that pedigree that could separate these two teams. Chelsea for the win. Enjoy the game comrades and KTBFFH.