For someone who shows his hand with as much cunning as a Mississippi card shark, Jose Mourinho looks a little too desperate to return to Chelsea and into the arms of the oligarch. The “special one” has been dropping morsals for weeks about his imminent return to England and with the United and City jobs tied up and the North London duo unlikely to change anything, everyone knows that Mourinho’s been bound for Stamford Bridge since Rafa Benitez took temporary occupancy in the dugout.
Mourinho has suddenly decided to rewrite history. He is anxious to work among those that “love him”, he says. With the exception of Chelsea’s fans, Mourinho was disliked in England: by the media; by rival managers; and by opposition fans. Admittedly, he made good copy, but it all got a little tiring and predictable. Arrogance and self-belief takes you so far, but it doesn’t win you many friends.
He was compared to Brian Clough, with some justification, but he was more like the semi-fictional Clough from “The Damned United” than the green sweat shirt-wearing Clough of latter years. And if he spoke to Roman Abramovich like Clough did to Manny Cussins, there’s no surprise that the relationship broke down.
Mourinho’s attitude was that his currency was so strong that he could go anywhere. Inter Milan and Real Madrid on his CV suggests he was not wrong. But where do you go from two mega-clubs like the Nerazzurri and Los Blancos – are the options not diminishing? The answer is – you go back and finish the job you started in 2004.
Chelsea fans will love it, and I would wager that Abramovich will also be pleased to get his prodigal son back. Let’s face it, Chelsea have tried since 2007 to recapture the mood of 2004 and although the trophies continued to doggedly roll in, witness Amsterdam May 15 2013, the club has lost its joie de vivre.
But is Mourinho wise to go back to the scorched earth of Stamford Bridge? Reunions rarely work in football, although Juup Heynckes at Bayern Munich (three spells in charge) kicks that argument into touch. But for every Heynckes, there are plenty of Malcolm Allisons.
Mourinho will, to some extent, be walking out of Madrid with his tail between his legs. He may lift the Copa del Rey, but his Real side has been in Barca’s slipstream all season. There’s been rumours of player unrest, some of which has been very public, and the Champions League exposed the team’s shortcomings. Mourinho’s time at Real has shown that he is something of a “fizz-bang” manager, coming in with shock-troop tactics, picking up prizes and then coming down the other side of the curve, falling out with the club and moving on. Look at his record. Two years at Porto, two titles, two European triumphs (UEFA Cup and Champions League). At Chelsea, two titles, cup wins and then out. At Inter, two titles, a Champions League and then on to pastures new. At Real, a record-breaking title and down – in relative terms – the slope. It’s either his attention span is short or he cannot sustain relationships. Perhaps both.
Mourinho’s teams, in their early stages, don’t just win a title, they romp it. Porto’s two titles were won by 11 and eight points; Chelsea’s by 12 and 8, Inter’s first by 10 and Real’s by nine. In 2011-12, Real Madrid scored 121 goals and won 32 of their 38 games as they run up 100 points. It’s comparable to Chelsea’s 2004-05 season when the club won 29 games and accumulated 95 points. Mourinho does not do flukey title wins.
In 2012-13, Real Madrid are likely to finish 10 point behind Barca, the most any Mourinho team since his Porto days has been off top spot. That’s almost a 20 point shift on last season, which underlines Real’s fall from top position. They’ve also lost five games, the most any Mourinho has suffered in his career since 2003. Roberto Mancini was sacked by Manchester City for a similar performance. Mourinho has enjoyed a win rate in excess of 70% six times in 10 seasons – Real may just get there, but it hasn’t been a vintage season for the club and Mourinho has fallen out of love with it, and it sounds as though it’s mutual.
Mourinho may, on the other hand, be arriving at Chelsea just in time. The Manchesters are under new management and in the case of United, there’s a huge gap to fill. Chelsea know him and you would expect the purse-strings to be generously open to continue the rebuilding process at the club. If nothing else, life will be interesting in London SW6 . As if it is ever dull!