Chelsea Football Club, under Roman Abramovich, have committed quite a few mistakes in the last decade, but none has been more notable than the untimely sacking of the most successful manager in the history of the club – Jose Mourinho. Why that particular decision was taken has always been up for debate; for some it was due to boardroom politics after the appointments of Frank Arnesen and Avram Grant, while others are also of the opinion that it was either Chelsea’s failures to lift the Champions League despite coming excruciatingly close or the negative press that the club was subjected to because of the manager’s outbursts that led to his departure. We’d probably never know the true reason behind that decision, but one thing is indisputable – that the club erred.
Since his departure in 2007, Chelsea have gone through Avram Grant, Luis Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto di Matteo and have now stooped to living a delusional life under Rafa Benitez. While Grant and Hiddink were interim managers and their departure cannot be blamed on the management, Scolari and Villas-Boas were rightfully fired. Only the removal of Ancelotti and Di Matteo brought back the sense of injustice and disappointment that was first witnessed when Mourinho left.
Today, Chelsea is certainly not where they want to be. The fans are dissatisfied and feel let down by the top hierarchy and the players feel demotivated and deliver sub-optimal performances game after game. The famed unity of the dressing room appears to be partly eroded and on the field the team has definite tactical flaws. Extremely talented young players (at the club or out on loan) appear directionless while veterans don’t have a clarity on their future; and at a time when the club were accustomed to competing against the European elites in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, they find themselves traveling to Czech Republic to play their Europa League encounter. They were deservingly knocked out of Capital One Cup by Swansea, while their league form has ensured that Manchester United will walk to yet another title with no competition whatsoever. The project of building the next team by replacing Jose’s fighters with a fresh breed of versatile players capable of playing an attractive brand of football, which was started after the appointment of Villas-Boas, appears to be stuck in a limbo.
Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, has gone on to win the Champions League again with Internazionale, in addition to claiming the league titles in Italy and Spain, and thereby establishing himself as one of the modern day managing marvels of the game. He has now won the Champions League with two different clubs and league titles in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain, and has his eyes fixed on lifting the European trophy with Real Madrid, who despite winning the competition for a record 9 times, haven’t tasted success in over a decade.
Despite winning the league last season and reaching the semi-final of Champions League, life in Spain has been far from perfect for Mourinho. During his tenure in Spain, there have been countless boardroom power struggles, the rivalry with Barcelona has turned into animosity not limited to football, there’s bad blood in the dressing room between the Spanish and foreign players and the media hasn’t warmed up to his presence in the country. Ergo, it is believed, if Madrid win the Champions League, Mourinho will walk; if they don’t, he might just be forced to walk. Either way, his time in Spain appears to be reaching its climax.
Paris Saint-Germain is touted as a likely destination for the enigmatic coach, as Carlo Ancelotti hasn’t really done justice to the millions poured in by the middle-eastern owners. And the prospect of winning a league title in a fifth country will also appeal to Jose. However, the challenge in Paris is too easy for Mourinho’s liking and the man who once famously said “If I wanted to have an easy job, I would have stayed at Porto – beautiful blue chair, the Uefa Champions League trophy, God, and after God, me“, isn’t expected to take an easier assignment.
England is his destination of choice. If he leaves and comes to England as he has often stated, why would he chose Chelsea and not one of the Manchester clubs, is a question that comes to mind. Many claim that he has had his eyes on the Manchester United job for a long time, but Sir Alex Ferguson is in no mood to leave just yet. His team is again in the middle of a mini revolution of sorts and are poised for greater accomplishments, so his departure isn’t on the horizon. Furthermore, Sir Bobby Charlton recently stated that Mourinho’s behavior isn’t becoming of a Manchester United manager. However, even if Jose is to take over at United eventually irrespective of what those associated with the club feel, the man himself cannot afford to take the job at the other end of the city.
If he replaces Roberto Mancini next season, that will close whatsoever little opening he sees at United. Moreover, the presence of chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain at the helm of City affairs will also prove to be a hindrance to his appointment. They consider him to be too disruptive an influence for a club that holds its image too dearly, as has been seen since the change in ownership. They had even opted for Pep Guardiola over Jose Mourinho to lead Barcelona in 2008 so it’s difficult to see them appoint Mourinho at City.
The challenge at Chelsea is monumental. This is a club that appear to have everything, but actually have nothing. They have all top young talent in the world, but no one to get the best out of them. They have an extremely formidable line-up on paper, but fail to recreate any kind of magic on the pitch. They have arguably the best facility to produce and groom youngsters in the country but haven’t been able to truly reap in the benefits. They play in most, if not all competitions, but fail to mount a sustainable challenge across all fronts; a league success is accompanied by a disaster in Europe, while the European triumph last summer came at the cost of massive disappointment in the league. The situation has in fact turned for the worse this season. To top it all, they have one of the richest but also the most volatile owner in world football. Furthermore, he will be strongly advised to return to his former club.
Knowing Jose, he’d be salivating at the prospect of taking over the reins at Chelsea again. The challenge is too grave for him to look any other way. For Chelsea, he is their only option as he can be the catalyst that brings people together, draws fans closer to the management, unites the players and carves out a team of winners out of individuals that they have become. Jose Mourinho also has unfinished business in West London. He will see his return as the homecoming of a decorated war hero and that certainly is a story that will capture the imagination of the world, and Jose loves being the cynosure of all eyes. The reality is that for the fans and senior players, this actually will be the case. He is still treated as a god of Stamford Bridge and the day of his return will be celebrated like no other.
Both Chelsea and Jose are despised by most and loved by a few, and have always been considered to be a perfect match for each other. Perhaps, it’s time for them to bury their differences and resume the romance that had seen them become arguably the most dominant force in club football.