Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea is the best thing to happen to them over the summer. Guest author Alok Kulkarni elaborates.
Almost six years ago to the day, Jose Mourinho left Chelsea FC by mutual consent. Or so it was called. The dream had ended for most fans. Their most successful manager in history was shown the door. The Special One had left the building. You don’t have to be a fan of the club to know who runs the show at The Bridge. The oil-laden money that financed Chelsea’s rise, as many people feared (or hoped), was going to be the reason for their downfall. It certainly looked that way in those days.
A string of managers followed in what looked like a managerial merry-go-round. Some of these men were inspiring, motivated, some too young to manage huge superstar egos, some promoted because their bosses were fired and some interim ones. It never really looked like they belonged. Even fan favourite Roberto Di Matteo, who got Abramovich to the Holy Grail of the Champions League was not spared the whip after a few bad results. Granted these managers, namely Grant, Hiddink, Ancelotti, Villas-Boas and Di Matteo brought Chelsea silverware, the general feeling with the fans and players alike was that the “romance” was missing.
The Last Straw
In November of 2012, every Chelsea fan’s second worst nightmare (the first being Roman going kaput on them) came true. Former Liverpool manager and ardent Chelsea-hater – Rafa Benitez – took charge at The Bridge. It’s not everyday you see a manager being reprimanded with such negative response at being introduced to the home crowd in his first game in charge. In fact, when Benitez was introduced to the crowd, they sang Di Matteo’s name instead.
Benitez’s appointment, in many ways, can be called the turning point in Chelsea’s history. It made Mr. Abramovich realize that although he can tinker with managers as and how he chooses to, the fans were clearly going to have more of a say in it. The mood at Stamford Bridge was sour and Roman knew he had to do something about it. He famously courted Pep Guardiola to take the job, but the latter refused. As a result, things look set for a second innings by someone ‘special’ to the club. Speculation went rife about Mourinho’s return to the Bridge. As the rumours continued to gain momentum, the lift in mood was palpable. The mere mention of The Special One’s return was reason enough for fans to be happy again.
Having said that, Abramovich and Benitez did have the last laugh. The “facht” remains that Benitez left with an impressive record, winning 57 percent of the games he was in charge of and a European trophy to boot. Although he did not make a good first impression, he did manage to win a few fans towards the end of the season.
Meanwhile in Italy and Spain
Jose Mourinho continued from where he left off. Winning trophies. He took up the challenge of Inter in June of 2008. He won the Scudetto and the Italian SuperCup in his first season in-charge but failed to strike a chord with the fans and media alike. The second season in Italy was when his relation with the Italian press started going south and despite winning a historic treble with the Nerazzurri, he chose to leave the same year to join the bright lights of Madrid and the Bernabéu.
Mourinho’s time at Real Madrid started with a Copa Del Rey title in his first season. The usual touchline bans, confrontations and fines followed. That season, however, they slipped to a 5-0 defeat in the El Clásico, which was described by their President as “the worst result in Madrid’s history”. Another successful season followed, with Real winning the La Liga title and more importantly for the fans, won 2-1 at the Camp Nou in the process.
At the start of his third season at Madrid, he won the Supercopa de Espana becoming the only manager in history to win all trophies in the Spanish top division football in just two years. Apart from that though, the season was mostly downhill. He failed to guide Real to another trophy and described the season as “the worst of my career”. He was eventually let go after their defeat to rivals Atletico Madrid in the Copa Del Rey final of 2013.
Return of The Happy One
As was speculated throughout the end of the season, Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea FC as first team manager on 3rd June, 2013. In a press interview following his appointment, when asked by a reporter if he was still the Special One, he quipped, “ I am the Happy One now”.
The joy of Chelsea fans knew no bounds. And why not? The Messiah had returned home. The best part was that this time, the manager actually loved the club and wanted to be there. With the managerial merry-go-round at Chelsea, this isn’t exactly the job every manager wants. However, with Mourinho, it feels as though life at Chelsea FC has finally come a full circle.
Mourinho knows he isn’t the most loved man on the planet. And he doesn’t care about that. He is there to do a job and will do it his way. He is a leader of men. Wins and losses are analyzed with equal importance. He has learnt it all the hard way. An ordinary player who never played beyond the 2nd Division in Portugal, he realized his skills could be put to better use off the pitch. Starting as an interpreter for Sir Bobby Robson at FC Barcelona, he further learnt his trade under Louis van Gaal. Starting on his own with Benfica, Uniao de Leiria and moving to Porto kick-started his career.
Widely regarded by many (grudgingly) as the best manager in the world at the moment, José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix is every player’s dream. A brilliant man-manager who believes in treating players by how well they played the last game rather than by their last name. Players want to do well for him. Players want to impress him. Agreed, he doesn’t elicit respect from all quarters, but they are the exception and not the rule.
The league is excited to have him back, other managers are having sleepless nights, the media is looking forward to his pressers and the players are on their toes not sure if they will be playing the next game. If this isn’t Chelsea’s best move this summer, I don’t know what is. The only thing that could have topped this is signing Messi, Ronaldo and Bale together.
His second coming is sure to be worth a watch. Chelsea fans better hold on tight for this ride. As a banner at Stamford Bridge read on the opening day of his first game back, all Chelsea fans will concur that now, “Jose, We Are The Happy One’s”. Touché.
Written by Alok Kulkarni