Jose Mourinho was officially unveiled as the Chelsea first-team manager amid mass frenzy in a Press conference at Stamford Bridge. Here is our take on an unusually calm act by the Special One.
One couldn’t help but notice that for all the anticipation surrounding Jose Mourinho’s second coming as the Chelsea Manager, the Portuguese was not his usual animated self at the official unveiling, maintaining a calm demeanor throughout with only an occasional smile. When pinched on his legendary proclamation of being The Special One at his first Chelsea press conference nine years ago, Mourinho was insistent that now he is simply ‘The Happy One’. Happy he surely is to return to the scene of so many successful wanderings, but there was little to show for it. Once or twice you could see the glint in his eye or the rare change in body language from calm to aggressive when conversing with the journalists, but nothing more. It might be early days still, infact these are pretty early days, and Mourinho might yet get the Fire in his belly back by the time the football season starts rolling, but his usual harmless rhetoric and cynicism were surely conspicuous by their absence. The football paparazzi, or journalists as they prefer to call themselves, must have left the Chelsea grounds with a little tinge of disappointment.
It was only natural then, that in the aftermath of the eagerly awaited press conference, ‘explanations’ were floating around as to why the Special One looked rather subdued. One of them seemed to be that the guy has just suffered a mass lynching at the hands of Spanish press. Perhaps he needed a break from the harrowing press, hence the low key presentation? It would make sense if this was someone else, but this is not just somebody being talked about. And if you choose to believe the grapevine, then you have misunderstood the persona that Jose Mourinho is, completely.
Here is a man who does things in a way one would not expect anybody else in his place to do. For him the game begins before the players take to the field and does not end until his post match comments are out. He picks his performance for a press conference like he would pick his suit, like a magician would pick his tricks for different audience, like a politician would choose his words for different people. Nothing is left to chance or emotion. And this time it seems, Mourinho has begun his game already. But it’s a different one to the one he played in London last time around.
So, change of heart, is it? Change of character? Hardly. Mourinho, whether loved or hated for it, has a winning mentality, and such a person is always going to come to blows with another. And he did trade quite a few punches, metaphorically no doubt, in his first time at Chelsea. The Anders Frisk incident involving Frank Rijkaard and Barcelona, numerous verbal duels with Wenger and Benitez, or some of his famous comments such as “There will be a National holiday when someone beats my Chelsea” or such as “The world wants us to lose, except for people in the King’s road and few back in my hometown” worked to his and Chelsea’s advantage and created a siege mentality around the club, one of ‘Us against the World’. You could see that determination to prove everyone wrong when the players took to the pitch. As a result, it wasn’t always tactics that got the team through, a feature of his team that became something of a characteristic for many years to come. While he has been credited for his ability to adapt to different tactics, work ethics and style of play across borders, he has largely been despised for this image he builds around the club, sometimes by his own fans as well, even when it is helping on the pitch. Mourinho tried do it everywhere; at Porto, at Chelsea, at Inter and then at Real Madrid. Nowhere did he achieve as much success in it as he did at Chelsea.
But it all came down like a pack of cards when results stopped being ‘spectacular’ and all there was left was the persistent negativity. It was one of the reasons he left Chelsea by mutual consent in 2007. And it surely was a major reason Real Madrid and Mourinho parted company. A Siege mentality was never likely to work at a club like Real Madrid, which has historically been Spain’s and perhaps World’s, most successful club. It is often said that Great managers are those who never failed to adapt to the changing times and dynamics of the game. Mourinho, while always adaptive to changing his ways on the pitch as he switched clubs, failed to realize this one fatal fault in his armory which was a major cause of downfall at Real Madrid.
But Mourinho is not one of the bottle; he really is a Special One. Back from his travels across the continent, he has returned a different manager to the one that left the club six years ago. And the club he has come to manage has changed too. He is not the manager who had to stamp his authority on a press reputed to be among the most fickle and dogged in ‘tormenting’, and Chelsea is not the club that hadn’t won the League title in 50 years. There is a growing trophy cabinet somewhere in The Bridge and even quickly growing fan base. Mourinho knows that a return to old ways is no longer an option.
Make no mistake; it is not as if THE Jose Mourinho known to the football world for the last decade will suddenly vanish in thin air. The touchline runs, the tacky sound-bites, the mind games; they will all come in their due time. But Mourinho will be careful this time, trying to build a different team and a different image. Success, no matter how big or small, cannot be sustained for long in an environment of instability and negativity. If Chelsea are to continue to be successful, then things must change. And it would need Mourinho and some of his ways to change first.
He has often been accused of offering only a short term fix; that he usually causes so much divide that he cannot be viewed as long term choice. He is out to change that and his first Press conference is a sign of things to come. Chelsea should not only be happy but relieved about it. Second chances don’t come too often and it seems that Mourinho and intends to grab it with both hands. In a choice between another short term fix and an attempt to build a lasting legacy and identity, Chelsea and Mourinho seem to have made the right choice.
He says that it took him and the ‘Boss’ only a couple of minutes to decide when and how he should return to Chelsea. But do not be fooled by the master; he has been planning this for some time now. The start has been made with all the right noises on no qualms between him and Abramovich, of not sitting on former glory days but to work hard to achieve the objectives again. Mourinho ‘the Happy One’ is the right one for Chelsea. And if things work out the right way, then the future indeed promises to be a Special One!