For any Chelsea fan, the first words that come to mind when asked about Mourinho – respect and his unquestionable authority on decisions. Granted rival fans may think of some other more colourful words, but for Chelsea fans (this writer included), He is unquestionable. So are His decisions. Speaking of decisions, we look at some transfers Mourinho has made over the years and especially this January transfer window and try to find the rationale behind it.
Sense of infallibility
With Mourinho, especially this time around, there is a sense around Stamford Bridge that he cannot fail. Whatever he does and says has to be been cast in stone. No more so than the sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United. Apart from a few pockets of Chelsea fans, everyone seemed to accept the decision. There was one common theme that all of them seemed to agree upon – if Mourinho has okayed it, it will be fine.
His rationale behind it, most of which was reported by the media, was that Mata was not playing “the Mourinho way”. In another way of saying, he did not fit into Mourinho’s system. He did not do the “dirty work” of tracking back and defending. There is certain rigidity to Mourinho’s team and if someone does not adhere to it, he does not hesitate to do what he did with Mata. It also made business sense to Chelsea by selling their best player at a price which was more than fair for a player of his class.
Also an angle which seems to be floating around is that Juan Mata’s sale will eat away points from Chelsea’s main title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal – both of whom are yet to play United in their reverse fixtures. Those 6 points could mean the difference between the title and second place. Mourinho might repeatedly say that his Chelsea are the ‘little horse’ in the race, but in the end he is hoping that he jockeys that horse to the trophy.
Financial fair play angle
When UEFA introduced the Financial Fair Play rules in 2009 to bring the clubs’ irresponsible spending in check, the focus immediately shifted to the clubs owned by billionaires who finance the club from their own coffers. It meant the income, revenue and spending of clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea in the Premier League were going to be monitored even more minutely. Cutting the financial jargon, the rules indicate that a club can only spend money from their income. It includes selling and buying of players and the profit/loss made by them.
With more and more pressure on clubs to adhere to it, we could potentially see a more level playing field in terms of transfers in and out of clubs. As with all rules though, there is an exception to this as well – clubs will be allowed to exclude the wages of players signed before June 2010 as long as they can show an upward trend in their account. Clubs like Manchester City are reportedly set to take advantage of this rule.
With respect to Chelsea and their transfers this season, Juan Mata’s sale potentially meant three signings of players who will fit into Mourinho’s system. The 37.1 million pounds they made off Mata was invested promptly into Mohamed Salah, Nemanja Matic and Kurt Zouma. Plus the fact that he was bought for a ‘measly’ 24 million pounds.
The Special Juan
As much as it made sense financially, there is no doubting the fact that it did not make sense for footballing reasons. The word ‘track back’ has been thrown around a lot while justifying his transfer, but with a player of Mata’s class, this one quality could have been ignored a little. His passing, vision and that sweet left foot of his could have more than made up for it.
Another argument is that they have the extremely talented Oscar as replacement for him readily available. While that is true to some extent, the fans will always know and believe that there is only one Mata – who was voted by the players and the fans as their player of the year two years in a row. The class player that he is on the field, off it too he is just that. An excerpt from his open letter to Chelsea fans had class written all over it:
“I won’t forget the faith you put in me when I was given the player of the year award the last two seasons. I feel really proud and I will never forget those nights. Thank you so much for the way you have treated me, you have been unbelievable.
I hope you understand that after going through a complicated and, for me, new situation in the last few months, I believe this is the best choice in order to carry on with my football career and to keep enjoying this sport.”
All said and done, with every transfer it all boils down to what the player wants to do. In the case of Juan Mata, he wanted to leave. And if Chelsea made a decent profit from him – a clear case of win-win. Make no mistake about it, it will be emotional when he returns to play at The Bridge next season and will be given a rapturous welcome. For Chelsea fans, he is and always be the Special Juan.