Mourinho's Return To Chelsea Is A Dead End For Club & Manager

Though Mourinho's appointment at Chelsea has generated much excitement, it says a lot about how far both parties have come along. With 'The Special One' coming off the back of failure and derision at Real and Chelsea unable to settle on a long term manager, this move stinks of desperation from both sides...
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Though Mourinho's appointment at Chelsea has generated much excitement, it says a lot about how far both parties have come along. With 'The Special One' coming off the back of failure and derision at Real and Chelsea unable to settle on a long term manager, this move stinks of desperation from both sides...


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Abramovich runs out of options and shows his desperation

So the ‘Special One’ has returned and Chelsea fans are celebrating as if they’ve won the lottery. After six years away from the club, Mourinho is back at Chelsea and back in England. For many this is a good thing; he is ‘box office’ and offers much to those desperate men in the media who miss lapping up every word he said when he was in England before. Last time he played them excellently yet in 2004 he was a very different man. As The Whitehouse Address explains, this is a very bad decision for both the club and the coach.

Coming to England as a relative unknown in 2004 Mourinho was captivating. He was different to anyone that had come into the Premier League before. A UEFA cup and Champions League winner gave him credence and backed up his assertions that he was the ‘Special One’. And through the investment of Abramovich allied with Mourinho’s tactical nous, charisma and team building ability Chelsea would win back to back to league titles in a manner which looked almost easy. With Mourinho Chelsea were propelled into the elite of world football.

In Mourinho's third year United would pip Chelsea to the title and that following summer the wheels of Mourinho’s time at Chelsea would begin to fall off. The previous summer had seen Andriy Shevchenko arrive clearly against the wishes of the coach and much to do with the admiration on which Abramovich felt for him. This turned out to be a failure of a signing which cost Chelsea the title and their manager.

An FA Cup and League Cup double were not enough for Mourinho who had failed for the third time get the promised Champions League of which Abramovich sought so much. Yet in fairness to Mourinho he had been undermined and decisions had been made above the “controlling” coach. It was war between the owner and Mourinho. The public criticism of his owner who was not willing to invest the money to buy what Mourinho regarded as “Class A” players caused obvious friction and issues and his exit was inevitable.

Perhaps a change was needed anyway for Chelsea, three years is a long time in management and clearly there were issues boiling up behind the scenes. Two giant ego’s confronting meant one would depart eventually. And when the season started poorly for Cheslea the writing was the on the wall for Mourinho who looked unhappy and distant compared to the man who was so cocky and confident when he first arrived. Out went the “Special One” and in typical Mourinho fashion he made sure that he was seen as the victim.

Mourinho's legacy lived on

Incredibly Avram Grant (who had been brought in by Abramovich to ‘look after’ Shevchenko)  was given the reigns of the club. And amazingly Chelsea would reach the Champions League final, something Mourinho never managed to do.

Now how much of it was Grant is questionable, by all accounts he was a lame duck of a manager yet Steve Clarke and the powerful players of Mourinho’s led the team in their “Daddy’s” absence and sought to make him proud.

Ironically, John Terry, who it is said fell out with Mourinho before he departed, fell over on his way to deliver the winning penalty in Moscow and denied Chelsea and their owner that treasured Champions League success.

Since then Chelsea have been something of a joke in terms of hiring and firing managers. It is perhaps as worse as Real Madrid. The truth is Roman Abramovich (and his advisor's)  have been on a crusade to find a man who could take Chelsea to the top of Europe. Their remit was simple; find a man who has won something. So simple and yet so flawed. There is more that a club needs to ascertain when looking a new manager than simply what they've won. This approach has summed up Abramovich's lack of vision and planning.


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Firstly World Cup winner Scolari came in, yet language and a lack of knowledge of the English league cost him dearly. Guus Hiddink replaced him as ‘interim’ and once again proved that the 'interim' position is Chelsea's special formula for success. He did a great job, with Chelsea winning the FA Cup and yet was denied back to back Champions League finals by a poor referee performance and a cruel but delightful Iniesta shot in the final seconds. Chelsea’s holy grail would once again have to wait.

Carlo Ancelotti was next in, the man who had won two Champions League’s for Milan that decade. This was the man to take Chelsea all the way and give his new boss the trophy he had sought for so long.

His first season was excellent and Chelsea would win the league and FA Cup in style, scoring 103 goals in the league and becoming the first team since Spurs in 1963 to score over 100 goals. Chelsea had achieved success and did so in style.

But…they had been knocked out in Europe once again and to make the pill even more bitter to swallow it was Mourinho who would be the man to do it. On his first return to Stamford Bridge as a coach he defeated Ancelotti 3-1 on aggregate. As we know Mourinho would take Inter all the way and win an unprecedented treble that season. How Abramovich must have looked at the success with envy and perhaps even regret?

The following year would see Ancelotti struggle and rumours of his imminent sacking were rife throughout the season. Although he improved the results he could not overcome United who also knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League. That January saw the £50m arrival of Fernando Torres, Ancelotti’s own Shevchenko and the results were the same; Ancelotti was sacked in very disrespectful circumstances after the last game of the season.

The story of Chelsea’s revolving door policy was becoming laughable for those viewing from the outside. It seemed stability was never going to occur and for each manager that came in and then departed, increased the strength and power of the players exponentially. No surprise that it was the ‘Mourinho clan’ who continued to dominate in his absence. It was not hard to see that Mourinho still held considerable influence over the club through this ‘disciples’.

Seeking Barcelona

Yet Abramovich didn’t want Mourinho’s ‘style’ to be what Chelsea were, no he wanted Barcelona, he wanted free flowing attacking football. It was Real Madrid’s majestic performance at Old Trafford in 2003 which made him fall in love with football and it was Ronaldinho in his time at Barcelona where Abramovich saw Chelsea going. By all accounts it was the Chelsea owner who bid £80m in 2007 for the Brasilian, yet Barca (stupidly) rejected it.

Therefore when Hiddink, the Dutchman was unavailable, as too Pep Guardiola, Abramovich turned to the ‘new kid on the block’ Andre Villas-Boas, the quadruple trophy winner at Porto. Although a previous assistant to Mourinho at Chelsea and Inter Villas-Boas appeared to value the philosophies of Mr Guardiola more than his old boss and was not afraid to say so when he first arrived at Chelsea.

A revolution of style appeared on the cards, yet it was nothing but a failed mutiny. Mourinho’s loyalists had no time or respect for the new manager and as the season went on he became an isolated and ostracised man. His sacking was inevitable and in fairness deserved. He got it all wrong yet Abramovich was furious. Mourinho’s men had jeopardised his new vision and had destroyed the coach he wished to implement it.

However the irony, on which has been seen at Chelsea before, would reach another Champions League final with an ‘interim’ coach. First Grant and now Di Matteo. Not exactly the biggest and most respected coaches in world football. Yet they achieved what the European genius’ of Mourinho, Hiddink and Ancelotti could not. That’s football I guess.


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But let us not praise Di Matteo too much, he was smart and adopted the defensive tactics of Mourinho and threw out the Guardiola style on which AVB had sought to revolutionise Chelsea. The 2012 Champions League success was a victory for Chelsea, their owner, the players and Mourinho. It was his style, his ‘group’ which had overcome the odds. It was the a fitting end to his ‘era’ even though he hadn’t coached there since 2007. This was Mourinho’s team and their success. The ‘unfinished’ chapter could now be ended.

And yet…this past season has seen more failed appointments and on-field disasters. The first team to win the Champions League and go out at the group stages. Di Matteo was not the man to take Chelsea forward and Abramovich should have stuck to his initial belief that Chelsea needed someone new. Yet Guardiola did not want it and it seemed that was Chelsea's only wish. They were willing to wait a year for him.

After Di Matteo was sacked Rafa Benitez was given the job who although an excellent coach was the wrong choice for Chelsea. He did his reputation no harm however and left Chelsea with his head high. Yet when Guardiola announced Bayern Munich would be his next managerial location Chelsea's plans went up in smoke. After that persistent rumours regarding Mourinho’s return started to gather pace…the return of the ‘Special One’ to the Bridge.

It appeared the chapter was not finished, it appeared he had unfinished business at Chelsea. Yet in truth this appointment was not what both wished but which both had to make.

An unappealing club and coach

Firstly let me discuss Abramovich. His ego and readiness to sack coaches has not helped Chelsea build for the future. Each manager is not given the time to implement change and thus what has happened is the same core of players dominating decisions and overruling the manager. This is not a healthy way to run a football club.

Trophies have helped keep the wolves away from his door yet the truth is that Chelsea have become an unappealing club to top managers. A nice pay off is a certainty yet for coaches like Guardiola, Hiddink and the new wife’s favourite Klopp the allure of Chelsea is non-existent. They know after seeing top coach after top coach treated harshly and without respect that the club is not appealing.

These coaches enjoy “projects” and want to build something substantial, Chelsea is not the place for that. What has happened is the top coaches have turned down the overtures of the Russian and his galleons and instead opted for stability and respect at other clubs. Even potential coaches who could take this present team further in terms of style and potentially success, those such as Michael Laudrup, Frank De Boer or even Roberto Martinez could have been intriguing choices.

Yet Abramovich has appointed Mourinho as a sign of desperation and a sign of fear. Better the devil you know perhaps. They say you should never go back yet Roman’s hands are tied. He has created this dilemma because of his actions this past decade. In this case you have to ask if he has brought in the ‘best’ or if he has brought in the only option.

And what about Mourinho. Such an interesting and fascinating man. It’s all an act apparently, the man we see in the media and on the sidelines. It’s his psychological game. And yet, could it be that the character he has been playing for a decade has in fact become the man himself?

Since he left Chelsea he has become a man possessed, more hateful of the media, referees and his opponents. Italy and Spain were not ‘enjoyable’ times for the ‘Special One’ because he was not loved. Yet he needs to ask himself if he did anything to be loved. At Inter his “us against them” psychology worked perfectly yet even then it appeared it was all about overcoming Barcelona, proving those who chose Guardiola wrong.

Real Madrid was certainly about that and it was here where Mourinho was exposed, both tactically and psychologically. He was the ‘villain’ in this play and I don’t think he liked it. He played it because he had to yet it didn’t work, not effectively anyway. His players turned against him, so too the fans (except for a small number), the president and the media. Mourinho became isolated once again and his true character was exposed to the world.

Madrid was terrible for his reputation. The lesson to those around Europe was that he was not suited to a big club, his actions and character were not ‘right’. And the result? Instead of an endless steam of possibilities no-one wanted him.


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Man United chose David Moyes, yes David Moyes over the ‘Special One’. Bobby Charlton in-particular was not keen on Mourinho and his style. Man City, who a few years ago, perhaps before the Madrid ‘fiasco’ would have snapped him up turned their backs on him and chose Pellegrini instead. Their management structure preferred the Chilean to the combustible and difficult Portuguese. Even PSG appeared reluctant to approach him even though their squad and vision was perhaps more suited to Mourinho.

The truth is that Mourinho has been blacklisted by many of Europe’s elite. His character has tainted his reputation.

And now it seems that he walks back into Chelsea a returning ‘hero’ yet in truth he returns to a club who like Mourinho have become “polluted”. It is not the right choice yet perhaps the only choice which both could make. The question is can it be a success?

End on success or his last failure?

This Chelsea team is nothing like the team Mourinho inherited when he arrived in 2005. Back then it was a group of young and hungry players looking to prove themselves and Mourinho was the catalyst for their success and confidence. He started with an attacking 4-3-3 with quick wingers. The experienced Carvalho and Makelele being the defensive leaders with Lampard in the attacking midfielder 10 role. It was perfect.

Yet as time went on he became more defensive, more conservative. And it is this mentality which has prevailed since. Whether he wishes no part in trying to do anything which Barcelona do I am not sure, yet it would not surprise me. He appears to want to be their anti-thesis.

Yet he has inherited a group of players which in the past few years have been built to become just that. The three amigos highlight this change to become more fluid and attractive. I do wonder what the future holds for these three players, we only to have look at what happened to Joe Cole. I have questioned Chelsea’s transfer policy and believed that they did not need three similar players which I am sure Mourinho will agree with. Moses will be more appealing to him yet I wonder if he thinks he is good enough.

The truth is this Chelsea team can be entertaining to watch yet against the top sides have been found wanting. Europa League success was no coincidence, this is a second level team which possesses some excellent players.

Therefore Mourinho has a lot of work to do to make this team a challenger for domestic and European success. He has just left one of the best teams in world football and inherited a team where two philosophies (Barcelona and Mourinho) have left Chelsea a little lost.

The owner appears unsure of what he wants and the director of football Michael Emenalo has seemingly a lust for small number 10’s in the same way that Wenger does. There is no clear vision but a simple hoarding of talented youngsters.

The Chelsea team Mourinho took over in 2005 was built for success, it was strong, dominant and ‘balanced’. This one is nothing like that at all. In trying to be Barcelona Chelsea have made a tragic mistake. Barcelona were a one-off. The fact is that strength, dominance and a collective team is the best formula for success, which is what we saw with Bayern, Dortmund and to a certain extent Madrid these past two years.

Mourinho therefore needs to add some serious weight to this light and ‘pretty’ team if he wishes to succeed. Either Alonso or Khedira would help bolster the midfield as Mikel and Ramires have failed to dominate like Makelele and Essien did. One or even two central defenders may be needed and don’t be surprised to see Courtois come in this season as Cech is not the keeper he was before the head injury.

David Luiz should be kept yet he should be kept away from the centre of the park, a right wing back role suiting his abilities personally. Mourinho will want a Drogba type forward to aid his attack and Lukaku appears perfect yet don’t write off Cavani with Torres following Benitez to Naples. An out and out winger will be necessary also with rumours of Schurrle being lined up, yet if Di Maria is available perhaps Mourinho may look to bring one of his ‘loyal’ players with him. Cristiano would be too expensive yet he would be a great acquisition for Mourinho’s new era.

A decade later and still no clear vision

It has been a decade since Abramovich arrived at Chelsea and without doubt he has made them into one of Europe’s best sides. An endless stream of trophies and success has come since yet unfortunately he has made a mockery of the club and their handling of coaches.

Too much change, too much player power and a distinct lack of vision and planning has kept Chelsea competitive yet lacking a future.

The ones who have suffered most have been those in Chelsea’s youth academy who have seen their chances of progression stunted due to the lack of stability at the club. Can you see Mourinho investing in youth when the expectations on him will be to win the league and achieve the European success which he regards as ‘unfinished’ business at Chelsea?

It will be a fascinating time with Mourinho back yet I can’t help but think it is the wrong move for both parties. It reeks of desperation on both sides and it will end it tears without doubt. When Jose arrived in 2005 he was fresh, handsome and the epitome of the modern coach. Yet his return in 2013 sees a weathered, tired and angry old man.

This may be Mourinho’s last throw of the dice in football management as he seeks to reach his goal of being the first manager to win three European cups with three different teams. Personally I don’t see this happening and Mourinho's club career may very well end in disappointment.

You can read more of Matt's work hereYou can find The Whitehouse Address on Twitter @The_W_Address