Fellow podcaster and friend of the Chelsea FanCast – Jonny Dyer – gives us a considered view of the departure of Jose Mourinho…
As the vultures waddle around SW6 picking over the bones, it’s an understatement to suggest that this wasn’t how it was meant to be. Roman and Jose had signed up for a decade or more and to build a dynasty together, hadn’t they?
Dynasty? The final act of Mourinho’s second spell at Stamford Bridge bore more resemblance to the Moldovian wedding massacre in the 80s hair and shoulder pads US soap of the same name than the construction of any kind of 21st century footballing superpower.
He’d survived a run of results that would have seen a sizeable majority of managers in the recent Premier League era with even modest hopes of a top 8 finish sent packing. The result against Leicester and subsequent post match diatribe evoking betrayal by his players and issues with ball boys was the final straw for Roman Abramovich.
The circumstances are unlikely to ever be clear to anyone other than those directly involved, but player power – that hoary old favourite down in SW6 for many years – has been cited as key to Jose’s downfall. Blame will be apportioned and scapegoats nominated, some with good reason, others less so. What is certain is that the scars will take some time to heal.
But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at how it all came to such a dramatic end. It’s well documented that Jose’s third seasons are often like many second albums that follow great debuts; difficult. ‘Nevermind’ what you hoped for; ‘The Second Coming’ is what you got.
Back on that heady day in June 2013 when the Special One returned we were expecting – well, what, exactly?
For all the declarations of happiness at the homecoming, if Jose’s second spell in SW6 was to work in the long term there had to be some fairly extensive spot-changing by a couple of fairly recalcitrant leopards.
Under Roman’s ownership, Chelsea have spent big, hired managers and fired them at the first sign of trouble, regardless of whether trophies had been delivered or not. Some have been lucky to survive months, never mind years. Jose arrives at clubs, generally inheriting a decent squad which he tweaks, wins pots with and then departs; often a hero with the fans, perhaps described with less flattering four letter words in the boardrooms of the clubs concerned.
As a basis for a long-term relationship, the building blocks weren’t exactly set on solid ground.
It’s a diversion, but a relevant one to take a closer look at the current Champions League last 16 when we’re talking about managerial longevity.
Since Mourinho was first appointed as Chelsea manager back in June 2004, the other 15 teams currently in the first knockout stage of the Champions League have between them had no less than 130 managers.
Yes, you read that right. One hundred and thirty.
Anyone looking for a more stable career path might want to consider bomb disposal or shark dentistry over football management. Only Arsene Wenger has lasted more than a decade during that time – a specialist in dogged survival – and less than a dozen managers have survived more than 5 years at these clubs in the past 20 years. The omission of Fergie and United is obvious here, but it hardly creates a seismic shift in the numbers.
It’s not to say that Chelsea and Mourinho couldn’t have changed these statistics in some small way; that’s one that could be discussed over many pints in the months and years to come. But it was always unlikely to be anything other than a short-term arrangement, irrespective of whether his exit is premature, unjust or otherwise.
So it’s not just Chelsea – everyone’s doing it and it’s a pattern that is unlikely to change any time soon. Maybe we’ve reached the point where the highly pressurised environment of the European game at its very top level is too much for any mere mortal to handle and indeed succeed in for any extended period of time. Is Jose’s story just a symptom of the modern game?
There is now a select group of managers who are trusted to take charge of any club expected to win major silverware on a regular basis, with potential newcomers to this elite group becoming rarer than Chelsea clean sheets. Simeone seems the next most likely to join the club, while Klopp and Conte look to have taken their own paths away from the next step up the elite club football ladder for the time being. More loiter on the fringes; some justifiably so, others more suited to waiting tables than taking charge of a European giant. The list of names is up for debate, the theory less so.
Which brings me back to Chelsea. Even if he’d had survived this season, be it with a 7th or 17th place finish, would the club have trusted Jose to undertake a multi million pound overhaul the squad after one of the most mentally arduous campaigns of his career? Would Mourinho himself have wanted to do so? In the final weeks, if there was ever a man more in need of an extended break I don’t think I’ve seen one.
Jose’s return to Chelsea meant a huge amount to us as fans; irrespective of how many trophies were collected in the years that followed, the sense of unfinished business following his departure in 2007 was palpable. His exit then caused much friction and disquiet among the fans and will almost certainly do so again now that the sun has set on his second stint.
The short-term concern is the lack of character and leadership in the squad itself, let alone the questions over who briefed against, wielded knives and the like. The class of 2004-05 survived some truly baffling managerial appointments, and indeed thrived after Mourinho’s first exit by simply having the biggest set of collective balls in world football at the time, perhaps of any time. But the current crop? Not a point I care to think about for the time being. One thing is certain; some shrewd acquisitions and a very astute manager are desperately needed in the summer. Whether those in power can be trusted to deliver this is open to question to say the least.
As for Jose, well, it just wasn’t meant to be and that’s a regret that is likely to hang over the club for some time yet. He leaves us with some (more) great memories; another Premiership title – arguably one of his greatest achievements with the benefit of hindsight – and a Capital One cup win over Spurs at Wembley.
And now, he’s gone. Again. He’ll turn up somewhere else, hopefully after a decent holiday, flash a smile and throw in a soundbite or two which will have the world eating from his palm. Again. Seeing him in the dugout for another club will sting as may the trophies that will inevitably follow, especially if he is competing with us for them. But in the way that we’ve all done upon seeing a former love with someone new, we can smile and knowingly point out that it won’t last.
Because it never really does, does it?