Fleet Street sceptical about the return of the Special One
WHAT IS undeniable is that Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea will make football writers’ jobs easier. Confrontation yes, but dull he isn’t. And we can expect to see the best side of Mourinho when he is officially unveiled at a press conference on Monday. The Special One will be the Charismatic One…the Smiling One.
Yet for many the phrase “charm offensive” will be more fitting for Mourinho who has the ability to charm and offend in frustratingly equal proportions. A coach who has been hugely successful at FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and, in the eyes of some, “only” successful at Real Madrid has made a habit, almost an art form, of making enemies among the press, his players, his clubs’ powerbrokers, opponents and referees (plus an ambulance service).
Explaining Mourinho’s departure from Stamford Bridge by mutual consent (plus an £18 million compensation cheque) in September 2007, Chelsea said: “The relationship been Jose and the club has broken down.”
When you split with a partner and attempt to get together again, the reasons for the initial split remain, so will it be different second time round for the Portuguese and the Russian? Will Roman Abramovich soften his hands-on approach to his managers? Will Mourinho accept the involvement of technical director Michael Emenalo?
Mourinho will undoubtedly be successful, most Chelsea managers are, and the Blues fans will be as pro-Jose as they were anti-Rafa Benitez.
Fleet Street reacted with guarded optimism as the least surprising managerial appointment of the summer became a reality, yet scepticism was obvious about this particular love being lovelier the second time around.
“What a lovely couple they make,” wrote Oliver Kay in The Times. “Jose Mourinho and Chelsea were always a match in heaven. So were Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, of course, but after their brief, turbulent second marriage they always longed for a third.
“It is only natural to regard the second union of Mourinho and Chelsea as the sequel to a tumultuous, doomed but riotously enjoyable love affair. It will surely end in tears given that both he and Roman Abramovich seem to be even more combustible and more impulsive than at the time of their acrimonious split in September 2007, but the issue is whether, like last time, they can bring each other gratification in the short term that makes every bit of pain feel worthwhile.”
Also in The Times, Matt Dickinson believes Mourinho finds himself back at Stamford Bridge as much because of Abramovich’s failure to tempt Pep Guardiola to succeed Roberto di Matteo and then Rafa Benitez. He wrote: “Chelsea fans rejoice now they have their Jose back and their joy is understandable…[but] it was the return that Chelsea did not want, either, until they got a little desperate. No one was buying into Mourinho’s guff about romance and a place in each other’s hearts.
“Roman Abramovich’s passion was Pep Guardiola. Mourinho wanted Manchester United. For two men so accustomed to getting their own way it must be disconcerting to be united in defeat.
“But let us not pretend this is where he, or Chelsea, wanted to be.”
Writing in the Daily Express, Mick Dennis leaves no one in any doubt that he welcomes Mourinho as much as a Norwich City defeat. He said: “Graceless winner, spiteful loser. He is back. Excuse me if I absent myself from the celebrations. There are countless examples of his nastiness. Many think none of it matters. They accept the euphemisms about what Mourinho is and what he does. With a chuckle they talk of him being ‘a character’…but the saddest excuse for the manner in which Mourinho discards the basic tenets of sport and decency is that ‘he is a winner.’
“Indeed he is. And if that is all that counts then he will be allowed to continue debasing the sport which rewards him so handsomely. Some of us just don’t want to celebrate such a depressing decline.”
Henry Winter takes a more upbeat approach in the Daily Telegraph. Under the headline ‘Welcome back Jose. You have been missed’ Winter takes a romantic view of The Return as he writes: “It was the love affair that never ended. He left. They mourned, falling briefly in the arms of others, hot and cold. Now he is back. It’s Jose Mourinho and Chelsea fans, it’s Mills and Boon and it’s a special relationship that could spell trouble for others.”
But trouble is what Mourinho must avoid. Winter said: “He must heed the gentle warnings of those who respect him as well as basking in the unblinking love of the supporters. A serially shrewd individual, Mourinho needs to consider carefully every interaction. He has history with Premier League referees. He has had issues with Roman Abramovich…he needs to work with, not against, Michael Emenalo.
“Mourinho deserves to be welcomed back. He adds to the excitement. He is an outstanding manager. He will make Chelsea a genuine threat in the title race, arguably favourites. He will make some unpleasant headlines and will find English football is less forgiving this time round. But it is good to see him back.”
James Lawton in The Independent suggests the love affair is a more of a one-way street. He wrote: “In the joyful ceremonials of his resurrection as Chelsea manager we should not for a moment forget that Jose Mourinho is living, swaggering proof that when you fall in love with yourself there is every chance it will prove a life-long romance.
“We should also recognise that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, having been rebuffed by the likes of Pep Guardiola and Juergen Klopp for the most impeccable of reasons, has made his best possible appointment.”
The Sunday Times’ Jonathan Northcroft, speaking on Radio 5Live, thinks it is imperative Mourinho has complete control over team matters, notably transfers. He said: “It was interesting to hear him say he was willing to marry again and it does feel like a couple getting back together. They’ve missed each other, they remember the romance first time round but maybe have forgotten some of the bad times. Let’s remember when he left in 2007 it was because he felt Abramovich was starting to interfere in transfers like Andrei Shevchenko and Mourinho felt he wasn’t able to pick the team…or at least from the squad he wanted.
“Emenalo is in there as Abramovich’s man. He’s been managing transfers for the last couple of years. I think he will have to take a step back. I think the key to it will be Abramovich allowing Mourinho to get on with it because if it [interference] happens again Mourinho’s reaction will be exactly the same.”
Back in the Daily Telegraph, Paul Hayward harbours similar reservations about the second coming of Mourinho. He wrote: “With all this [a multi-talented team] in his favour Mourinho must be confident he can keep Abramovich off his back with rapid progress. A summer splurge by [Manchester] City could alter the rosy picture, but Chelsea are unlikely to hold back either. But there will come a day when Mourinho feels the oligarch above him is exceeding the bounds of acceptable involvement and is messing with his team.
“On that day, blowing kisses to the fans would not save him from Abramovich’s ruthlessness or whims.”
Mourinho has signed a four-year contract which would be unchartered territory for manager and owner if completed. The Guardian’s Owen Gibson wrote: “The odds on Mourinho making it to the end of his four-year contract must be long. The smart money must be on a rollercoaster ride that takes in significant silverware before spectacularly derailing with serious collateral damage.
“The professed aims of stability, youth development and profitability appear almost as far away as ever. But it is a deal most Chelsea fans are only too happy to sign up for.”
In the meantime some dedicated members of the Football Writers’ Association will be leaving their families next month to cover Mourinho II as his return gets underway in Thailand.