Mighty Mourinho

Published : Apr 08, 2010 00:00 IST

With the exception of the Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, who wasn't able to stay at Stamford Bridge for long, being also bank rolled by Roman Abramovich as the manager of Russia, Chelsea have failed to find a capable successor to Jose Mourinho, writes Brian Glanville.

Circumstances alter cases, as they say in law. And you do wonder how things would have turned out at Stamford Bridge where one say, in the first half, Walter Samuel, Inter's centre back, drag down Didier Drogba in the box. A manifest penalty, though somehow or other Chelsea don't seem to get them, even at home. Remember the inept refereeing which arguably denied them no fewer than three spot kicks when Barcelona eliminated them last season. This time it was Inter who went on to score, beat them 0-1, and thus, eliminate them from the European Cup.

In consequence, we were subjected to lavish eulogies of Chelsea's former manager, Jose Mourinho, alias The Special One, and the supremely well conceived tactics which enabled Inter to win. Well, you could say that those tactics, which basically consisted of using couple of strikers, Goran Pandev, right and Samuel Eto'o, left, on the flanks. An astonishing, sustained solo run by the right back Ivanovic, had brought Chelsea their goal at San Siro and an early penalty goal for them would have thrown such tactics into the melting pot, since Inter would have lost the 2-1 advantage established in the first leg.

It was also significant that Chelsea, on that night, lost two of their best players: Ashley Cole, briefly seen in the Press room before the game, vainly trying to hide his identity, but looking encouragingly mobile after his bad ankle injury, and Michael Essien. Ashley Cole is so mobile, elusive and accomplished an over-lapper that I doubt if Mourinho's tactics could have subdued him as they did the Russian international, Zhirkov. And Essien is simply irreplaceable in a Chelsea midfield which so obviously that night missed his ball winning versatility.

Having said all this, I still believe that Chelsea's billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, made a cataclysmic mistake in sackingMourinho when he so abruptly did. Abramovich, it might be said, threw his toys out of the pram when watching Chelsea go down unimpressively 0-2, at Aston Villa flouncing out of the directors' box, when the second goal went in. Things between him and Mourinho had beforehand been growing increasingly tense. It was at the behest of Abramovich that Chelsea signed the waning Ukrainian international centre forward Andrei Shevchenko, for 30 million pound plus and at a vast salary. Abramovich, it was rumoured this never given to public statements — disapproved of what he considered his team's increasingly cautious tactics. It was also alleged that when Mourinho went, he had lost the support of his captain and centre back, John Terry, thoughTerry strongly denied it.

With the exception of the Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, who wasn't able to stay at Stamford Bridge for long, being also bank rolled by Abramovich as the manager of Russia, Chelsea have failed to find a capable successor to Mourinho. A coach as highly quoted as Big Phil Scolari, who had won the World Cup with Brazil, tried — most lucratively — but failed. The present and most recent manager, Carlo Ancelotti, is plainly under threat after the defeat by Inter. Fail to win the Championship and he would clearly be on his way. He had great success in the European Cup when managing Milan, but their star had waned in recent seasons, and his appointment by Chelsea seemed something of a gamble. Tactically, against Inter, his methods seemed mistaken particularly in attack, where using Nicolas Anelka, the French international striker, largely out on the right wing, when he is essentially a central centre forward, not only denied Chelsea a true winger but limited the amount of support Didier Drogba could get in the middle. Badly needed, given such powerful opposing centre backs as Samuel and Brazil's Lucio.

Mourinho's managerial career has been a remarkable one. Shades of little Arrigo Sacchi, who never kicked a ball in anger for any decent Italian team was told to coach the kids at his local club because he was so inept as a player, but surged on to manage Milan with great success and Italy in the World Cup. Saying, “You don't have to be a horse, to be a jockey.”

By the same token Mourinho, unlike his father, was never a footballer of any consequence. His coaching origins were humble; he was at various times interpreter to England's Bobby Robson, first in his native Portugal, later in Barcelona. But he learned with great speed, and triumphantly turned Porto, years away from their previous resounding triumph into the European Cup, into a powerful force, who won the trophy again. In his occasional boasting, there are shades of that other flamboyant Inter manager, Helenio Herrera, who twice won the European Cup, though the victories were blemished by bribery. No such scars of Mourinho's escutcheon.

Yet he can be and has been the worst of bad losers, not least at Chelsea, and has managed to alienate the Italian Press while at Inter. When Chelsea met Barcelona in the European Cup at Nou Camp, he made disgraceful, wholly invalid, allegations against the then Barca manager Frank Rijkaard, once a Milan and Holland star, for entering the referee's dressing room. When it came to the return at Stamford Bridge, in the words of Samuel Eto'o, then playing for Barca, “The two provokers were Jose Mourinho and his second in command, Baltemar Brito. The argy barrage at the end of that tie was terrible, and they were at the heart of it. Had Chelsea not won and thus qualified, thanks in large measure to the glaring foul on the keeper by Carvalho, “I reckon,” said Eto'o, “We would not have got out of there alive.”

Then there was the European Cup defeat by Liverpool, at Anfield, about which Mourinho still illogically seethes. He has always insisted that the decisive Liverpool goal was invalid, because the ball didn't cross the goal line.

Not only did it seem clearly to do so, but had it not, then Liverpool should still have had a penalty, in the furore, for a manifest foul by the Chelsea goalkeeper, Peter Cech.

Whether or not he wins another European Cup, it seems unlikely that Mourinho will stay at Inter, though their President, Moratti, is eager for him to do so.

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