Mourinho being sacked by Chelsea constituted as the biggest headline of 17th December 2015, as this was a move that not many people expected. It has shocked both critics and fans alike, and while it is palpable that Chelsea’s EPL campaign was nothing less than a disaster this season, was it the right move to get rid of Jose Mourinho?
Few years back, Chelsea as a team was famed for its unity and togetherness. They knew sometimes they might not have the same skill as their opponents but they made up for it with brotherly spirit. They dug in. And when Mourinho was honoured at a dinner at the Savoy a couple of years ago Frank Lampard, the guest speaker, mentioned that night. “That all started from him,” Lampard said. “He might not have been there, but that spirit came down from him.” Mourinho’s players would do anything for him and he, in turn, did everything for them. That bond seemed impenetrable.
Recent events have been ever so contrasting with Monday’s defeat against Leicester City could hardly be starker at a time when Chelsea are a point above the relegation zone and it is increasingly difficult to think that Mourinho can possibly survive much longer. Mourinho used to be a person who was fiercely protective of his team and it was surprising when he spoke about his team in a way he never has done before. He was the man who coined the phrase about “parking the bus”. Here, he ended up throwing his team under one and his wild assertion that his work had been “betrayed”, must have left Roman Abramovich wondering whether the respect between manager and players is still there.
One big question that creeps into people’s minds is how the players react to that kind of allegation because that statement would only help him lose the trust of the dressing room. John Terry is one player who has given his all for Chelsea, and for Mourinho to call it a “betrayal” is just plain harsh. Does Kurt Zouma, at an age where there will inevitably be momentary lapses of concentration, deserve accusations of treachery because he lost Vardy for a split-second before the first goal? And what do the players think of Mourinho absolving himself from even the smallest portion of blame?
It is rare these days to hear a manager, any manager, turning on his own players in front of the cameras. Yet, it was not all about that one word. “I don’t think in this moment they can feel they are top players or they can feel they are superstars,” Mourinho volunteered. “They have to look at the Leicester boys and feel these are the stars, these are the top players. They have to look to Sunderland and Watford [Chelsea’s next two opponents] and say: ‘We are at the same level, I am not the superstar, I am not the player of the season. I am not the world champion, I am not the Premier League champion. At this moment, I am at your level.’”
Mourinho made a name for himself in his native Portugal, in 2004 winning the only Champions League in the last 20 years not to go to an English, Italian, Spanish or German team. That got him the Chelsea job, and with the help of Abramovich’s money in 2005, he won the team’s first title in 50 years. But early in his fourth season, he was dismissed after friction with Abramovich.
He went on to Inter Milan, where he won two league titles in two years and a Champions League, then to Real Madrid, where he won another league title.
He was rehired by Chelsea in 2013, a club he has said he has a special connection with, and won the Premier League last season. He signed a new four-year contract in August. And now, the potentially happy tale of Mourinho’s return to Chelsea has had a bitter diversion.
It is unlikely he will be out of management for long, given his record of success at Chelsea and other top European clubs.
He guided Porto and Inter Milan to Champions League glory in 2004 and 2010 respectively, then Real Madrid to the Spanish La Liga title in 2012.
The Blues may be struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League table, but they are still in the Champions League and the FA Cup, while achieving European qualification is not impossible.
The key for any new manager is improving the morale of a talented squad that has underachieved this season.
Players such as Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Willian, and Oscar were key to Chelsea winning the league title but performances have fallen well below the heights they reached last year.
However, it is also important to address the elephant in the room – Who will replace Jose Mourinho?
At this point, it’s looking like ex-Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink, who has already had a stint in charge of the Blues, and former Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla manager Juande Ramos. Both are without a job at the moment so they will be able to fill the position.
But will either be in charge beyond the end of the season, when the likes of Pep Guardiola might be available? The former Barcelona boss is due to make an announcement on his Bayern Munich future next week. Speculation is he will quit the Bundesliga giants when his contract finishes at the end of the current campaign.
Other likely candidates are Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, Carlo Ancelotti, who guided Chelsea to the Premier League and FA Cup double in 2010, and former England boss Fabio Capello.