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Jose Mourinho: Still The Man To Beat

At 51, Jose Mourinho has twenty trophies to his name, including two Champions League victories and the self-proclaimed nickname “The Special One” which such a record reflects.

His arrogance, contrasted with his brilliance, results in an internal battle for most admiring (or envious) football fans. They wonder if there is a chink in the armour, something which has been overlooked, he must have a fault big enough to undermine his managerial success. The reality is though, they will find a man who doesn’t hide his emotion, his madness and his explicit desire to be the best, not just of a generation but of all time. A man who currently has an unstoppable Chelsea side right where he wants them and a man who, despite  drawing with Manchester United, must still be extremely satisfied with the start his team has made this season, especially with Man City falling short this weekend.

The back story to Mourinho’s current position is interesting to look at in hindsight; the progressive route to the top had humble beginnings. Jose was a player, almost 35 years ago starting his career at Portuguese side Reo Ave. His playing career, spread across an unspectacular seven years, resulted in highly limited success. It’s strange to think success wasn’t innately there; his sheer willpower as manager to get things his own way only came when he left the playing field. Taking charge of things fully must suit him, being in charge of his own philosophies and having the ability to impose them on the world’s best isn’t easy though. Mourinho worked his way from the bottom right up to the top, from simply finding a way into the game as youth team coach at Vitória de Setúbal to now being in a position where any club in the World would take him in a heartbeat.

2004 was his meeting with destiny, winning the UEFA Champions Cup, or, as it is now better known, The Champions League. Along the way he introduced himself to the English game and future rival and fellow great manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. He knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League and ran off down the touch line, an iconic Mourinho burst of passion which helped get him noticed by football fans unanimously. Ten years on and it’s easy to forget there was a time without Mourinho’s eccentricity in England.

If this was stage one of his plan complete, he had executed it in some style. In a recent interview with Gary Neville, he revealed it had always been his intention to move from club to club. Inter, Madrid and Porto were all part of the plan, it would seem. The one key thing about his return to Chelsea is it’s the unknown in this “plan.” Mourinho said “This is the first time where I don’t have my next movement. I want to stay.” Commitment to the cause is never lacking, but Mourinho does like to move around; a settled Jose Mourinho may be a new concept but one which is purely positive and empowering to Chelsea.

With the Portuguese supposedly here to stay, it’s looking a great time to be a Chelsea fan. What’s more is the constant pressure on most managers to keep their job is non-existent for him. Chelsea wanted him and he wanted Chelsea, the club works harmoniously in this aspect and fans must be pleased at the potential to see some consistency after finding seven managers in between Mourinho leaving and his return as “The Happy One.”

At Chelsea, Mourinho himself has said he “feels at home.”, again encouraging signs. At Madrid, the Spanish Media didn’t quite take to his charm the same way the English Media did. In Italy he found success in the Champions League but still was fending off questions about Chelsea regularly; reminders were ever present of the legacy he had left behind him. The one thing which eludes him here at Chelsea is the Champions League. The Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup have all been won by Jose and it would seem fitting for him to be the first manager to win the Champions League with three separate clubs at “his” club, Chelsea.

It’s not always been easy for Jose. He’s had his moments of madness, eye gouging, shushing Liverpool fans and numerous encounters with Arsene Wenger and various other managers vocally and in more recent times physically too, with Wenger taking the lead in a recent touch line clash.

These moments can be understood, not excused. The pressure is immense at every club he has been to but he doesn’t shy away under the spotlight he thrives. Such achievements are reflected in good use of the transfer budget, big spending with big results, if you like. Also boldness in letting players go is equally important, primarily Juan Mata who had found such good form at Chelsea and latterly a player who you wonder if Jose would ever sign for such big money, Fernando Torres.

A small weakness of Chelsea this year has been shown against both Manchester clubs, and it’s quite a simple one. Chelsea have found it difficult to kill off the game. It’s not a huge problem but it is there. The importance of not losing is of course paramount in mounting a bid for the league title and it still remains. However, being the idealist he is, Jose will be less than impressed with Manchester United’s late equaliser.

Mourinho’s men sit top of the Premier League, with Southampton, surprisingly, the closest to Chelsea, still some four points adrift. Chelsea’s performances this season have been composed, calculated and most importantly consistent. They know how to avoid losing and more often than not win games expertly, finding a goal and then staying defensively disciplined. It’s a simple system but requires creative quality from the likes of Hazard, Fabregas and Willian to help out constantly. Right now, others manages should fear Jose; he’s back, not looking like losing and even with injuries to two out of three strikers and “a worse case scenario” coming true, he and Chelsea have still found a way to manage.

Ten years on from the first Champions League victory Mourinho is in a very good place. His exuberance as an individual can sometimes be misjudged, and sometimes rightly criticised. What cannot be misjudged and criticised is the sheer talent he has for football management, demonstrated at four major European Clubs and perhaps it will be most impressively for a second time at Chelsea.

It has taken him one year to re-find and re-formulate the best system and best group of players he needs; although this season is unlikely to be plain sailing it looks destined for success. Mourinho’s magic deserves praise and a lot of it, not many can repeat success like he has and this Chelsea team may be his finest piece of work yet. Many managers will look on with envy at Chelsea’s immaculate start to the league season. Despite it still being “early days,” Mourinho’s men’s lead is not only impressive but substantial looking at the fixtures they have negotiated. Small “chinks in the armour” may have appeared in the shape of a draw, but the fact a draw away in Manchester is considered a poor result puts Chelsea’s position in perspective. Mourinho has his eyes set on another league title, the question is now, who’s going to stop him?


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