While he does not quite reflect a Marlon Brando type transition from The Wild One to The Godfather, Jose Mourinho certainly looks like one who has had quite a time in the nine years since he first joined Chelsea FC.
That man, that ‘Special One’ for whom success appeared effortless now bears the effects of an astonishing work ethic which has constantly burned within, and occasionally, consumed him. As a wreckless encroachment on small town mentalities, Brando’s ‘Black Rebels Motorcycle Club’ aroused fear in the establishment and empathy from those who sought out what they believed was being hid from them. Had they stayed away from these little American towns they would have had no troubles, but then there would never be a chance for retribution. Mourinho’s Chelsea harboured similar feelings of victimisation from the powers that were. Sure enough, Mourinho pomposity would lead Chelsea through issues one felt he had occasionally erected himself. These were not fruitless battles and although his brash charm was occasionally met with disdain, he turned an otherwise peripheral Chelsea F.C. into the most efficient winners in English football.
However, what works for the rebel intruder rarely seems applicable for the sustained leader. His greyed hair and slightly flabbier torso indicate more than mere physical aging. Jose Mourinho can no longer play the jester, getting one over on various kings but never staying around long enough to be found out – his spell at Real Madrid confirmed that. Therefore at 50 years of age Mourinho, like Brando’s Vito Corleone must relinquish the roaring engine of a youthful body and embrace the subtler authority of a tyrannical gentleman. He must forgo the leadership of a group of agitators, and become the Don of a footballing first-family.
In 2004 Mourinho arrived as ‘The Special One’, but by 2013 he has become just another ‘one of you’. One wonders if Mourinho was perhaps paying too close attention to the ceremonious farewells of his friendliest foe Alex Ferguson. As Ferguson prompted United fans to support ‘our’ new boss in David Moyes, one felt Ferguson’s attachment to the club he’d given almost thirty years to. Yet, Mourinho’s assertion of slotting into a role of such stability as to become just ‘one of you’ bears considered curiosity given the man to whom he shall be serving under. Does Mourinho envisage a second Chelsea spell that will this time flourish what it once promised, or is becoming ‘one of you’ the modern equivalent of being a ‘special one’? As Grandpa Simpson once famously said; ‘I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was’. What ‘it’ was in 2004 was a quick wit matched with no obvious managerial failing. By 2013 however, his successes have been tinged with relative failure and to sell himself as special becomes sufficiently more difficult.
Alex Ferguson knew full well what he contributed to Man United’s success. However, as Mourinho will have noted, the more he grew the less Ferguson ever made it particularly personal. His brash comments regarding Liverpool and their perch were an equivalent of Mourinho’s ‘special’ introduction. As a starting point to incite success both comments by Ferguson and Mourinho garnered joy. However, as manager of a successful Manchester United, Ferguson would rarely ever reveal such a personal desire. In the case of opponents such as Kevin Keegan, it would be his solipsistic declaration of ‘I would looove it if we beat them’ that all but assured Newcastle’s demise. Man Utd would become representative of Ferguson as it would for the players, fans and everyone else involved. Ferguson dismantled any illusions of a ‘special one’ and, instead developed a ‘special’ club. It would now appear that Mourinho desires a similar end.
What then of the challenges he will face at Stamford Bridge? Unlike his ‘interim’ predecessor Rafa Benitez, Mourinho will no doubt be greeted as he was nine years ago; with relative optimism. He is presented with his familiar core of Cech, Cole, Terry & Lampard, more than enough pull amongst the greater majority of the squad. Peeling away the different layers and one quickly realises that just as it was the first time round, Mourinho’s Chelsea success story will only flourish as much as Roman Abramovich believes it can. Mourinho and Abramovich, who apparently only took five minutes to decide what Sunday’s newspapers, were expected to be an announcement on the following Wednesday will now become bedfellows again. Both have flirted with the opportunities that Europe has presented but yet Europe’s most Western and Eastern countries re-spawn in this latest manifestation. What Mourinho desired for Chelsea in European success has began on two fronts under reigns that were not his own. This will determine that Mourinho shall be desperate to acquire his coveted third European Cup by way of securing Chelsea’s second.
In the closing of his Real Madrid days, Mourinho reflected on what had been the worst managerial season of his career. A distant but none the less, runner-up in the league, a place in the last four of the Champions League and the surprising runner-up in the domestic cup final, it was not utter disaster for the team. However, for the manager it was torturous. While Real Madrid will continue to build on their collective experience, Mourinho has to learn alone.
It was never apparent that Mourinho settled at Madrid like he did at Chelsea and Inter Milan. It showed in his successes and it showed in the isolating last few weeks. In his erecting of enemies for Real Madrid to attack he misconstrued their social standing. Real Madrid does not play the victim and for Mourinho and his initial years as a footballer of no repute to European Champion this had been the motivation. In returning to Chelsea he arrives as a failure where before he arrived as a Champion. There is little doubt he will soon return to winning ways for where money talks, Jose Mourinho can more often than not make it walk. How long it all lasts however will largely depend on how flush the provider is feeling.