Belfast Telegraph

Jose Mourinho's return to Chelsea could go up like a Roman candle

By Frank Malley

There was a recent report in the Spanish press which suggested that on a visit to a Real Madrid satellite club to give a talk to coaches Jose Mourinho produced a photograph of Chelsea on an open-topped bus.

"I'll be up on that bus next season," Mourinho is reported to have said.

Fact or fiction? It is hard to tell with Mourinho but no-one should bet against Mourinho claiming another trophy for Chelsea to go with the two back-to back league titles, the FA Cup and the two League Cups he won during his last tenure at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho is a winner. That is not in doubt. He motivates by sheer force of personality. He lifts the spirits and the expectations of those around him and there are few greater gifts in the armoury of a sporting coach. While he was unable to give Real Madrid fans the Champions League trophy they craved in his three seasons at the Bernabeu he did deliver the La Liga title in a division dominated for so long by a Barcelona side universally regarded as the best club football team of all-time.

That was some feat and ranks high on his list of achievements, which include winning the Champions League trophy with little Porto and with an Inter Milan side which was ageing and prone to injury.

Yet going back to a former love and the scene of so much emotional baggage is not going to be easy. There was good reason why Mourinho and his coaching staff left Stamford Bridge with an £18m pay-off in September 2007. It was because the club was not big enough to accommodate the egos of the self-proclaimed 'Special One' and owner Roman Abramovich.

They are said to have settled their differences but amid the cut and thrust of transfer dealings and high-octane encounters at home and in Europe are they likely to be able to sing from the same hymn sheet?

There are so many questions. Will Mourinho want to persevere with Fernando Torres, the £50m play-thing of Abramovich and a striker who scored the opener in the Europa League final but who has confounded the attempts of successive managers to rekindle his once-prolific scoring talents?

Will Mourinho embrace the cultured but physically slight triumvirate of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard?

Or will he want to build a team of strength and power in the image of the sides he oversaw at Stamford Bridge, teams who did not lose a single home league match during his three-year reign?

Under Mourinho, Chelsea fullbacks were like guard dogs, yanked back on an imaginary chain if they dared cross the half-way line. His regime was built on discipline and caution and closing down matches when Chelsea had gone ahead.

It was not always pretty to watch and was a factor in his impasse with Abramovich. The Russian billionaire did not want a functional team to bore their way to trophies. He wanted Chelsea to play like Barcelona and win trophies.

The point is Mourinho cannot walk back into Stamford Bridge and turn the clock back.

For a start, there is more competition in the Premier League with Manchester City sure to give their new manager the funds to have a crack at Manchester United's domination, especially with Sir Alex Ferguson having stepped down. For another, the allies Mourinho once had no longer wield the same influence. Mourinho will be pleased Frank Lampard is staying another year. That is sound logic considering the midfielder still scores with the freedom of old.

But John Terry is injury prone and Ashley Cole is not getting any younger and Didier Drogba is no longer around.

Mourinho is a good enough coach to cope with all that, but is he wise and humble enough to rub along with Abramovich when opinions differ and tempers fray as inevitably they must?

Abramovich has hardly mellowed, not when you consider he has gone through nine managers in 10 years at Stamford Bridge, Has Mourinho? Not if you ask the Spanish press he loathed and the fellow managers with whom he had constant battles in Spain. They remain two arrogant, powerful men, who both live by the code that even when they are wrong they are right.

It will be fun to watch. The English press and the fans will love having Mourinho back. There will be no shortage of controversy and charisma and Mourinho quite likely will ride that open-topped bus once more.

Just do not be surprised if, sooner rather than later, it all goes up like a Roman candle.

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