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Mourinho's biggest fights were with his own players

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Published 18/12/2015

Do it my way: Jose Mourinho remonstrates with Eden Hazard during what turned out to be his last match, against Leicester on Monday
Do it my way: Jose Mourinho remonstrates with Eden Hazard during what turned out to be his last match, against Leicester on Monday

With every other approach exhausted, Jose Mourinho's final public words as Chelsea manager were simply to reveal his contempt for the players who cost him his job.

Late on Monday night, after losing 2-1 at Leicester, he made clear how much those players owed him, and how little he was obliged to them.

"All last season I did phenomenal work," Mourinho said.

"I think I did such an amazing job I brought players to a level that is not their level and, if this is true, I brought them to such a level where this season they couldn't keep the super motivation to be leaders and champions."

Mourinho, seeking to explain what had happened, was taking the credit for the title Chelsea won just seven months ago. Since then they have fallen further and faster than any champions in modern history.

Rather than building a dynasty Chelsea ripped themselves apart.

The story of Chelsea's collapse is one of the decay of the relationship between the manager and his players. That is why they are 16th in the Premier League , having lost nine of their 16 league games so far this season. That is why Mourinho has gone.

The Portuguese sees it differently. He said on Monday that his players had "betrayed" his preparation work for the Leicester game by not following his instructions.

Last week he brandished statistics which proved that Chelsea's problems were "everyone's responsibility," rather than a "one-man responsibility."

Of course, any player can lose form, but when virtually a whole team goes off the boil together, the answer must lie elsewhere.

Roman Abramovich and the board finally realised that Mourinho was the not the solution for Chelsea but the problem itself.

No player could be expected to perform at what Mourinho calls "acceptable levels" in an atmosphere as toxic as the one which has hung over Chelsea this season.

This is a place where anyone can be perceived as an enemy, from referees, officials, rival managers, "rats" in the dressing room or even a doctor.

You are either with Mourinho or against him.

The ability to conjure up this tension is what makes Mourinho so successful. It is his great motivational weapon, part of what he calls "confrontational leadership", his means to "create some conflict, with the intention to bring out the best from them".

Criticising players in public and private can, when well-judged, get players to raise their game. When it does not work, it leaves only bitterness.

This season, as with his third and final season at Real Madrid, Mourinho lost his mastery of that tension and conflict.

Those forces have mastered him.

From the start of this season, Mourinho tried to spark a reaction from his players, to make sure that they did not grow complacent after winning the title last season.

Results were not great and so when the team flew to Porto in September for a Champions League game, he left three first-team players behind. Mourinho told the squad that they had an "unstable attitude in terms of motivation, desire and commitment".

These public castigations were accompanied by brutal private criticism and pointed dropping of key players. All of the stars of last year have spent time on the bench, but shock treatment only works for so long before the patient becomes inured to it.

All these provocative gestures were meant to spark Chelsea into life, but they had the opposite effect. The players did not like what Mourinho was telling them, and it showed. Results got worse and every time Mourinho killed his players, the gap between him and them grew bigger.

The approach so clearly failed that in November Mourinho tried to be more conciliatory. He was gentler with the players in private and reacted to their defeats to Stoke City and Bournemouth with something closer to graciousness, but the damage was done. Chelsea never recovered the confidence required to play well.

So Mourinho leaves Chelsea for the second time, having succeeded in bringing the Premier League title back to Stamford Bridge, after five years without it, but having clearly failed in his pledge to build a dynasty at the club.

In his first spell there, he managed to survive a few weeks into his fourth season. This time he only managed two and a half.

It no longer needs to be said that Mourinho is a short-term manager whose effects wear off. His last two jobs, Chelsea and Real Madrid, were very similar: steady progress leading to a cup, the league title in the second season, but then collapse, rancour and unpleasantness in the third year.

Mourinho's career can be divided between the time leading up to winning the treble with Internazionale in 2010, and everything that has followed.

At Porto, Chelsea (first time) and Inter, he won six league titles and two Champions Leagues in eight seasons. From the six following seasons, he has just two league titles and no Champions Leagues to show for all the damage he has done.

This is why it is fair to ask whether Mourinho is as effective as he used to be, whether those old methods are still the best way of getting consistent performances out of top players.

They want the team to win, but they want to express themselves on the way.

Players now have less appetite for being managed by Mourinho than they used to.

Other clubs will know this when they consider giving him a job.

There is a brief burst of success, unity and trophies, but when that all dissipates, is it worth the cost?

Belfast Telegraph

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